Is Benedict Cumberbatch thriller ‘Eric’ based on a true story?
(Credit: Netflix)

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Is Benedict Cumberbatch thriller 'Eric' based on a true story?

It’s not common that a story about a children’s puppet proves to be a gripping and sometimes harrowing survival story full of psychological twists in the tail. But that’s what writer-creator Abi Morgan has achieved with the miniseries Eric, in part thanks to a compelling lead performance by the ever-masterful Benedict Cumberbatch.

The titular character is a furry blue monster dreamed up by the son of Vincent Anderson, the puppeteer who Cumberbatch plays. When Vincent’s son goes missing, Eric starts on taking a life of his own in the puppeteer’s mind. He makes him a new character on his children’s TV show, while his real-life situation becomes increasingly desperate as he and his wife search for their son.

Eric tackles issues which were widespread in the time and place of its setting, New York, in the 1980s. We see examples of child abduction, police brutality, homophobia, endemic homelessness and drug addiction, and the AIDs pandemic. Morgan has said the show’s plotlines reflect a real representation of that period in history.

But how much of Eric is actually true? Many viewers have been curious about whether it’s based on any events that Morgan has experienced or read about, particularly in light of other prominent Netflix series, such as Baby Reindeer, claiming to be based on true events.

“I don’t know where that myth has come from”

Yet Morgan told Virgin Radio last month that the story of Eric, Vincent and his son Edgar had no basis in any specific true story. “Not at all, actually,” she confirmed. Instead, she was only vaguely influenced by various stories she had heard about and read of children going missing in New York.

On the other hand, she took direct inspiration from her time working as a nanny in the city in placing Edgar at the heart of her story. Her initial lightbulb moment came when she decided on“writing a show that was from the perspective of the child”.

Regardless of how its story came about, Eric’s convincing mix of no-holes-barred realism with elements of psychological fantasy, as well as adult and child points-of-view, makes for addictive viewing. Whether they were real people or not, we find ourselves in Vincent and Edgar’s shoes, feeling their pain, right up until Edgar gets home safely.