Thanks to Netflix, Man on Fire, a 2004 action film starring Denzel Washington, has become a trending internet topic in 2021. Man on Fire received poor ratings from critics but became an overwhelming fan success. It also put up a decent showing in the box office.

Man on Fire was a critical flop, but few found fault with Denzel Washington’s performance. He plays a damaged former Marine who works as a bodyguard for a wealthy family. John Creasy, Denzel’s character, forms a bond with the family’s 9-year-old daughter Pita Ramos. Following Pita’s kidnapping, John starts a bloody rampage that eliminates everyone standing in the way of Pita’s rescue. 

Man on Fire is based on a novel of the same name by A.J. Quinnell

A.J. Quinnell is a pen name used by novelist Philip Nicholson to write the 1980 novel Man on Fire. The book inspired Brian Helgeland and Tony Scott to create the 2004 film. 

The events in Quinnell’s book are fictional, but the author drew from real-life events to write the book. 

First, he drew from the tragic kidnapping of a Singaporean businessman’s son by The Triad. The businessman refused to pay the ransom, fearing that the Triad would target the rest of his children. The kidnapped son died, but the rest of the kids remained safe.

The kidnapping of J. Paul Getty’s grandson also inspired Quinnell. Kidnappers picked Getty’s grandson in Rome and demanded a ransom of $17 million. 

Getty refused to pay, citing the safety of his thirteen grandchildren. He also suspected that his grandson staged the kidnapping for an easy payday. Getty agreed to pay $2.2 million after the kidnappers sent him one of his grandson’s ears. 

The kidnappers released Getty’s grandson five months after the abduction. Two out of the nine kidnappers apprehended spent time in prison. 

Quinnell used the above incidents to craft his fictional kidnapping novel. 

The movie and Quinnell’s book differ on some points

Ex-marine John Creasy stars in the book and the film, but the film changes the kidnapped girl’s name from Pinta to Pita. 

Quinnell based the book in Italy, but the film’s creators chose Mexico. Italy has a low rate of kidnappings, which prompted the filmmakers to look for another location. 

The ending presents the most significant discrepancy between the book and film. In the novel, Pinta passes away after the exchange goes wrong. Creasy changes his identity and elopes with a woman he fell in love with. 

In the film, Creasy doesn’t enjoy a happy ending. He turns himself over to the kidnappers to secure Pita’s release and dies from his wounds shortly after the exchange.