Is The Stranger’s Mark Frame Based on Real Undercover Cop?

Netflix’s ‘The Stranger’ is a crime thriller film based on the real-life Daniel Morcombe murder case covered in Kate Kyriacou’s book ‘The Sting: The Undercover Operation That Caught Daniel Morcombe’s Killer.’ The film revolves around Mark Frame (Joel Edgerton), an undercover cop trying to catch Henry, the prime suspect in a child abduction case, facing several ethical dilemmas in the process. Given that the movie is inspired by true events, viewers must wonder if he is based on an actual person. In that case, we have gathered everything you need to know about Mark in ‘The Stranger.’ SPOILERS AHEAD!

Is Mark Frame Based on Real Undercover Cop?

In ‘The Stranger,’ Mark Frame is an undercover police officer tracking Henry Teague, an employed criminal. The latter is the prime suspect in the disappearance of James Liston, a thirteen-year-old boy. Mark’s mission is to recruit Henry to a fake criminal organization and gain his trust. As he starts trusting the former, he plans to coax a confession about Henry’s involvement in Liston’s abduction. In the end, Mark successfully completes his mission and returns to his regular life.

The film is inspired by the real-life Daniel Morcombe murder case in which the police conducted a string operation to catch Brett Peter Cowan, the suspected culprit. The character of Mark Frame is likely loosely inspired by a real undercover police officer. During the Queensland Police Department’s investigation of Morcombe’s kidnapping, an undercover officer named Paul “Fitzy” Fitzsimmons developed a friendship with Cowan. He convinced Cowan to work for a fake criminal organization after meeting the suspected offender on a flight to Perth in April 2011. Using their friendship, Fitzsimmons tried to gain a confession of Cowan’s involvement in Morcombe’s disappearance.

The film’s dynamic between Mark Frame and Henry Teague resembles that of Paul “Fitzy” Fitzsimmons and Brett Peter Cowan. Therefore, it is safe to say that Mark Frame is based on the undercover officer known as Paul “Fitzy” Fitzsimmons. Although, the real identity of the officer remains unknown. During the case investigation and secret operation, Fitzsimmons was known as covert operative 452 and testified in court against Cowan during the latter’s trial.

Given that the details of undercover police officers are confidential and could endanger their and their family’s safety, it is likely that the police department never disclosed Fitzsimmons’ actual name. The same is represented in ‘The Stranger,’ as Mark Frame is also an assumed name, and the actual name of actor Joel Edgerton’s character remains unknown throughout the movie.

In an interview, Edgerton revealed that he had never met his character’s real-life counterpart. The actor explained that he never met the real undercover officer as it was a matter of the person’s safety. However, he divulged that he did some behind-the-scenes research work to essay the role of Mark Frame. “Thomas and I, in the early stages, did a lot of research about the mechanics and how these things work with undercover operatives, in unison with these detectives,” Edgerton told The Sydney Morning Herald about his preparation for the role of an undercover cop.

Ultimately, Mark Frame in ‘The Stranger’ is inspired by a real-life undercover cop. Albeit, the latter’s real identity remains unknown for safety reasons. Nonetheless, it allows the makers to craft a fresh perspective and thoroughly explore the dilemmas Mark faces in the movie. Mark Frame might be a fictional character, but actual events primarily inspire his actions in the film.

Read More: Where Was Netflix’s The Stranger Filmed?