If you've seen the trailer for Amazon's new conspiracy thriller Hunters, you know that it's about a team of Nazi hunters in '70s New York City. What you might not know is that it's loosely based on actual events. With that in mind, the logical next question is whether or not the lead, Logan Lerman's Hunters character, is based on a real person.
In Hunters, which is streaming on Amazon Prime, Lerman plays Jonah Heidelbaum, a young Jewish Brooklynite who finds out that his late grandma (Jeannie Berlin) was part of a vigilante group hunting down high-level Nazis who are posing as normal Americans. While she protected her grandson from the hunt, he now feels it's his duty to keep her search going so that these Nazis don't succeed in their goal of creating a Fourth Reich.
The series, which is executive produced by Jordan Peele and also stars Al Pacino, almost sounds like an MCU tale in which they're all playing Nazi-punching Captain Americas. That's because series creator David Weil told Entertainment Weekly, when he was a kid, he interpreted the stories his grandma, a Holocaust survivor, told him "as comic book stories, stories of grand good versus grand evil, and that became the lens through which I saw the Holocaust."
Weil approached Hunters in the same way, which means the series takes liberties with its story. It's true that a Nazi-hunting task force was created by the Justice Department in the '70s. A group of lawyers, historians, and investigators helped review names of suspected Nazis living in the U.S., many of whom had their records expunged when they came to the States.
While there were other government mandated non-violent groups that looked to find Nazis and prosecute them through the court system, there was a vigilante group named Nakam, Hebrew for "revenge," that was taking matters into its own hands. After World War II the group of Holocaust survivors traveled the world hunting down and killing those who had tormented them.
Hunters is about avengers who use violence to punish Nazis who got away unscathed for murdering 6 million Jews during the Holocaust. However, Lerman's Jonah is not known to be based on any specific member of Nakam or any other Nazi-hunting group. He's just a character written for the show that is based in a "truth" that Weil would really like to believe — even if there is no official record of it.
“Everything we put into the show could have happened, it could be true,” Weil told The New York Times. “The history books may not have caught it, the newspapers may not have covered it, but we like to play with the idea that this may have all actually happened."
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Lerman said his Hunters character is “a young man, struggling financially with his grandmother. He has to make sacrifices for the path he wants to take in life so he can stay and support his family.” It's something Lerman, who is Jewish, could relate to, telling The New York Times he looked inward to help create his character.
Lerman also looked to his co-star Pacino for inspiration, specifically his '70s filmography. “I was looking at Panic in Needle Park, I was looking at all these roles that he did,” Lerman told the Times, name checking Pacino's other films Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon. He even sent a photo of a young Pacino to the pilot's director as inspiration. “It was like, this is who I want to model the character after,” Lerman said. “I never told Al that.”
Lerman's personal and professional influences help Jonah become a not-so friendly neighborhood Nazi hunter. And as Hunters proves, not all heroes wear capes. Though, Weil questions whether Lerman's Jonah and the rest of the hunters' are really heroes.
“[Hunters] becomes this story that lives not in black and white, but in the gray and that murky morality,” Weil told EW. “If we hunt these monsters, do we risk becoming them ourselves?” Jonah's journey might help us come to an answer for this complicated, but evergreen, question.