, Prince and Pauper
, Always Identical Twins
, Identical Grandson
, Mirror Universe
and Me's a Crowd
describe reasons why one actor might need to play two or more roles
. Here's how
they do it.
If there are a lot of scenes where the two characters spend time together or interact, a pair of identical twin actors is the simplest solution. The Mowry twins, the Heder twins (yes, there are two
Napoleons Dynamite), the Feldman twins (Fanty and Mingo from Serenity
), the Sklar brothers, the Olsen twins
, the Sprouse twins
, and the Phelps twins (Fred and George from Harry Potter
) come to mind. For an existing character it gets more complex.
The most straightforward way to get two copies of a person in the frame is to use a stand-in and only shoot one face at a time, as in the Over The Shoulder
A second, more complicated, but effective way is to use Split Screen
, with no dividing line, and use the same camera position for both shots. It's hard to get perfect, and disallows any camera moves, but in the analog era it was the best thing going. The technical errors inherent in this are obvious enough, if the backgrounds fail to match up (due to a camera movement) or the actor's body crosses the line and disappears.
In the digital age, more complex special effects can be used to insert a copy of a person shot on Green Screen
, in the same manner as Serkis Folk
. The problems inherent in this are the same as for Serkis Folk
, as the double is not present on set for his counterpart to act against.
To this day, for budget and acting reasons, the faceless stand-in is still used for the majority of shots. In addition, most episode plots in the above categories require that the two doubles share very little screen time.
Not connected in any way, shape or form, to the Foreigner
song of the same name, or to the autobiography of Aziel and Marion Jones.
See also Talking to Himself
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- Back to the Future Part II used this effect to allow Michael J. Fox to play all the characters at the dinner table; Industrial Light and Magic used a special robot controlled camera to allow camera movements while making sure that all the backgrounds lined up. It was also used in scenes where Biff Tannen and Doc Brown from the future met their 1955 selves, although not without a great deal of painting the frame (see the scene where Old Biff throws the book at Young Biff). This effect was also used in Part III to allow Marty to talk to his ancestor, also played by Michael J. Fox. Keep a lookout for the shot in which the baby is handed off; its mother walks in front of the camera at just the right moment needed to see it actually change hands, but it is done pretty seamlessly and is hard to notice if you aren't looking for it.
- The second film does a variation on the usual "split-screen" effects when the flying DMC-12 lands "behind" a streetlight for a perfect model-to-car transition.
- Same deal with both of Eddie Murphy's The Nutty Professor films, wherein he plays the entire Klump family, and his unrelated 2007 film, Norbit.
- Also sharing the above method was 2005's The Island, whenever Lincoln and the man he was cloned from are in the same scene together; being clones, they are obviously played by the same guy. Also like the above films, it wasn't easy to accomplish, and Michael Bay even says during the commentary that he would "never do another clone movie" because of that.
- Peter Sellers was a master of multiple roles on the big screen: He played three roles in Dr. Strangelove, three roles in The Mouse That Roared, and six roles in 1974's Soft Beds, Hard Battles. The effects used were mostly of the "only one in frame at a time" variety.
- Both The Parent Trap movies.
- The Jet Li martial arts movie The One climaxed in an extended fight scene between Jet Li's character Gabriel Law and his Alternate Universe Evil Twin Gabriel Yulaw.
- In the classic British comedy film Kind Hearts and Coronets, Alec Guinness plays a staggering eight separate members of the D'Ascoyne family, one of whom is a woman. They very rarely appear on the screen at the same time — except for one painstakingly composed shot of the entire clan early in the movie.
- Jeremy Irons pulled it off quite well in the creepyfest Dead Ringers (dir. David Cronenberg.)
- Multiple copies of Michael Keaton are seen interacting throughout Multiplicity, a movie about a man who clones himself. Particularly impressive scenes include one in which all four versions of the protagonist are shaving in a large bathroom mirror, and one in which one version tosses a beer to another. Methods used include splicing together multiple takes of the scene, and digitally stitching Michael Keaton's face onto the head of a body double.
- In Tim Burton's film adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Deep Roy plays all the Oompa-Loompas - up to 100 of them in a single scene, performing coordinated song-and dance numbers. Hooray for CGI and a very patient Mr. Roy having to act out a single scene as many times as he is in it.
- The film Ali G in Da House has Sacha Baron Cohen's characters Ali G and Borat meet at a party, using Overthe Shoulder.
- Pumaman actually uses this not to have more than one Pumaman, but for Pumaman to do his "teleporting" trick by jumping out of one side of the screen and disappearing into or appearing from the seam.
- In T2: Judgment Day The mimetic polyalloy T-1000 appears on screen disguised as Sarah Connor alongside the real Sarah, accomplished by having Linda Hamilton play the T-1000 while her twin sister, Leslie doubled as Sarah. Leslie was used again in a scene in the extended Special Edition version, wherein Sarah extracts the Terminator's CPU. The scene is mostly seen through reflections in a mirror: Linda and Arnold played the reflections, while Leslie matched Linda's movements precisely in the close foreground with an Arnold dummy. For another doubling scene with the T-1000 real twins were used.
- Particularly interesting because of the happenstance: Linda's being a twin was obviously not a factor in her original casting!
- Used to remarkable effect in the 2009 science-fiction film Moon.
- In Ernest Goes To Jail, Ernest P. Worrell ends up trading places with Identical Stranger Felix Nash, a convicted crime lord. Both roles are played by Jim Varney, but since one is working at a bank and the other is in jail, the only time they really interact is during the movie's climax, where their final confrontation escalates into the absurd when Ernest is electrocuted and his bizarre electromagnetic properties cause him to levitate.
- The Social Network takes a new approach via digital effects to portray the real-life Winklevoss twins. Though Armie Hammer played Cameron on set, and Josh Pence played Tyler, Hammer's face was digitally placed onto Pence's body in post-production so that the twins would look and sound alike. This is done so well, no one would suspect it wasn't two identical twin actors unless you told them what really happened.
- Uncanny Valley like sensations have been reported, however. Not entirely perfect.
- Used in the seventh Harry Potter movie to do the seven Harrys scene. Daniel Radcliffe had to act out the scene seven times, doing an impression of each of the six characters who had turned into Harry as well as playing the real Harry. The scene where everyone changes into Harry was filmed as one long shot with the camera constantly moving.
- Jim Dale plays three roles in Hot Lead and Cold Feet, occasionally appearing twice in a scene.
- One of the earliest examples was the 1946 Film Noir The Dark Mirror, in which split screening was used to allow Olivia de Havilland to play twins.
Live Action TV
- This scene in Soap. Split screen is used very well - look for the spot where both Burt and his alien duplicate throw sandwiches into the same lunchbox.
- The Split Screen version was used on the Good Eats episode on pickles. Host Alton Brown ("AB") made sweet, wholesome pickles on the left side of the kitchen, while his punkish biker-esque twin ("BA") made evil, spicy parallel pickles on the right side of the kitchen. In fact, Alton uses this a lot, commonly having one version working on something on a counter while another leans on the back of a nearby couch and explains what's going on, and is sometimes interrupted by a third that comes in to add more information.
- In a season four episode of Glee, Rachel has a conversation with her younger self.
- In the Prince and Pauper episode of Wishbone, the splitscreen effect was used with the titular dog. The after-episode short showed how they managed to have Wishbone in two places at once.
- The Patty Duke Show used the classic double-and-Over The Shoulder shot method for its entire run, with the occasional Split Screen for spice. (Trivia point: For many years, nobody knew who Patty Duke's double was; she never got screen credit and was apparently on the show's payroll with no explanatory notes. Nick At Nite searched for her at one point, but despite their pleas, she did not come forth. Several websites now identify her as Rita McLaughlin, who went on to become a soap opera actress.)
- Both methods were used on All My Children whenever both Adam and Stuart Chandler (both played by David Canary) show up on screen.
- In two episodes of Small Wonder — "The Bad Seedling" and "Hooray for Hollyweird!" — Tiffany Brissette played both Vicki and Vanessa. For these episodes, Lisa Perry was Brissette's double when Vicki and Vanessa had to interact onscreen.
- Green screen and split screen setups are used extensively in the 2000s Battlestar Galactica, where it is not unusual for two or three copies of the same humanoid Cylon to be on screen at the same time.
- Split screen was also used for an episode of Ghost Whisperer where a ghost's body is taken over by another ghost.
- In the Red Dwarf episode "Me2", split screens were used for the two Rimmers, along with other tricks (their room had twin beds instead of the usual bunks, done to avoid the logistical nightmare of one climbing past the other). At several points, Lister can be seen leaning heavily to one side to make the splitting possible. Split screens are used in at least ten Red Dwarf episodes in total, in order to have doubles of the cast.
- Power Rangers Time Force had The Hero and his assumed Identical Grandson both show up in the same scenes over a three episode Story Arc. Green Screen was used for the initial scene, and Over The Shoulder for all the rest.
- Also used earlier in season 2 of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, in the "Return of the Green Ranger" two-parter. Rita had the Wizard of Deception magically create a clone of Tommy to be the Green Ranger and attack the others and fight the real Tommy. So naturally we had to see them in the same shot unmorphed.
- The episode of Mork and Mindy where Mork meets Robin Williams used both Split Screen and Over The Shoulder.
- One edition of The Arsenio Hall Show had Arsenio interviewing his fat rapper alter-ego, Chunky A.
- On Married... with Children, in the episode where Peg remodeled the bathroom, there's a scene with Al sitting on the couch talking to the ghost of his late father, both played by Ed O'Neill.
- Minor Example: The closing credits of the second season of The Electric Company featured the main cast marching out of a door, first as themselves and then as their most popular character (Morgan Freeman with Easy Reader, Skip Hinnant with Fargo North, etc.). They actually used Green Screen for this, and a blooper is noticeable (Morgan Freeman briefly stepping on Jennifer of the Jungle). One episode in particular had a song number with Rita Moreno as three characters all at once singing/shouting her trademark "HEY YOU GUYS!". Green screen again.
- Done on Friends whenever Phoebe was with her twin sister Ursula.
- Sketch comedy programs with established characters will do this when two characters, played by the same actor, meet. Has been used in Little Britain, The League of Gentlemen and many others.
- Done many times in Sliders, due to the nature of the series. When most of the cast would meet their alternate selves, a Split Screen was used. However, Cleavant Derricks' alternates were played by his twin brother.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation had an episode where Brent Spiner played Data, his evil "twin" Lore, and their creator, Noonian Soong. Data and Lore were never in the same shot (though there was a very tricky scene using a sliding green screen where Data puts down a glass and Lore picks it up), but both were often in the same shot with Soong. Another episode, "Time Squared" doubled Patrick Stewart with an obvious stand-in and some less-than-perfect splitscreen shots (eyelines, mainly). Yet another episode, "Second Chances" featured a few Chroma Key shots to allow the two Rikers to interact, in addition to stand-ins and splitscreens. The creators were especially proud of a shot where Riker 1 walks around Riker 2, which they accomplished with nothing more than some Chroma Key work and running a flag across a light.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had Major Kira and Intendant Kira interacting.
- Star Trek: Voyager "Lifeline". The holographic Doctor is transmitted back to the Alpha Quadrant to treat Dr Zimmerman, the man who created him. The two look identical (which turns out to be an important plot point) and so are played by the same actor. There's even a scene where the two interact closely, including bumping into each other, during a medical scan.
- Star Trek: The Original Series, of course, had "The Enemy Within", which mostly used editing tricks and (very obvious) stand-ins for the scenes with the two Kirks.
- The Colbert Report has the "Formidable Opponent" segment, in which Colbert debates himself. This was originally done using Chroma Key, so that when the camera 'cuts to the other Stephen', he appears mirrored, in front of a different background and with a different coloured tie. The trick with this method lies in synchronising the actor's personality switch with the camera change. However, since the show isn't done live, recent shows appear to do the segment with two separately filmed sequences that are put together in editing. (You can tell because his tie is no longer identical except for the color, and they've used it for things like having one Colbert be drenched with water and the other not)
- On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when Xander was split in two they had a convenient real-life twin to go with, but in the episode "Dopplegangland" they had to use Split Screen and the stand-in. Including the shot where Vamp!Willow licks Willow's neck suggestively.
- Also the First taking the form of Spike or Buffy to taunt their real life selves.
- Parodied on Newhart. Michael produced a sitcom called "Seein' Double" starring Stephanie as twins and Dick as their father. It featured horrible wigs and incompetent split screens, including checkerboard floor tile that didn't come close to matching up.
- Dad's Army did it once with Captain Mainwaring's brother. We only see them in the same place once and a slight positioning error causes the end of Captain Mainwaring's foot to vanish.
- The Prisoner episode "The Schizoid Man" uses Split Screen (with occasional seam problems) along with Over The Shoulder shots of Patrick McGoohan's stunt-double.
- 3rd Rock From The Sun used Split Screen and Over The Shoulder shots for the three-episode arc with Dick's evil twin. Both techniques were used very obviously, but who cares?
- Kamen Rider Decade did it a couple of times, first in the Kamen Rider Kabuto Alternate Universe with a Worm imitating Tsukasa, then later on when both versions of Kotaro Minami (Black and Black RX) appear alongside one another untransformed (the second case ditches the acting for two when they transform, as it merely becomes a case of two stuntmen in different suits.).
- The Kamen Rider Den-O movie Episode Yellow has Diend interacting with his past self. The quality of the green screen effect is dubious, as one of the two Kaitous hasn't properly been chroma-keyed and still has a faint aura of green around him - this is especially odd, since 1) Decade showed that they could do it well, and 2) a movie should logically have a higher SFX budget than a TV series.
- For the "Master race" in the Doctor Who story "The End of Time", Chroma Keys were used extensively except for long-distance crowd shots, where they simply had extras wearing prosthetic masks in the likeness of John Simm that reek of the Uncanny Valley when seen up close (of course, they don't do close-ups of those in the episodes proper).
- Used in Knight Rider with the heroic Michael and his evil twin Garth.
- F Troop adored this trope; because Larry Storch was hilarious with accents, he pulled double duty on no less than three occasions: as Agarn's renegade Mexican bandit cousin (El Diablo), his French-Canadian cousin (Lucky Pierre), and his Russian Cossack cousin (Agarnoff). Not to be left out, Forrest Tucker had an episode where he played Sergeant O'Rourke's meddling Irish father, and Ken Berry had one where he played a dangerous criminal, Kid Vicious, who happened to resemble the goody-two shoes Captain Parmenter.
- On Highlander, Duncan had to fight his evil self in the episode "Deliverance". That used the Over The Shoulder technique.
- Used on The Vampire Diaries for the scenes where Elena and her evil vampire doppleganger Katherine meet.
- On the original Doctor Who, the first five Doctors had at least one story in which they had a double. (The 1st and 4th had two such stories.) The 1st Doctor had an obvious double in some shots in "The Chase," and never met his double in "The Massacre." The 2nd only met his double in the climax (split screen). In "The Android Invasion," the 4th had a double with a wig that didn't look right (more of a beehive instead of Tom Baker's Harpo Marx curls). In "Meglos," he only met his double at the end—Split Screen and Over the Shoulder. (Though another guy winds up holding the coats of both versions of him at the same time—a plot point.) The 5th Doctor had a scene with a split screen (but the asymmetrical lighting sold it). Companions have also had doubles occasionally.
- In the revival, all three Doctors have had a story with a double as well. The 9th's double in "Father's Day" was done with a simple greenscreen edit, whereas the 10th's double was done with some camera trickery in "Journey's End". The 11th's double in "The Rebel Flesh" was arguably the most complicated, with a similar-looking stand-in playing... whichever Doctor Matt Smith wasn't playing at the time. The crew would then RE-film the scene, with the two swapped. The result is uncanny. In a good way.
- The local butch on All in the Family was enamoured with Edith, so when the show was nearing its close (before the switch to "Archie Bunker's Place), there was an episode where he found a girlfriend who happened to be a dead ringer for Edith - and also played by Jean Stapleton. A lot of Over The Shoulder was used until the final scene where Edith and her lookalike chat in the kitchen - complete with a great reaction from the audience, who at this point where reacting to pre-taped episodes.
- Stargate SG-1 does this progressively more over time, reflecting advances in editing technology or possibly just a larger budget. In the season 1 episodes which feature duplicate characters — "Cold Lazarus" and "Tin Man" — the actual characters who are duplicated spend most of the episode out of the picture; in "Cold Lazarus", when O'Neill finally ends up in the same room as the alien duplicating him, we get a minute or two of over-the-shoulder shots, but the alien almost immediately switches to duplicating his son instead. By season 9, the writers seemed to almost be going out of their way to come up with scenarios that meant putting several characters played by the same actor onscreen simultaneously, with both "The Ripple Effect" and the entire Baal-cloning arc.
- Used on Supernatural on the episode "In My Time of Dying" when Dean is both moving around as a spirit while his near-dead body is lying in a few feet away in a hospital bed.
- Used in an episode of Dengeki Sentai Changeman where the Monster of the Week is disguised as the heroine Sayaka. They used split screen when the two Sayakas meet face to face, then they used a mirror to have the two look at each other in a different camera angle. Due to the show being made in 1985, no-one complained about the dust on the mirror which can be spotted in a modern television.
- Used in the pilot of Ringer, where Sarah Michelle Gellar plays twin main characters.
- Smoothly used in Fringe, most notably in the fourth season's second episode. The two Olivias interact almost seamlessly with each other, and it's quite the spectacle.
- A sketch from The Julie Andrews Hour had Julie Andrews interact with both Eliza Doolittle and Mary Poppins, culminating in the three Julies performing "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious".
- Heroes had Milo Ventimiglia's character, Peter, interacting with an alternate future version of himself by using a combination of Over The Shoulder shots and editing together footage of the actor as both versions of his character.
- The split screen was a staple of 1960s sitcoms like Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie and Get Smart, where charatcers played opposite scheming cousins or evil doubles.
- Sherlock did this with a building in "A Study in Pink."
- Used whenever there are multiple clones in a scene in Orphan Black. All the clones are played by Tatiana Maslany.
- Gilligan's Island had three episodes where doubles of a castaway showed up on the island: one of Gilligan, one of Ginger, and one of Mr. Howell.
- The Trope Codifier is probably Michael Jackson's solo breakout hit, "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough". Mid-way through the video, Jackson appears on screen not just twice at a time, but three times.
- Dahler Mendi is the only person present in the video for "Tunak Tunak Tun", as the concept is that versions of him from each of the four elements have come together to party. This was also a middle finger at critics who claimed the only reason his music was popular was because of the attractive women in his videos. "Tunak Tunak Tun" did very well, disproving this.
- In Taylor Swift's "You Belong with Me", both the Unlucky Childhood Friend and the slutty cheerleader are played by Taylor, with different hair color and makeup. They never appear in the same shot.
- Used in Britney Spears video for Lucky, being Britney!Lucky and Britney!Guardian.
- Several of Lindsey Stirling's videos, e.g. "On the Floor Take Three", feature multiple versions of herself dancing or playing the violin, usually using split screens over several takes so it appears she has clones even if they're dressed differently.
- Paul Mc Cartney's 1980 video, "Coming Up" features him playing 10 roles as musicians in a band. His wife, Linda, plays the two backup singers.
- Christina Aguilera's video for "Candyman" features blond, brunette and redhead versions of herself.
- David Bowie's "Boys Keep Swinging" features him as a singer, then shows him as three female backup singers, using green screen.
- The Go-Go's "Turn To You" featured the band members in two roles, each one playing a male and a female role.
- Taken Up to Eleven with The Correspondents' music video for "Fear and Delight".
- The Split Screen version was parodied in the "Spookyfish" episode of South Park, when Evil Cartman was standing next to his counterpart. Visual errors were intentionally introduced at center-screen, despite the fact that the effect is totally unnecessary in animation.
- That Dude in the Suede uses it to show him talking to himself or illustrate gags.
- The Spoony Experiment manages this in triplicate during Spoony's review of "The Clones of Bruce Lee". The movie is reviewed by a normal Spoony clone, a Dr. Insano Spoony clone, and a bum Spoony clone reminiscent of Chester A. Bum from That Guy with the Glasses, all sitting next to each other on a couch.
- In the commentary, Noah points out the flaws in the effect, mentioning that he pulled the classic blunder of having an uncovered window in the background which screwed up the lighting; despite his remarks, the effect is still pretty good considering it's one guy on a shoestring budget.
- Also done briefly in The Nostalgia Critic's Top 11 Nostalgic Mindfucks episode - also numbering three total Critics, though it was a much shorter shot.
- In the same way, Kylle Kallgren used it as an effect during his video review of The Man Who Fell to Earth, for a few seconds only.
- In The Angry Video Game Nerd's review of an NES Licensed Game based on A Nightmare on Elm Street, the Nerd notes that the game has a four-player mode, but notes that the only way you'd find enough people willing to play it would be to clone yourself. Naturally, the next shot is of four Nerd clones playing the game while the original stands behind them. Freddy Krueger eventually gets fed up with the way the Nerds are treating his game and attacks them, and in the final battle, it's done again when Freddy makes himself look like the Nerd.
- Done all the time in videos by Natalie Tran, aka CommunityChannel on Youtube, where she is usually the only cast member of her skits.
- Similarly, WhatsUpELLE on Youtube is a pro at this, often having two "clones" of herself costarring with her in her videos.
- During the Mechakara saga on Atop the Fourth Wall, Linkara and Mechakara rarely (if ever) share the screen. In the final battle, however, Linkara, the Ninja-Style Dancer, and '90s Kid are all on-screen at once. Harvey Finevoice is present, but to avoid having to make Lewis play four characters at once, he's on a different angle.
- During the Entity arc, there's an absolutely seamless shot of Linkara walking around the Entity disguised as '90s Kid.
- Duet with Myself
- Matt Guion has a "Books Vs Movies Reviews" series where he plays two personas: Matt who talks about the original book, and the Hatter who talks about The Film of the Book and wears a variety of Nice Hats. The series initially avoids showing Matt and Hatter in the same shot with them always being in different locations, until the Animal Farm review where split screen editing is used to show them together for the first time. Matt even lampshades it by pointing out to Hatter that they've never been in the same frame before and the two of them gazing with awe at the camera and then talking during another conspicious in-the-same-frame scene at the start of the next review about how they'll have to get used to being two separate people.
- Occasionally implimented by makers of YouTube Poop, often for Self Cest gags.