To Catch a Killer: Are Lammark and Eleanor Based on Real Cops?

‘To Catch a Killer,’ directed by Damián Szifron, is a crime drama film following two law enforcement agents as they investigate a mass shooting. After a random but precise sniper attack in Baltimore on New Year’s Eve, FBI Special Agent, Lammark spots potential in an ordinary beat cop Eleanor. After teaming up, the duo investigates the crime, with Eleanor trying to get into the mindset of their perpetrator. As the shooter’s presence increases, so does departmental pressure enhancing the stakes for the cop duo.

Shailene Woodley and Ben Mendelsohn’s characters, Eleanor and Lammark, form the central focus of the narrative. With their respective storylines, the film explores themes of mental trauma and other issues alongside the intricacies of the internal politics of police investigations. Due to the actors’ encaptivating performances and the film’s topical nature, viewers might be curious to learn if their characters have any real-life connections. Let’s find out!

Are Lammark and Eleanor Based on Real People?

No, Lammark and Eleanor are not based on real cops. ‘To Catch a Killer’ is a work of fiction penned by Damián Szifron and Jonathan Wakeham. Likewise, all the characters and events explored within the story are fictional with no firm relation to reality. Throughout the narrative, the dynamic between Eleanor and Lammark takes center stage as they bounce ideas off one another to uncover the mystery mass shooter’s identity. Often, the latter takes a mentor status in his relationship with her, guiding her through the complexities and difficulties of the job.

From Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie’s characters in ‘The Bone Collector,’ to 1987’s classic buddy-cop movie ‘Lethal Weapon,’ this mentor/mentee dynamic, employed by ‘To Catch a Killer,’ is a common trope frequented by films and TV shows across genres. As such, for viewers, Eleanor and Lammark’s characters might be reminiscent of this familiar trope. Similarly, Eleanor’s character also shares some prominent character traits with a character from a well-loved pop-culture staple. Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling from 1991’s ‘The Silence of The Lambs‘ embarks on a journey to understand the inner psyche of her story’s antagonist.

Mirroring the same, Eleanor’s involvement in the FBI’s investigation is to the same effect. However, she sets herself apart from Starling by using her own trauma and experiences to conduct her investigation. Eleanor’s trauma further adds an authentic touch to her character. Although her childhood trauma and self-harming inclinations are left unexplored, they present a realistic portrayal of mental health problems without trivializing them. As for Lammark’s character, his portrayal of a fact-driven agent, exhausted by the restrictive, politically driven side of law enforcement, reflects a less glamorous and thrilling complication of the job.

While discussing the same in an interview, actor Ben Mendelsohn said, “The other thing about Lammark is he’s a man of capabilities who has been shunted to a fairly minor field office…Baltimore, in terms of local police crime, is obviously a pretty hardcore city, but in terms of federal crimes and the types of those, from what was described to me about it, this [Lammark] is a guy that’s not going to…he’s a guy that’s deeply frustrated and sad and aggrieved by the machine of the bureaucracy that he’s in.” Lammark’s character also incorporates seamless queer representation into the story that many viewers might be able to relate to.

By making Lammark’s sexual identity an incidental part of his character that doesn’t directly affect his storyline, the film partakes in effortless representation that comes across as genuine. As such, his and Eleanor’s characters have individual traits and details that connect them to reality and endear them to the general audience. Many people might see reflections of themselves in either of the characters, thus easily empathizing with them. Moreover, through their highly bureaucratic aggrievances on the job, both characters present a refreshing, if sobering, take on such high-stakes investigations. Nevertheless, neither of the characters is based on a real-life cop.

Read More: Is To Catch a Killer Based on a True Story?