I believe it is truly safe to say we all play roles in our lives. From the role we play at work, to the role we play in our relationships, to the role we play in family. It may all still be versions of us, but it is different versions of us. Actors take that one step further by actually playing other people in film. It is like being paid to play make believe for a living. To escape into the life of someone for a few months until shooting stops. But what about those actors who played somebody playing somebody else? We know, it is the kind of thing that can be hard to wrap your mind around. For that reason, we decided to do it for you. Here are 15 actors who played multiple roles in the same movie. In some cases, played multiple roles multiples times.
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Robert Downey Jr in Tropic Thunder
Can we take a moment to talk about how Robert Downey Jr’s role in Tropic Thunder was one of the best performances ever put on film? Can you properly grasp that he playing an Australian man who was also playing a stereotyped African American man? Do you even realize how many cylinders the man had to be firing off on to pull that off? Yet he did it, and made it look easy in the process. While the “black face” may have angered some people, those people clearly had no idea that the film was poking fun at such ideas itself.
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Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove
If you have not seen Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove you may just be missing out on the most amazing performance ever by an actor who played multiple roles in the same movie. While the above mentioned example of RDJ is genius, nothing can touch on what Peter Sellers pulled off in this movie. Let it be widely known that this is part of what Peter Sellers was most famous for. Playing multiple roles in the same movies. He did it many times, and few could pull it off like Mr. Sellers could.
Mike Myers in Everything
Should we mention all the different people Mike Myers played in his Austin Powers series? Or how about So I Married an Axe Murderer? Or maybe Love Guru? No, no one bring up Love Guru. The point is, in modern film, outside of Eddie Murphy (who we will of course mention later on in this list) Mike Myers might just be the guy who seems to be able to play the most characters in his films. One rather large character in particular who was unforgettable and whom we shall not name right now comes to mind.
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Nicolas Cage in Adaptation
It is kind of a shame Nicolas Cage does so many hammy roles, because as he has proved with movies like Adaptation and Leaving Las Vegas, when he is in the zone, he is a master. In this case, I am bringing up Adaptation. A film where he played Charlie Kaufman and Charlie Kaufman’s (wholly different) twin brother. While sometimes this “twin brother” thing does not work well in film, in this case, Cage nailed it. Almost makes you forget about his Wicker Man debacle. I said almost.
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Eddie Murphy in Everything
Eddie Murphy is another one like Mike Myers from the SNL school of characters who can pretty much play anyone in any film. From playing a whole family in The Nutty Professor series, to his amazing turn as a white, Jewish barber in Coming To America, Eddie Murphy just has a real talent for playing multiple roles in film. Notice, I am not bring up Norbit on purpose.
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Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins
Though it may be easy to think of this list in only modern terms, let us take a step back for a moment, shall we? Long before make up had been mastered and CG had changed everything, actor Dick Van Dyke played multiple roles in the family friendly Disney movie, Mary Poppins. Ah, who are we kidding. We all remember him best as the chimney sweep. But from different accents to bodily characteristics, Dick Van Dyke was pulling this off long before it was the norm.
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Buster Keaton in The Playhouse
Okay, playing one or two parts in a movie is impressive. Playing three is remarkable. But how about we go way back and talk about Buster Keaton in the Playhouse. This is a film where one man pretty much played everyone. Yes, you just read that correctly. We are talking about him playing a full band, full audience, and the major parts as well. Anyone who talks about actors taking multiple roles and does not bring up this film and Buster Keaton has no idea what they are talking about. Him and Chaplin started this movement.
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Dan Akroyd in Nothing But Trouble
I realize bringing up the movie Nothing But Trouble would be like bringing up something in French to people who don’t speak the language. It just wont make much sense (because no one saw it). But, that is not the point of the list. The list is to point out talented actors who played multiple roles in the same movie. Nowhere does it say you had to have seen the movie. This cult film features Dan Akroyd as both a judge and a character named Bobo who you are not likely to ever forget. I never did, they scarred me for life. Google image the characters if you don’t believe me.
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Bruce Campbell in Bubba Ho-Tep
Speaking of cult films, Bubba Ho-Tep is one of the greatest cult films of all time. On top of that, Bruce Campbell is one of the greatest cult actors of all time. Though he has also played multiple roles in his Evil Dead films, I had to bring up his turn as Elvis in this movie. Yes, I said Elvis. To tell you anymore would ruin it. Just trust us, go watch it.
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Paul Dano in There Will Be Blood
We can tell you from his performances in There Will be Blood as twin brothers Paul and Eli Sunday that this young actor is one to keep your eyes on. Just how different he portrayed the brothers in that film left you in awe. Of course, things don’t end so well for one of the brothers, does it? Ah, that classic bowling pin scene. Chills everytime.
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Tom Hanks in Cloud Atlas
Another actor who has done this a few times, Cloud Atlas is worth mentioning because he plays six different characters across many different (generations, worlds, not even sure what to call it) in this film. Though the actual film may have been hard to follow at times due to its philosophical storylines and branching settings, it reminded us how amazing of an actor Tom Hanks is.
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Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future Trilogy
How can you forget the classics? Though many of the actors and actresses in this trilogy played different versions of themselves, it was all the Marty McFly’s we got that were so memorable. Really, we just wanted to bring up the universe where he was Marlene McFly. I mean, come on. Cheap joke, but no one saw that coming. Well played, Mike. Well played.
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Jeremy Irons in Dead Ringers
Another incredibly gifted actor, Jeremy Irons plays twin gynecologists in the David Cronenberg thriller, Dead Ringers. Honestly, the less we say about this disturbing film and equally disturbing roles the better. Oh, and he was playing (an exaggerated version) of real life twins who actually existed. Irons doesn’t typically do this kind of acting so it was refreshing to see him in a dual role.
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Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap
Oh, Lindsay! What are we going to do with you. Back in the days of the Parent Trap remake, Disney was sure it had found its next big star. She even played the two roles really well, bringing different characteristics to both. Sadly, it was pretty much after this point that everything began to spiral for the young star. She would also go on to play two roles later in his career in a film called I Know Who Killed Me. We wish we were kidding.
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Edward Norton in Leaves of Grass
Hulk doesn’t count, right? Because that is played by a computer. Fight Club also doesn’t count, because even though it is him, it is Brad Pitt. Well, the brilliant Edward Norton played twin brothers in the comedy Leaves of Grass from 2009. He played Billy Kincaid and his twin brother, Brady. And honestly, the two characters could not have been more opposite. That performance from Norton makes the film a trip to watch. You almost forget it is the same person.
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