Let's Uncover the Truth: Is 'A Man Called Otto' Based on a True Story?

Allison DeGrushe - Author

May 16 2023, Published 10:22 a.m. ET

Otto (Tom Hanks) holding a cat in 'A Man Called Otto'
Source: Sony Pictures Releasing

Many films have flown under the radar in 2023, but perhaps one of the most underrated is A Man Called Otto.

The dramedy stars Tom Hanks in the title role, a grumpy widower whose only joy comes from criticizing and judging his pesky neighbors. But when a young family moves in next door, Otto finally meets his match in a pregnant woman named Marisol (Mariana Treviño), leading to an unlikely friendship that turns his world upside down.

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At the end of the day, A Man Called Otto is the ultimate feel-good movie — but is also based on a true story? Keep reading to find out what real-life event inspired the film!

Otto (Tom Hanks) reading to Marisol's kids in 'A Man Called Otto'
Source: Sony Pictures Releasing
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So, is 'A Man Called Otto' based on a true story?

Although most cinephiles know that feel-good often translates into "based on a true story," that's not the case for A Man Called Otto. The acclaimed flick is, however, based on a book; it's the second adaptation of Fredrick Backman's 2012 novel, A Man Called Ove, after the 2015 Swedish film of the same name.

Fredrick's novel is fictional, but he got his inspiration after one of his old colleagues wrote a blog post about seeing a man named Ove having a meltdown while buying tickets at an art museum. Fredrick told The New York Times that his wife read the blog post and said, "This is what life is like with you."

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Tom Hanks and Cameron Britton in 'A Man Called Otto'
Source: Sony Pictures Releasing

The best-selling author said he related to this man, telling the outlet, "I’m not very socially competent. I'm not great at talking to people. My wife tends to say, 'Your volume is always at 1 or 11, never in between.'"

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Not long after, Fredrick started writing blog posts about his own pet peeves and outbursts under the heading, "I am a Man Called Ove." Eventually, he realized that his work had the potential for a compelling fictional character. And thus, the novel began to take shape.

"There’s a lot of me in him," Fredrick said of Ove. "When we get angry, it's about a principle, and we get angry because people don't understand why we're angry."

A Man Called Otto is now streaming on Netflix.

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