Molly’s Game: Is Harlan Eustice Based on a Real Person?

Aaron Sorkin’s crime drama film, ‘Molly’s Game,’ evolves from the protagonist Molly Bloom’s initial stint in the high-stakes gambling circle to the woman’s control over her own private-run Poker Game Night. During this evolution, several shortly-featured characters enter and leave Molly’s revolving door of clients, charting their own experiences within the gambling industry. Among this long line of Poker Players that leave their imprint on Molly’s narrative, including celebrities and billionaires of the highest status, Harlan Eustice, a man rich in Poker skills and poor in everything else, stands out, managing to capture the audience’s attention. Consequently, the character’s unique profile would compel anyone to wonder about his roots in the real Molly Bloom’s actual life and business.

Harlan Eustice Undergoes a Similar Situation as Houston Curtis

‘Molly’s Game’ strives to bring a realistic account of the titular woman’s experience as a lucrative gambling game runner and its ensuing fallout to the screen in a dramatized fashion. Thus, in transitioning Molly Bloom’s true story to an on-screen rendition, some fact and fiction are bound to blend together. Harlan Eustice’s character and storyline present a prime example of the same.

Harlan himself, a stark regular man without a Celebrity or Wall Street background behind him, distinguishes himself on Molly’s Poker table solely through his kills. Yet, once misfortune falls on him for a short moment, it spirals his playing hands out of control, landing him in deep million dollars worth of trouble. Consequently, he ends up entering a manipulative deal with the elusive Player X, who loans him the money and plans to reap it back with gross interest throughout the following games.

Thus, Harlan’s one unwise choice after another finds him in a jail cell in Nevada by the film’s end. Although there aren’t any records of a regular man’s similar involvement in the real-life Bloom’s high-stakes games, Harlan’s disposition mirrors the reality of one player at Bloom’s table: Houston Curtis.

Curtis, a TV producer with a history of card-cheating, entered Bloom’s client list alongside Actor Tobey Maguire— back when the woman was working under Viper Room co-owner Darin Feinstein. According to Curtis’ account, Maguire and he jumpstarted the events that Bloom eventually ended up crediting herself with. Even so, despite the disparity between his claims and Bloom’s, one aspect of Curtis’ account seems reflective of a particular instance from Molly’s story.

Upon publishing his nonfiction crime book, ‘Billion Dollar Hollywood Heist,’ Curtis alleged to have earned himself a million-dollar debt at the high-stakes, celebrity-populated Poker table. As such, he entered an agreement with Maguire wherein the latter loaned him $600,000 with the expectation of full principal return alongside fifty percent of Curtis’ winnings without any downside.

Curtis claimed that Maguire ended up dissolving his debt when he still had $300,000 left in payback. “At the very end of it, I owed him [Maguire] about $300,000 from the wins, and I told him I was quitting. He told me, listen, I was never going to keep all those wins anyway,” Curtis said in a 2014 interview with the Observer. “I think for Tobey, it was more the thrill of knowing he’d made a good deal. He knew I was having trouble with my business and said don’t worry about the $300,000.” Nonetheless, in 2020, the man maintained that he and the actor hadn’t been in contact for three years.

Thus, even though there are glaring distinctions between Houston Curtis and Harlan Eustice, both characters underwent an eerily similar situation that’s too similar to be a coincidence. For the same reason, we can conclude that although Harlan, as an individual, is a fictitious fabrication, the film likely mines inspiration from Curtis and his situation to craft Harlan’s on-screen narrative.

Read More: Is Shelly Habib Based on a Real Russian Mobster? Is Alexander Habib Organization Real?