What do you suppose the protocol is for telling someone you based a character on them? Or that one was at least inspired? And what are the legal ramifications, I wonder? Obviously famous people don't count. If you're in the public eye, if you're Paris Hilton or Al Gore, then the boys from South Park can make crude paper cutouts of you and mock you to their hearts' content. But you gotta wonder...
Two characters in The Big Lebowski are based on real people. (I know, it came as a shock to me too). They are Jeff "The Dude" Dowd and "Big Lew" Abernathy. Bridges modeled The cinematic Dude's speaking patterns on those of the real Dude, and the incident with the carpet pissers and the car theft are based loosely on real-life events that happened to Peter Exline, a film professor at USC.
All writers cannibalize their lives for the sake of fiction. But you gotta wonder what the dinner party conversations are like after the fact. I think all my friends secretly believe I'm clandestinely researching their every move, filling quires of notebook paper with quips and quirks and quiet observations. And what if I am? And what if they don't like it? How's this jibe with my natural tendency to try and ameliorate every situation I come in touch with?
It's a conundrum. I think Philip Roth said you gotta burn all your bridges as a novelist, though I strongly suspect he didn't use the word "gotta." We'll see, I guess. Blasted thing probably won't even see the light of day.