This Is What 'Mindhunter's Holden Ford Looks Like In Real Life

Patrick Harbron/Netflix

By now, it's been well publicized that Mindhunter's Holden Ford is based on John E. Douglas, an FBI profiler famous for pioneering criminal profiling. He's written numerous books about his methodology, but unfortunately for those curious about the man behind the character, photos of the real Holden Ford aka John E. Douglas now are quite rare — though there are a few to be found. Which is fair enough: He retired from the bureau over two decades ago, in 1995, and considering he's in his 70s, is probably quite content to live a life outside of the public eye.

Nonetheless, he has quite an extensive on-screen history, so there's plenty to revisit. He's continued to appear on television to weigh in on high-profile cases or reflect on his career, and his IMDb credits date from 1988 to as recently as 2013. Among the documentaries he's contributed to are Louis J. Horvitz's The Secret Identity of Jack the Ripper; Phil Tucket's Faces of Evil; and A&E's Serial Killers: Profiling the Criminal Mind, the latter of which he hosted.

It's also worth noting that Douglas has already served as a model for fictional characters in the past — which isn't entirely surprising, given that he's one of the FBI's most memorable figures, and had a profoundly influential stake in shaping modern investigative efforts.

Over the course of his 25 year career, he interviewed some of the country's most notorious serial killers — Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Charles Mason — gleaning crucial insight into how they think and helping authorities to predict how violent criminals behave.

Still, Mindhunter may be the first to craft a show around Douglas' life story, but it's far from the only place you can find his influence on-screen.

Silence of the Lambs / Red Dragon

According to The New Yorker, Douglas served as the inspiration for Agent Jack Crawford in Thomas Harris' 1981 horror novel, Red Dragon, and its 1988 sequel, The Silence of the Lambs (and, by relation, the books' film adaptations). He also appeared in some of the bonus featurettes for the movies.


Hannibal's Will Graham (played by Hugh Dancey) is only partially based on Douglas, but as noted by TV Guide, they do have one key thing in common: a severe case of viral encephalitis. Douglas was diagnosed with the disease in 1983, while Graham suffers from it for the bulk of the show's first season.

Criminal Minds

Also per TV Guide, both Criminal Minds agent Jason Gideon (Mandy Patinkin) and his replacement, David Rossi (Joe Mantegna), were shaped around Douglas. His influence is most notable in their methodologies and difficulty separating their personal and professional lives, but also in Gideon's job title:. Like Douglas, he was the first leader of the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit.

Of course, like these characters, Mindhunter's Holden Ford isn't a direct recreation of Douglas. It is TV, after all, and they wanted to have the creative freedom to give the show some dramatic flair. So while they stayed pretty to the book when it came to the interviews with serial killers the show depicts, with Holden, they took a few more liberties. As executive producer David Fincher told TIME:

"[Series creator] Joe Penhall was the first person to say, 'I think I can do a better job of dramatizing this if I’m given the leeway to take some of the attributes of this person and some of the attributes of this person and create a new character."

Douglas has yet to weigh in on what he thinks of their interpretation, but the project is based on his book — 1995's Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit — so it's safe to say at least some of his insights remained intact. It seems like, for now, he's stepped back from the spotlight, but his legacy — on-screen and off — endures.