Inside the True Story of Netflix's 'Hit Man': Who Was Gary Johnson? 

Netflix's "Hit Man," directed by Richard Linklater and starring Glen Powell, is loosely based on the true story of Gary Johnson, a psychology professor who posed as a fake hitman for the Houston police in the late 1980s and 1990s. 

Linklater discovered Johnson’s story in a 2001 Texas Monthly article by Skip Hollandsworth, who previously inspired Linklater's 2011 film "Bernie." 

Johnson worked undercover for the Houston police, impersonating a contract killer to trap individuals attempting to hire someone for murder, leading to over sixty arrests. 

Johnson moved to Houston in 1981 to join the University of Houston's doctoral program in psychology but ended up working as an investigator for the district attorney’s office when he wasn’t admitted. 

Johnson’s unique role began in 1989 when he was assigned to act as a hitman to catch Kathy Scott, a woman who wanted her husband dead. This marked the beginning of his undercover career. 

While the real Johnson used slight disguises, the film exaggerates this aspect for dramatic effect, with Glen Powell’s character employing elaborate costumes, accents, and mannerisms. – 

The film introduces a fictional romantic subplot where Johnson becomes romantically involved with a client, Madison. In reality, while Johnson did help an abuse victim, there is no evidence of a romantic relationship. 

Johnson, who passed away in 2022, was known for his ability to convincingly portray a killer. Despite his sociable nature at parties, he was described as a loner by his second wife, highlighting the contrast between his personal and professional lives. 

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