Is This Random Italian Dude the Real Christian Grey?

It's perfectly natural to wonder about the inspiration for a character like Christian Grey. Is it purely Edward Cullen? Perhaps E.L. James' husband has hidden talents? All the author will say in a FAQ on her website is, "Now that would be telling…"

Well, the New York Daily News says they've scored an interview with the real deal, a wealthy Italian real estate mogul named Alessandro Proto. Ok, sure!

A little googling shows that Proto is often identified as the inspiration for Christian Grey, especially in European publications, and there's even a rumor he'll have a cameo in the movie. But it's not entirely clear who's doing the identifying, other than Proto himself, and the similarities he outlines to the Daily News are not terribly convincing:

"The firm Grey runs in the book is called Grey Enterprise Holding. Mine is called Proto Organization Holding," the former encyclopedia salesman, born in Milan, said.

"When I met E.L. James I used to drive a R8 Audi," he added, saying it was also mirrored in the fiction....

"My office is located at the 8th floor. It is the highest in the building. I came from nothing, so I see top floors as a metaphor for achievement and success," he said.

He also cites his "mystique" as another resemblance: "Everyone knows he made it, but nobody knows how he reached success. Same with me." Frankly, I've heard more persuasive arguments that Ron Weasley is a time-traveling Dumbledore.

Previously, Mr. Proto informed E! News that he'd helped celebs like Brad Pitt and Matt Damon look for property in Italy. (Though MaltaToday expresses doubts about his bona fides.) A year ago, he ran into trouble with the Italian authorities for "alleged market rigging," according to Reuters.

Most damning of all: Mr. Proto says he's got zero interest in the rough stuff. "Everything that has to do with S&M is pure imagination, I assure you. I'm an old fashioned man when it comes to sex, I'm not into that kind of fantasies," he told the Daily News.

NEXT.

Photo via Getty.