Maid in Manhattan: Is the 2002 Romantic Comedy Inspired By Real Events?

A romantic comedy that’ll make its audience feel all fuzzy inside while giving them a good chuckle, ‘Maid in Manhattan’ brings it all together and stuffs them into a clean and memorable package. Starring Jennifer Lopez and Ralph Fiennes in the lead roles and directed by Wayne Wang, it is set in the titular borough of New York City. It centers around Marisa, a single mother who works as a maid at a Hotel. While at work, she is mistaken to be a guest by a high-profile politician, who gradually falls in love with her.

As the film progresses, the narrative showcases how poles apart their worlds are. Since its release in 2002, ‘Maid in Manhattan’ has garnered immense popularity as a meet-cute film that’s inspired many such features over the years. However, its true origin might not be too well known which will lead one to ask: could the film be based on a true story?

Does Maid In Manhattan Have Roots in Reality?

Inspired cinematic narratives are usually modified to fit the big screen, and ‘Maid in Manhattan’ does exactly that. Although the characters and the happenings of the film are fabricated, it seems like the film’s story has an identical sibling in the real world — the unlikely marriage of Steven Clark Rockefeller and Anne-Marie Rasmussen in 1959. While director Wayne Wang and writers John Hughes and Kevin Wade have not directly accredited this incident to be an inspiration, its basis is more or less equivalent to the one in the film.

In a love story fit for cinema, Steven Clark Rockefeller, the son of New York Governor and Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, married a maid, Anne-Marie Rasmussen, who had worked at his family’s Manhattan hotel. Like Cinderella and Prince Charming, Steven and Anne-Marie met secretly on the family yacht in the summer of 1956. They fell in love despite the communication hindrances they had, as the Norwegian native didn’t really speak any English at the time. Steven, being the 4th generation member of the infamous Rockefeller family, was perpetually bogged down by talks of finance and money. He sought to, for once, have a normal conversation with a person, and that’s how their love story began.

During the summer of 1959, the couple wed in Søgne, Norway, in a ceremony that would appear to be a small one. All forms of media had gobbled up this story like there was no tomorrow. An incandescent light gleaming through the dull possibilities of love had just been ignited for all, as common folk had become one with one of the wealthiest in the world. She was the daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Kristian Rasmussen, a grocer, originally from Søgne, and his upbringing was around some of the most influential people on the planet.

The couple had three children together: Steven Clark Rockefeller, Jr., Ingrid Rasmussen Rockefeller, and Jennifer Rasmussen Rockefeller. Everything seemed to be great until Rockefeller sought a divorce 11 years later, in November 1969. In an interview with the Washington Post, Rasmussen recalled her Cinderella story and what it eventually turned into, saying, “It is a shame to start something and not finish it the way you hoped you would.”

Though the story of ‘Maid in Manhattan’ differs from the story of the real-life couple, some essential elements fit the bill like a glove. The fact that both Christopher from the film and Steven Rockefeller are illustrious gentlemen of wealth and government, along with Marisa and Anne-Marie both being maids in a hotel, the film appears to be a slight reflection of the story of Anne-Marie and Steven. To make the character more relatable, Marisa’s personality, character, and situations have been developed to be accessible to the general public.

Her struggles are very common in real life, along with the fact that she’s a single mother with a 10-year-old son. While there isn’t a lot of information about Anne-Marie’s life before marriage in particular, the commonalities of the issues Marisa has, could as easily have been the same as Anne-Marie’s. Marisa is a robust character filled with casual everyday traits anyone is bound to understand. On the other hand, we have Christopher, the polar opposite, whose upbringing has been well documented, surrounded by influence and people of wealth and power.

Christopher is bombarded by the attention of the media and the public and doesn’t get a chance to just have a normal conversation that’s not about politics or wealth. It seems identical to the troubles of Steven Clark Rockefeller, who fell in love with Anne-Marie for that very reason. When Christopher and Marisa meet for the first time, he gets a chance to have a normal life and takes Marisa on a walk to a nearby park. Marisa, on the other hand, gets a chance to be accompanied by fame and fortune, quite identical to the stories of Steven Clark Rockefeller and Anne-Marie Rasmussen. The story of Marisa and Christopher in ‘Maid In Manhattan’ may not be real, but it certainly is a reflection of the challenges faced by real-life individuals echoed in real-life stories.

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