Inglourious Basterds introduced Fredrick Zoller, a German soldier turned actor who starred in Nation’s Pride, and here’s who Zoller is based on.
Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds explores an alternate version of World War II, and while its main characters are fictional, many of them are based on real-life people, among those Daniel Brühl’s Fredrick Zoller. Throughout his career as a filmmaker, Tarantino has explored a variety of genres, all of them with his signature narrative style and generous doses of violence and blood, and he has also given the audience a look at alternate versions of history with Inglourious Basterds and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, two of his most critically acclaimed (yet controversial) works.
Set during World War II, Inglourious Basterds tells two stories with a common goal: kill as many Nazis as possible, including Hitler. One story follows a group of soldiers known as the “Basterds”, led by Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), and the other is the story of Shosanna Dreyfus/Emmanuelle Mimieux (Mélanie Laurent), a Jewish cinema owner whose family was killed by SS officer Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) and is now ready for revenge. However, Landa wasn’t the only obstacle in Shosanna’s path, as she also met Zoller.
Related: Inglourious Basterds: Why Hans Landa Let Shosanna Escape At The Beginning
Frederick Zoller was a German army sniper who met Shosanna in Paris and became infatuated with her, but she always rejected his advances. Zoller was overly confident as his story was turned into a propaganda film by Joseph Goebbels (Sylvester Groth), and he wanted the movie to premiere at Shosanna's theater. Although Zoller, his story with Shosanna, and the movie Stolz der Nation (Nation's Pride) are fictional, Zoller was based on two real-life men: Austrian sniper Matthäus Hetzenauer and actor Audie Murphy.
Forming a partial basis for Inglourious Basterds' true story, Matthäus Hetzenauer served in the 3rd Mountain Division on the Eastern Front of World War II and is credited with 345 kills. Hetzenauer received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross in 1944 and was captured by Soviet troops in 1945, serving five years in a Soviet prison camp. He died in 2004. Audie Murphy was an American soldier and actor who received every military combat award for valor available from the U.S. Army, such as the Medal of Honor. At the age of 19, Murphy single-handedly held off a company of German soldiers for an hour at the Colmar Pocket in France in 1945, then led a successful counterattack while wounded and out of ammunition. After the war, Murphy became an actor, and while most of his roles were westerns, he also played himself in a movie based on his memoirs. He died in a plane crash in 1971.
In the Inglourious Basterds movie, Fredrick Zoller’s military achievements were also outstanding but obviously terrifying: he told Shosanna he killed 68 people on the first day he was in a bell tower in a walled city, then killed 150 people the second day and 32 on the third day. This caught the attention of Goebbels, who asked Zoller to play himself in Nation’s Pride, and so he did. Nation’s Pride is what ultimately led Zoller to his death, as the movie premiered at Shosanna’s theater, where she (and the Basterds, unbeknownst to each other) set a trap for all the Nazi attendees, but Zoller ended up being killed by Shosanna and killing her as well. The inspirations behind Inglourious Basterds’ Fredrick Zoller are a bit of a stretch, but nonetheless very interesting.
While Zoller and the movie Nation's Pride are fictional, Inglourious Basterds is very true to real life in how it depicts WW2 snipers as heroes. At the time, sharpshooters like this were very highly regarded by their respective countries and did indeed often feature in propaganda materials. Even to this day, movies are still being made about famous WW2 snipers. Soviet sniper Vasily Zaitsev, for example, was the subject of the 2001 movie Enemy at the Gates. And while the Soviets had a monopoly on WW2's most successful snipers, Simo Häyhä of Finland had by far the highest kill count, with a total of 542 confirmed that may have been as high as 705. Nicknamed White Death by the Soviets, Häyhä is still being talked about today, which illustrates just how famous snipers could become during World War 2. This is one aspect in which Inglourious Basterds is very true to real life, and Zoller's inspirations highlight this link.
Adrienne Tyler is a features writer for Screen Rant. She is an Audiovisual Communication graduate who wanted to be a filmmaker, but life had other plans (and it turned out great). Prior to Screen Rant, she wrote for Pop Wrapped, 4 Your Excitement (4YE), and D20Crit, where she was also a regular guest at Netfreaks podcast. She was also a contributor for FanSided’s BamSmackPow and 1428 Elm. Adrienne is very into films and she enjoys a bit of everything: from superhero films to heartbreaking dramas, to low-budget horror films. Every time she manages to commit to a TV show without getting bored, an angel gets its wings.

When she’s not writing, you can find her trying to learn a new language, watching hockey (go Avs!), or wondering what life would have been like had Pushing Daisies, Firefly, and Limitless not been cancelled. Breakfast food is life and coffee is what makes the world go round.

Guillermo del Toro said “hi” to her once. It was great.


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