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Is The Pale Blue Eye based on a true story?

Claire Reid

| Last updated 

Is The Pale Blue Eye based on a true story?

Christian Bale’s latest movie The Pale Blue Eye has landed on Netflix, with the mystery thriller centering on a series of gruesome murders in 1830 - but is it based on a true story?

The movie, which also stars Harry Melling, Toby Jones, Gillian Anderson and Robert Duvall, features a character based on real-life US author Edgar Allen Poe, so it’s easy to see why people might think it was a true story. You can check out the movie’s trailer here:


However, it’s actually a work of fiction and is an adaptation of a 2003 novel of the same name by writer Louis Bayard.

While Poe (played by Melling) is based on a real person, Bale’s Augustus Landor is made up.

Speaking to Netflix, author Bayard explained: “I needed a detective, somebody who could be Poe’s mentor and father figure as they solved this crime together.

“The name Gus comes from C. Auguste Dupin, who was the detective in Poe’s stories The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Purloined Letter.”

Although not a real story, the writer did include some historically accurate details in the movie.

Christian Bale in The Pale Blue Eye. Credit: Netflix
Christian Bale in The Pale Blue Eye. Credit: Netflix

The Pale Blue Eye follows a series of grisly murders at West Point Military Academy, where the real-life Poe did spend a brief six months - before he was court-martialed for gross neglect of duty and booted out the school.

Bayard explained that although it's confirmed that Poe attended the Academy for a small part of his life, there were few details about anything else.

“The only records that exist are the court-martial records,” Bayard says. “The rest of it just had to be filled in.” And that’s where the fiction part comes in handy, right guys?

Henry Melling stars as real-life author Edgar Allen Poe. Credit: Netflix
Henry Melling stars as real-life author Edgar Allen Poe. Credit: Netflix

Writer and director Scott Cooper pointed out that while it was a work of fiction, such events could have helped shape Poe’s notoriously dark worldview.

He told Netflix: “Of course, this is a work of fiction. What I’m saying is: these events that occur in our film shaped his worldview and helped him become the writer that he became –– with the recurring themes that deal with the questions of death, and the effects of decomposition and reanimation of the dead and mourning –– all those things that are considered part of his dark romanticism.”

If you fancy checking it out for yourself, The Pale Blue Eye is streaming on Netflix now.

Featured Image Credit: Netflix

Topics: Netflix, TV and Film

Claire Reid
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