Who is Michael based on? Everything we know about GTA V criminal

By Melany Moncada


Jan 29, 2023

Reading time: 2 min

Michael De Santa, formerly known as Michael Townley, is one of the main characters of GTA V. Players would be surprised to know who Michael is based on in GTA V.

Michael was born in either 1965 or 1968, somewhere in the Midwest. Michael had a difficult upbringing with absent parents, which motivated him later in life to give his children a better life. As a high schooler, Michael had a promising future as a football player, but his attitude problems forced him to give up on this dream.

Without a clear future, Michael turned to crime. By the time he was 20, he had already been imprisoned twice. Michael continued to perfect his criminal skills, including the leadership needed to execute a heist.

During one of the jobs, Michael met Trevor, and it marked the beginning of their criminal life together. They continued to work together, completing all kinds of jobs. In 1991, Michael met Amanda, who would end up becoming his wife and mother of his children.

After the birth of Tracey and Jimmy, Michael decided to look for a way out and become the father he never had. Michael made a deal with a corrupt FIB agent that would give him a chance at a new life. As part of the agreement, the agent would help Michael fake his death, kill Trevor, and arrest their third accomplice.

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On the day of the ambush, the third accomplice ended up dead, and Trevor managed to run away from the scene. Michael faked his death, but as we learn later in the game, Trevor never believed he was truly dead. Michael changed his name and moved to Los Santos, where he lived a quiet but unfulfilling life.

Michael first encounters Franklin when he tries to scam Michael’s son. He demands to be taken to Franklin’s boss and spares him. Michael’s early missions are mostly him fixing his children’s mistakes with help from Franklin. In a fit of rage, Michael causes the collapse of a house he believes belongs to his wife’s lover. The house belongs to a powerful cartel that demands Michael pays for the restoration. Michael then realizes that he has no other option than to get back into his criminal ways.

Michael completes a series of jobs, gets enough money to pay off his debt, and accidentally alerts Trevor of his location. Trevor ends up showing up at his house in Los Santos, and here is where the three protagonists come together.

Who is Michael based on GTA V?

The creators of GTA V took inspiration from different movies to create not only the plot of the game but also Michael.

GTA V is loosely inspired by the 1995 crime movie Heat, starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. The story follows a detective who is determined to catch a high-profile criminal who is organizing one final robbery before retiring.

Michael is loosely based on Robert De Niro’s character, Niel McCauley. You could even argue that there’s some physical resemblance.  


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