Is Hit Man based on a true story? Gary Johnson explained

At first glance, the story of Netflix’s Hit Man may seem unbelievable, but there is much more to it than meets the eye.

Netflix has proven to be a major player in the realm of new movies this year. The streaming service has delivered stellar films in 2024 and shows no sign of slowing down with the upcoming release of Richard Linklater’s Hit Man.

The film centers on Gary Johnson (Glen Powell), a covert police operative who assumes the identity of a hired assassin in order to assist a distressed woman attempting to escape from her abusive spouse. As he becomes more deeply involved in her situation, he also becomes increasingly drawn to her.

Despite the limited theater release of the movie before its arrival on Netflix on June 7, fans are still only beginning to explore the depths of the story. But is Hit Man based on true events, and who is the actual inspiration behind the character of Gary Johnson?

Is Hit Man Based on a True Story?

In 2001, Hollandsworth was the first to uncover Johnson’s remarkable story. Johnson had been posing as different hitmen to assist Houston police in Texas in catching individuals attempting to hire a hit. However, the truth was far from the glamorous portrayal of The Godfather, as Johnson often encountered perplexed and enraged individuals with nowhere else to turn.

The piece portrayed Johnson as “the Laurence Olivier of the field,”with one source praising him as “a truly exceptional performer who can effortlessly adapt to any situation he encounters.”

Growing up in Louisiana, his childhood was considered ordinary by many. However, his first experience with power came when he served as a military policeman in Vietnam. In the 1970s, Johnson began working as an undercover informant for drug busts with the Houston police, and he excelled at it.

According to Hollandsworth, Johnson revealed that due to his peculiar personality, the drug dealers never suspected him to be a cop.

In 1989, this escalated to fake hits when police were informed that Kathy Scott, a 37-year-old lab technician, was seeking a hitman. Johnson was approached to carry out the operation, and the rest is history.

Despite his initial dream of teaching psychology to college students, Johnson found himself working in the field of fake hits after being rejected for other positions. This led him to become an investigator for the district attorney’s office.

In Netflix’s version of Hit Man, Johnson stepped in as their primary undercover operative when their usual man, Jasper (Austin Amelio), was suspended for assaulting teenage suspects. However, this deviation from the truth did not occur in real life.

Did Gary Johnson murder anyone?

Despite his role as a fake hitman, Gary Johnson did not commit any murders. He instead orchestrated a fake sting operation for his “clients,”which ultimately led to their arrest by the police.

Glen Powell in Hit Man

Despite testifying at court hearings that some suspects did not intend for their target to be murdered, Johnson’s fake aliases were still attempted to be hired by around 60 people. Some individuals may have simply “gotten carried away”in their actions.

Johnson’s most notable clients included 32-year-old Katherine Beisel, who hired him to eliminate her married lover after he refused to leave his wife. He also received a request from an 11-year veteran police officer who wanted his wife killed due to financial strain, and Lynn Kilroy, the former vice president of the Houstonaires Republican Women, who attempted to have her husband Billy assassinated.

According to reports, Kilroy reportedly gave Johnson jewelry valued at $200,000 and said, “Use it as you see fit.”In a later interview with The Washington Post, Johnson stated, “It’s the same old song and dance. The wealthy always want more, and so do the less fortunate. We all crave more. There’s never enough.”

“Despite living their lives within the confines of the law, my people have become increasingly frustrated with their circumstances. This frustration has led them to believe that their only solution is to eliminate the source of their discontent, even though many of them have never even received a traffic ticket.”

“In today’s society, people are always seeking a quick solution to their problems, which has become a common trend in America. We live in a world where individuals can easily pay for services such as television repairs and garbage removal, so why can’t they also pay for my services as a hitman to fix their personal issues?”

Is Maddy Masters a real person?

Although Maddy Masters is not a real person, her story is based on one of Johnson’s real cases.

Gary and Maddy in Hit Man

Johnson never disclosed any romantic relationships with his clients while on the job, but he did intervene during a bust to assist a female “client”in reaching safety.

Instead of going through with the typical police arrest, Johnson reached out to social services and arranged for her to stay at a women’s shelter. This decision caught the attention of a reporter from Texas Monthly, who commented: “The most notorious hit man in Houston has suddenly become compassionate.”Johnson’s reply? “Just this one time.”

In the film Hit Man, Powell portrays Johnson as someone who assists Maddy (Adria Arjona) in a more intimate manner, forming a clandestine romantic bond with her. The movie concludes with Johnson prioritizing his college studies over criminal operations and starting a family with Maddy.

In another incident, Patsy Haggard, aged 61, attempted to hire someone to kill her husband and offered to engage in a sexual act with Johnson on the hood of her Cadillac. Johnson clarified that he rejected her proposition.

Gary Johnson’s Political Career

Gary Johnson maintained his job as a fake hitman throughout the early 2000s, all while holding a position as a professor of psychology and human sexuality at a nearby community college. He passed away in 2022.

Despite being divorced three times, he was still regarded as “mild-mannered”by his eventual psychology students. He had a strong passion for gardening and was also the proud owner of two cats named Id and Ego.

According to ex-manager Michael Hinton, Johnson is an exceptional actor who has the ability to adapt to any situation. He remains calm and never makes any mistakes.

“He possesses an uncanny ability to convince both wealthy and less affluent individuals, as well as those who are accomplished and those who are not, that he is genuine. He manages to deceive them consistently.”

Hit Man is currently available for streaming on Netflix. Discover a plethora of other incredible new movies and TV shows also streaming this month, or delve into the many new true crime documentaries currently available. And if that’s not enough, learn about the exciting K-dramas coming to Netflix this year.

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