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11 Actors Who Have Played Their Own Twin

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Along with being a way to cheekily skirt the rules of decency set forth by the Motion Picture Production Code, a.k.a. The Hays Code (see Rock Hudson and Doris Day “sharing” a bath in 1959’s Pillow Talk), the invention of split screen filmmaking brought about another fun bit of movie magic: allowing an actor to appear onscreen with him/herself. Which led to endless character possibilities—everything from Lindsay Lohan playing twins in The Parent Trap to Adam Sandler in drag in Jack and Jill. Whether they were playing evil doppelgängers or cutesy cohorts, here are 11 other actors who have played their own twin. 


If Titanic made Leonardo DiCaprio the world’s most famous actor, this dreadful retelling of the Alexandre Dumas classic proved that even the brightest stars aren’t immune to falling. But don’t blame the film’s failure on Leo, who tears into both of his characters—the evil King Louis XIV of France and his sweet-natured brother Philippe, whom the King has imprisoned—with equal fervor. 


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If DiCaprio needed any advice on how to play doubles, he could have asked his Iron Mask co-star Jeremy Irons, who did the twin thing a full decade earlier. In this kinda creepy psychosexual thriller (it is David Cronenberg after all), Irons plays suave gynecologist Elliot Mantle who has a habit of seducing women, only to pass them on to his not-quite-as-confident brother Beverly, who also happens to be a gynecologist. The plan works well for the demented duo until Beverly falls in love with one of the women and, in true twin fashion, so does Elliot. 


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In one of the earliest examples of the “twin technique,” Danny Kaye plays a pair of estranged twins whose personalities couldn’t be more disparate. In the Samuel Goldwyn-produced picture, Kaye plays Buster “Buzzy Bellew” Dingle, a mouthy Brooklyn nightclub performer who is killed by a local mob boss after witnessing a murder. In order to ensure that justice is served, Buster—now a ghost—comes back to bother his nerdy brother, Edwin, who assumes Buster’s identity in order to put the killer behind bars.


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Typically, one Nicolas Cage is all the Nicolas Cage you need in any given movie. But in Spike Jonze’s meta tale of (real) screenwriter Charlie Kaufman attempting to adapt (real) writer Susan Orlean’s (real) novel The Orchid Thief into a (real) script with his (fake) twin brother Donald, two Nics is completely appropriate. And welcome. So much so that Cage scored a well-deserved Oscar nomination for the film (as did the Kaufman “brothers,” only one of whom existed). Got that? 


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“Clone” would be a better word than “twin” in the case of Multiplicity, the late Harold Ramis’ largely underrated comedy about Doug Kinney (Keaton), a busy contractor who decides to clone himself so that he can better attend to his duties as a husband, father, and business owner. But then two more clones appear, each with its own personality—Two is a macho stud, Three is the sweet poet-type, Four (who thinks Doug’s name is Steve) is not the sharpest tool in the shed—wreaking mayhem instead of order. The film may not have raked it in at the box office, but Keaton playing quadruple duty to perfectly nuanced comedic perfection is worth the price of admission (or a lazy afternoon viewing on HBO).


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Though “Bad Ash” had reared his head before Army of Darkness, it’s in The Evil Dead series’ third film that our hero’s bad side assumes his very own identity. And he comes to life in true comedic fashion. Though they’re identical at first, throughout the course of the film distinguishing between our hero and his evil doppelgänger becomes a much easier task, thanks to a dismembered body part or two.


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Bette Davis got to show off her various talents in this story of a vengeful twin, Patricia Bosworth, who uses the drowning of her sweet and sensitive sister, Kate, to get close to the love of her life (Kate’s husband, played by Glenn Ford). Davis must have had fun playing dual roles, because she did it again in 1964’s Dead Ringer (no relation to Cronenberg’s film). 


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Eddie Murphy is no stranger to playing multiple characters in one film, or even one scene (see: The Nutty Professor). But in this Frank Oz comedy—written by and starring Steve Martin—he plays just two parts: A-list action star Kit Ramsey and Kit’s nerdy brother Jiff, the P.A. and unwitting leading man of a terrible sci-fi film, Chubby Rain, in which Martin plans to pass off Kit as his well-known brother. 


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Muscles from Brussels times two! Back at the height of his career, two Jean-Claude Van Dammes were actually a good thing, as evidenced by this uninspired actioner in which Van Damme plays twin brothers separated as babies following the brutal murder of their parents by some notorious Hong Kong criminal. Twenty-five years later, the brothers—who have totally different personalities but are equally good at kicking ass—come together in Hong Kong to get revenge on the people who tore them apart. But no split screen twin action movie would be complete without some sort of tête-à-tête or, in this case, foot-à-tête. The movie may be terrible, but it was successful enough with audiences for Jackie Chan to make essentially the same movie a year later with Twin Dragons.


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Director Robert Siodmak was another early adopter of the evil twin twist in this noir tale of Terry and Ruth Collins, sisters who are both being investigated for murder. The police know that one of the ladies did it, they just can’t tell them apart! So in comes a psychiatrist to administer a series of tests and get to the bottom of the mystery, discovering which sister did it through his examinations—and falling in love with the other one in the process.


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Edward Norton is totally believable as both Bill Kincaid, a professor at Brown University who can wax poetic on Plato's Socratic dialogues with the best of ‘em, and Brady Kincaid, a small-time pot dealer who is under pressure to pay back a local drug lord (played by Richard Dreyfuss) in the brothers’ Oklahoma hometown. In a plan to lure Bill back to Tulsa to help, Brady fakes his own death and a slew of instances of mistaken identity follow.

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The 10 Wildest Movie Plot Twists
Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive (2001)
Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive (2001)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

An ending often makes or breaks a movie. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as having the rug pulled out from under you, particularly in a thriller. But too many flicks that try to shock can’t stick the landing—they’re outlandish and illogical, or signal where the plot is headed. Not all of these films are entirely successful, but they have one important attribute in common: From the classic to the cultishly beloved, they involve hard-to-predict twists that really do blow viewers’ minds, then linger there for days, if not life. (Warning: Massive spoilers below.)

1. PSYCHO (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock often constructed his movies like neat games that manipulated the audience. The Master of Suspense delved headfirst into horror with Psycho, which follows a secretary (Janet Leigh) who sneaks off with $40,000 and hides in a motel. The ensuing jolt depends on Leigh’s fame at the time: No one expected the ostensible star and protagonist to die in a gory (for the time) shower butchering only a third of the way into the running time. Hitchcock outdid that feat with the last-act revelation that Anthony Perkins’s supremely creepy Norman Bates is embodying his dead mother.


No, not the botched Tim Burton remake that tweaked the original movie’s famous reveal in a way that left everyone scratching their heads. The Charlton Heston-starring sci-fi gem continues to stupefy anyone who comes into its orbit. Heston, of course, plays an astronaut who travels to a strange land where advanced apes lord over human slaves. It becomes clear once he finds the decrepit remains of the Statue of Liberty that he’s in fact on a future Earth. The anti-violence message, especially during the political tumult of 1968, shook people up as much as the time warp.

3. DEEP RED (1975)

It’s not rare for a horror movie to flip the script when it comes to unmasking its killer, but it’s much rarer that such a film causes a viewer to question their own perception of the world around them. Such is the case for Deep Red, Italian director Dario Argento’s (Suspiria) slasher masterpiece. A pianist living in Rome (David Hemmings) comes upon the murder of a woman in her apartment and teams up with a female reporter to find the person responsible. Argento’s whodunit is filled to the brim with gorgeous photography, ghastly sights, and delirious twists. But best of all is the final sequence, in which the pianist retraces his steps to discover that the killer had been hiding in plain sight all along. Rewind to the beginning and you’ll discover that you caught an unknowing glimpse, too.


Sleepaway Camp is notorious among horror fans for a number of reasons: the bizarre, stilted acting and dialogue; hilariously amateurish special effects; and ‘80s-to-their-core fashions. But it’s best known for the mind-bending ending, which—full disclosure—reads as possibly transphobic today, though it’s really hard to say what writer-director Robert Hiltzik had in mind. Years after a boating accident that leaves one of two siblings dead, Angela is raised by her aunt and sent to a summer camp with her cousin, where a killer wreaks havoc. In the lurid climax, we see that moody Angela is not only the murderer—she’s actually a boy. Her aunt, who always wanted a daughter, raised her as if she were her late brother. The final animalistic shot prompts as many gasps as cackles.


The Usual Suspects has left everyone who watches it breathless by the time they get to the fakeout conclusion. Roger "Verbal" Kint (Kevin Spacey), a criminal with cerebral palsy, regales an interrogator in the stories of his exploits with a band of fellow crooks, seen in flashback. Hovering over this is the mysterious villainous figure Keyser Söze. It’s not until Verbal leaves and jumps into a car that customs agent David Kujan realizes that the man fabricated details, tricking the law and the viewer into his fake reality, and is in fact the fabled Söze.

6. PRIMAL FEAR (1996)

No courtroom movie can surpass Primal Fear’s discombobulating effect. Richard Gere’s defense attorney becomes strongly convinced that his altar boy client Aaron (Edward Norton) didn’t commit the murder of an archbishop with which he’s charged. The meek, stuttering Aaron has sudden violent outbursts in which he becomes "Roy" and is diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, leading to a not guilty ruling. Gere’s lawyer visits Aaron about the news, and as he’s leaving, a wonderfully maniacal Norton reveals that he faked the multiple personalities.

7. FIGHT CLUB (1999)

Edward Norton is no stranger to taking on extremely disparate personalities in his roles, from Primal Fear to American History X. The unassuming actor can quickly turn vicious, which led to ideal casting for Fight Club, director David Fincher’s adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel. Fincher cleverly keeps the audience in the dark about the connections between Norton’s timid, unnamed narrator and Brad Pitt’s hunky, aggressive Tyler Durden. After the two start the titular bruising group, the plot significantly increases the stakes, with the club turning into a sort of anarchist terrorist organization. The narrator eventually comes to grips with the fact that he is Tyler and has caused all the destruction around him.


Early in his career, M. Night Shyamalan was frequently (perhaps a little too frequently) compared to Hitchcock for his ability to ratchet up tension while misdirecting his audience. He hasn’t always earned stellar reviews since, but The Sixth Sense remains deservedly legendary for its final twist. At the end of the ghost story, in which little Haley Joel Osment can see dead people, it turns out that the psychologist (Bruce Willis) who’s been working with the boy is no longer living himself, the result of a gunshot wound witnessed in the opening sequence.

9. THE OTHERS (2001)

The Sixth Sense’s climax was spooky, but not nearly as unnerving as Nicole Kidman’s similarly themed ghost movie The Others, released just a couple years later. Kidman gives a superb performance in the elegantly styled film from the Spanish writer-director Alejandro Amenábar, playing a mother in a country house after World War II protecting her photosensitive children from light and, eventually, dead spirits occupying the place. Only by the end does it become clear that she’s in denial about the fact that she’s a ghost, having killed her children in a psychotic break before committing suicide. It’s a bleak capper to a genuinely haunting yarn.


David Lynch’s surrealist movies may follow dream logic, but that doesn’t mean their plots can’t be readily discerned. Mulholland Drive is his most striking work precisely because, in spite of its more wacko moments, it adds up to a coherent, tragic story. The mystery starts innocently enough with the dark-haired Rita (Laura Elena Harring) waking up with amnesia from a car accident in Los Angeles and piecing together her identity alongside the plucky aspiring actress Betty (Naomi Watts). It takes a blue box to unlock the secret that Betty is in fact Diane, who is in love with and envious of Camilla (also played by Harring) and has concocted a fantasy version of their lives. The real Diane arranges for Camilla to be killed, leading to her intense guilt and suicide. Only Lynch can go from Nancy Drew to nihilism so swiftly and deftly.

Hollywood's 5 Favorite Movie Villains

Movie villains are meant to bring out the best in a hero, but with the right script, director, and performer in place, these bad guys can sometimes steal the show from their clean-cut rivals.

Take any horror movie, for example—chances are you’re not watching Friday the 13th to root for the absentminded teenagers down at Camp Crystal Lake. And Steven Spielberg certainly didn’t become a household name by directing a shark movie titled Three Guys on a Boat Drinking Narragansett.

The Hollywood Reporter set out to celebrate these iconic agents of evil by surveying 1000 professionals in the entertainment industry (directors, producers, entertainment attorneys, etc.) on their favorite movie villains. A rogues' gallery of murderous AI, mafia bosses, and a diabolical fashion magazine editor all made the top 25 list as the worst of the worst, and while they’re all deserving, the top five are the gold standard. They include:

5. Nurse Ratched: Played by Louise Fletcher in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
4. The Joker: Played by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (2008)
3. The Wicked Witch of the West: Played by Margaret Hamilton in The Wizard of Oz (1939)
2. Hannibal Lecter: Played by Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Hannibal (2001), and Red Dragon (2002)
1. Darth Vader: Played by David Prowse and James Earl Jones in the Star Wars movies (Prowse 1977-1983, Jones 1977-present)

That top spot might not come as a surprise to most, unless you’re still in your twenties: According to The Hollywood Reporter, survey respondents in that age group put Darth Vader in the sixth spot—behind Regina George from Mean Girls.

To check out the entire list, head to The Hollywood Reporter.


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