Welcome to Marwen: Is Nicol Based on Mark Hogancamp’s Real Neighbour?

In ‘Welcome to Marwen,’ we meet a man who has been battered by a traumatic incident and finds a unique way to deal with his trauma. The protagonist, Mark Hogancamp, creates an elaborate story using dolls that inhabit a world of their own, which he terms Marwen. Through the dolls, he tries to come to terms with his trauma while also trying to find hope and purpose. He is aided in this journey by the people around him, one of whom is his neighbor, Nicol. Interestingly, the film is based on the life of a real man, and the character of Nicol is also pulled from reality, though creative license has been taken in certain aspects.

The Name of Mark Hogancamp’s Neighbour is Changed in the Film

The character of Nicol, played by Leslie Mann in ‘Welcome to Marwen,’ is based on a woman named Colleen Vargo. Like Nicol in the film, Colleen lived across the street from Hogancamp, and he developed a crush on her. While the overall arc of Nicol’s character is based on what happened in real life, the film makes certain changes to her character for dramatic purposes.

In the movie, Nicol is single when she moves next door to Hogancamp. She has an ex-boyfriend named Kurt, who hangs around the place in the hopes of getting back together with her. In real life, Colleen was married and had three children. Described as a “big, tall blonde” by Hogancamp, she did inspire affection for Hogancamp, who created a doll in her name. The dolls Hogie and Colleen had a romantic relationship in Marwen. It is unclear whether Hogancamp had any romantic feelings for Colleen, but when he told her about the dolls and their romantic escapades, he did mention that the dolls were based on them.

To a married Colleen, making this discovery was very disconcerting. She expressed her feelings about it to Hogancamp, telling him to learn that there are certain boundaries he must keep within. In the movie, things happen differently as Mark tells Nicol he loves her and even proposes marriage to her. She makes it clear that she doesn’t feel that way about him but wants to be friends with him. It takes some time for Mark to bounce back from the heartbreak, but he accepts that things are different in real life than they are in Marwen.

For Mark, Hogie and Nicol end up together. They get married, and the name of the town is changed from “Marwen” to “Marwencol” for Nicol. In real life, however, Hogancamp processed Colleen’s words quite differently. Reportedly, following her request to draw a line between the dolls Hogie and Colleen, a dramatic turn of events took place in Marwencol. Colleen was removed from Marwencol by Deja, the Belgian witch, who zapped her into the far future using her time machine, leaving no way for Colleen to return to the town.

Nicol’s rejection in the movie eventually leads Mark to open up to other things, and he ends up asking Roberta out. In real life, Hogancamp didn’t pursue any love interests and continues to be single and entirely focused on his art. As for Colleen, she has remained out of the public limelight, preferring to live in privacy. She appears in Jeff Malmberg’s 2010 documentary on Hogancamp, titled ‘Marwencol.’ Apart from that, she has chosen to keep a distance from the spotlight that has grown around Hogancamp, who has now become the subject of a movie and a book, in addition to having his art displayed across the art galleries and museums in the country. The film, too, respects Colleen’s privacy, changing the name of the character and entirely removing her family from the plot line.

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