Is ‘Money Heist’ Based On Real Events?

The worldwide phenomenon that is Money Heist, or La Casa de Papel, first captured everyone’s attention on Netflix in 2017. Once promotion for the series was bumped up on the platform, it became a runaway hit, and us fans eagerly awaited part three to drop this past July. We, like Stephen King, were not disappointed.  

Money Heist creator Alex Pina is already working on his next few projects, but that doesn’t mean La Casa de Papel is over. With the brilliant storytelling in the series, some viewers wonder how the idea for the show came into being, and if these characters are or were real.

Is there really a brooding, brilliant guy like the Professor in existence? Is Tokyo based on a real criminal? Was there an actual robbery in Madrid at the mint? The looming question is whether or not these events are based on true stories.  

'Money Heist' cast.
Cast of ‘Money Heist’ | Netflix via Twitter

Pina set out to create a heist show, but it’s not what you think

Pina, and one of the show’s writers, Esther Martinez Lobato, purposely wanted to write a television series about a heist. Initially, La Casa de Papel was supposed to air on the Spanish network, Antena 3, but the deal fell through.

Pina told Drama Quarterly in an interview that he and Lobato wanted to tell an honest story with lots of action and twists, and after Netflix picked it up, they started firing off new scripts for each episode. But the process was entirely organic. No news stories or historical facts were involved.

The robbery, the characters, and the premise of having thieves take over the Royal Mint in the first part of the series are all original ideas cooked up between Pina and Lobato. Though the characters are not based on any particular thief from history, Pina’s intention was to have the audience decide who is right or wrong in their own eyes and to keep the action plentiful.

“All the characters, they are anti-heroes, antagonists. And as the plot develops, the audience realises they are very relatable. That’s how the audience becomes addicted to the characters, because of the way they are developed. There’s no good or bad; it’s up to the audience to decide. Taking the audience from one side of the moral spectrum to another also marks the success of the series.

We didn’t want it to get boring, so we wanted to give reasons for the audience to stay with us and keep watching the show. That’s why every five or 10 minutes, lots of powerful things happen. We wanted to open up the series and the plot, even though it was developing in a closed space.”

Elements of ‘Money Heist’ are inspired by real life

If you’ve been watching the series, then you are familiar with the song, “Bella Ciao.” A favorite of Pina’s since childhood, it’s an old Italian tune from the 19th century that was sung as a form of rebellion against fascism. You will still hear it sung or chanted around the world during times of protest. Per NSS Magazine, Pina found it to be the perfect choice to highlight the show’s theme of resistance:

“It is a song that has always been part of the soundtrack of my life, a song that reminds me of childhood and that the whole world knows, a hymn of resistance as the same series is, as long as there is resistance there is hope even if they do not have the faintest idea if they manage to get out of there.”

Movies that influenced La Casa de Papel

Sophisticated heists are something audiences have seen in Reservoir Dogs and the Ocean’s franchise. Movie fans will recognize similarities to Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, a film that put a bunch of career criminals together—all strangers using aliases—to pull off a robbery.

But Money Heist wanted to add to its genius storytelling by throwing in some female power players too. Lobato made sure to add a feminine perspective with Tokyo, Inspector Raquel, and part three’s Alicia Sierra. Additionally, Tokyo’s look was inspired by the little girl Mathilda from The Professional, a character who conquered her fears and fought back in a film that’s considered a cult classic.

While Money Heist isn’t some fictionalized account of a true story about Dali-mask wearing Robin Hoods, fans can’t help but be drawn in by the complex capers, the love-them-or-hate-them characters, and the overall quality of storytelling. With seasons one through three marked as successes, fans can expect the series to hook us in with its anti-establishment narrative and multidimensional characters into season four.