The True Story Behind ‘Hit Man’: All About Gary Johnson

Richard Linklater’s acclaimed Netflix caper comedy, “Hit Man,” follows the intriguing life of Gary Johnson (portrayed by Glen Powell, who is also a co-writer). Johnson, a mild-mannered police staffer, goes undercover as a would-be assassin for some of the more unseemly characters in New Orleans. But is this wild tale entirely fictional? Not quite. Let’s delve into the fascinating true story that inspired “Hit Man.”

Hit Man Movie Netflix

Who Was Gary Johnson (Hit Man)?

Gary Johnson was no ordinary law enforcement official. Born in 1947, he enjoyed tending to his garden, listening to classical music, and meditating. Raised in a tiny Louisiana town, he was one of only 12 students in his high school class. After serving as a military police officer in Vietnam, Johnson returned to Louisiana and found work with a sheriff’s office.

Who is Gary Johnson

His undercover work took an unexpected turn when he became a police officer in Port Arthur, Texas. There, he played the role of a supposed drug addict, attempting to score from street dealers. His peculiar personality made him an unlikely suspect, and the drug dealers never suspected he might be a cop.

The Enigmatic “Human Resources” Officer:

Johnson’s career path led him to Houston, where he intended to pursue a PhD in psychology. Although he wasn’t admitted to the program, he soon landed a job as an investigator for the Houston District Attorney’s office. Johnson’s answer was brief and vague about his profession: “human resources.” In reality, his full-time job involved reviewing tapes for Harris County prosecutors in dark, windowless rooms for hours.

The Undercover Hit Man:

Over 30 years, Johnson reportedly nabbed more than 60 people attempting to hire a hit man. His knack for character work and his unusual personality made him an effective undercover operative. Despite his unassuming appearance, Johnson was a renegade law enforcement official who was crucial in dismantling criminal networks.

Hit Man

Linklater’s Spin:

Richard Linklater’s film takes creative liberties, spinning a fictional plot out of Johnson’s life. Powell’s character shares the real man’s name and some of his quirks, but the movie weaves an entertaining narrative that blends fact and fiction.


“Hit Man” on Netflix may be a darkly comedic thriller, but its roots lie in the remarkable life of Gary Johnson. As you watch the film, remember that truth can be stranger than fiction.

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