The Guilty

Is the Guilty Based on a True Story? Unveiling the Inspiration Behind the Thriller!

Carmen Coburn


The compelling drama “The Guilty,” which has grabbed spectators with its tight storyline and suspenseful narrative, raises questions about its origins and whether it is based on true events.

The thriller, directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by Nic Pizzolatto, is an English-language version of the critically acclaimed 2018 Danish film of the same name. Gyllenhaal plays Joe Baylor, a police officer who has been assigned to 911 duty for the time being. The entire film is told through his eyes, and we never see the face of the kidnapped woman, Emily (voiced by Riley Keough). However, Fuqua keeps the suspense alive with multiple subplots and unexpected turns.

Though The Guilty’s main character, Joe Baylor (played by crime-movie star Jake Gyllenhaal), has a subplot involving police brutality that does not appear in the original Danish film, both films revolve around a call-center operator becoming embroiled in a kidnapping.

As audiences immerse themselves in the film’s world, they become increasingly curious about the genuine tale, if any, that inspired its creation. In this post, we’ll look at the origins of “The Guilty” and see if it’s based on a true story.

Is the Guilty Based on a True Story?

The simple answer is…sort of. The Guilty is a remake of the 2018 Danish film Den Skyldige (which translates as The Guilty) and is based on true events. Gustav Möller, the original film’s director, stated that it was inspired by a real 911 call he heard on YouTube. A kidnapped woman spoke to a 911 operator in code while sitting next to her abductor during the actual 20-minute call that inspired the original film.

“Just listening to sound made me feel like I was seeing images.” “I felt like I’d seen her before,” he told Variety in 2018. “I had an idea of the car she was sitting in and the road they were driving on.”

The Guilty

Möller and his cowriter, Emil Nygaard Albertsen, were inspired by a real-life call to write a script that “would play out in different ways, in which everyone would have a unique experience, like watching their own film.”

Möller stated in another interview with CNET in 2018 that the podcast Serial also influenced the film. “What I felt while watching Serial was that with each episode of that show, my images of these people and locations would change because I’d learn new information about the suspect and the victim,” he explained. “That is something we deliberately tried to work with in the film.”

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The Guilty is a remake of the Danish film, but it includes additional aspects (such as the California wildfires that rage throughout the film and the history that explains why Jake’s character was assigned to 911 call duty). Both films were inspired by a real-life emergency call, but they are not based on true events. Instead, the filmmakers used the general, factual concept of an abducted lady surreptitiously giving a 911 operator hints about her predicament and created entirely new scenarios around it.

Was Joe Baylor A Real Person?

The major question when considering if The Guilty is based on a factual story is whether Joe Baylor is a genuine person. Despite the authenticity brought to the role by Jake Gyllenhaal’s superb performance, The Guilty’s Joe Baylor is not based on a real person.

The Guilty

Even Den Skyldige lacks a character who is directly comparable to Joe. Rather, all of the characters in The Guilty and its Danish adaptation are completely fictional, based only loosely on real-life crimes Möller found interesting from the podcast. While Joe Baylor isn’t a real person, his character in The Guilty makes for a fascinating and startling true-crime thriller.

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The absence of a real person in Joe’s place would deprive the film of its potential to cherry-pick distinct crimes from various interesting corners of the source material. The Guilty owes the victims involved honor by using true crime as its storyline, and using Joe as a cipher for the audience allows viewers to react in his footsteps without introducing inaccuracies or framing the film too sharply as a reenactment.

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