Is Michelle Darnell Based On A Real Person? 'The Boss' Draws From Some Real Life Inspirations

In Melissa McCarthy's newest film, The Boss, the actor plays what is perhaps her most outrageous character yet: Michelle Darnell. Darnell is an extremely successful and ruthless businesswoman, and at the start of the film she's the wealthiest woman in America. She then loses everything when she's jailed for insider trading, and upon release she attempts to make her comeback by rebranding herself as "America's sweetheart". She's quite the character to say the least, but is The Boss' Michelle Darnell based on a real person?

Not exactly. The character in The Boss may sound like a real individual, as she's a self-starter who built her empire herself but isn't particularly friendly and has made lots of enemies during her climb to the top, but in fact, she's a fictional creation. McCarthy created the character around 15 years ago, back when she was performing with Los Angeles-based improv theater, The Groundlings; she told Biography that Darnell is her favorite character she's ever done. But just knowing that McCarthy loves the character doesn't really reveal her origins, so where did this bombastic billionaire come from? Well, when the plot of the film was first revealed by Variety back in June 2014, the character was described as an inspirational speaker and compared to Oprah Winfrey and Suze Orman.

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McCarthy herself admitted the Orman connection in a recent interview with Digital First Media, along with bringing another inspiration into the fold: Leona Helmsley. Helmsley, who passed away in 2007, had a reputation as a ruthless and abrasive businesswoman during her life. She was a billionaire who was nicknamed "The Queen of Mean", according to Forbes, and even went to prison (for tax evasion), lining her up with a number of Darnell's traits. But it's Orman's look and confidence that seemingly inspired McCarthy the most. "[Darnell's] look was more Leona Helmsley back in the day, and that’s who I always kind of had in my head, and a little Suze Orman for sure," McCarthy told Digital First Media. “I love Suze, who was in my head, in terms of her confidence and her know-how. I wanted to make Michelle successful because she’s good at [what she does]."

Yet McCarthy revealed in an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last November that Darnell is influenced by three women. So if two of them are Helmsley and Orman, who is the third? Winfrey remains a possibility, but others have also speculated that it could be Martha Stewart, seeing as the lifestyle guru is a wealthy self-made businesswoman who went to prison for insider trading in 2004 — the same charge that takes down Darnell. But if Stewart is indeed the third inspiration for Michelle Darnell, McCarthy isn't saying.

Michelle Darnell is clearly a mixture of a number of successful businesswomen, but all that really matters at the end of the day is that the character is funny, and thanks to McCarthy's performance, there's definitely no mystery when it comes to that.

Images: Universal Pictures