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Poor Man's Substitute
Mr. Burns: Get me Steven Spielberg!
Smithers: He's unavailable.
Mr. Burns: Then get me his non-union Mexican equivalent!

Often, when you've got a pretty good and recognizable actor, there will be an actor who is awfully similar except that he's not quite as good/famous/busy/whatever.

This can be very handy when you've been asked to cast a TV series based on a movie, since the actors from the movie often won't be willing to do a weekly series, at least not for what you're willing to pay.

Such pairings can also be used to effect The Other Darrin, but when the former actor is much more famous than the replacement, this is a recipe for disappointment.

The good news for the actors is that by the end of the show's run, they're sometimes more famous than the actor they're replacing.

Perhaps the original Poor Man's Substitute was Jayne Mansfield for Marilyn Monroe. In fact, Twentieth Century Fox hired Mansfield for just that purpose after Monroe famously walked out on her contract in 1955.

On Mystery Science Theater 3000, Joel and the Bots call this the "Wayne Rogers Effect", after the actor who replaced Elliott Gould in the TV adaptation of Mash.

(Note, the Poor Mans Substitute for a character is probably a Suspiciously Similar Substitute.)

A common subversion is for the production team to get the actual actor they intended to find a substitute for.

PLEASE NOTE: This trope is about actors who can pass for each other in bad light and/or can fill the same type of roles. For actors who have played the same character, you want The Other Darrin instead.

Straight Examples:

  • Jamie Foxx to Will Smith as he often gets roles, such as Django Unchained, that Smith turns down. Ironically, many actually consider Foxx to be the better actor of the two
  • Milla Jovovich too expensive or busy working on another of her husband's movies? Try Kristanna Loken.
    • And if you can't get Kristanna, you might need to settle for Natassia Malthe.
  • If you can't afford Helen Hunt, try to get Laura Linney.
  • If you can't even afford Laura Linney, perhaps Laura Dern is your girl.
  • Martin Lawrence is the poor man's Eddie Murphy.
  • Peter Scolari can substitute for Rick Moranis in a fix (as he did in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids' Recycled: The Series).
    • A rather fitting substitute, but there is only an insignificant difference between the two: Moranis doesn't have a gap in his teeth like Scolari does. Otherwise, the substitution isn't so bad.
  • Michael Shanks is just as good as James Spader (as Daniel Jackson in Stargate SG-1).
  • In the same show, Richard Dean Anderson was the poor man's Kurt Russell. And was a lot better.
    • "O'Neill. Two 'Ls.' The other guy has no sense of humor."
  • Here's one convoluted example: Lorenzo Music substituted for Bill Murray in The Real Ghostbusters. Bill Murray returned the favor (a few years after Music's death) in the big screen adaptation of Garfield.
  • Tony Danza filled in for Bruce Willis in Baby Talk, the TV adaptation of Look Who's Talking.
  • Famous voices in the Disney Animated Canon are usually replaced with Poor Man's Substitutes most of the times in Direct-to-Video and TV Series sequels.
    • Dan Castellaneta is used as the poor man's Robin Williams when they need the voice of Genie from Aladdin on the cheap.
      • It's actually a bit more complicated than that. Robin Williams agreed to do Aladdin for union scale rates only if the Genie was not prominent in the ads and his voice was not used for merchandising. When Disney broke the contract, he cut off ties to the movie, which required Dan Castellaneta for The Return of Jafar and the Aladdin TV series. Disney eventually made amends with Williams (after firing Katzenberg), who returned for Aladdin and the King of Thieves.
    • The Lion King: While all the cast of the original movie reprised their roles in the sequels (except Rowan Atkinson as Zazu, so Edward Hibbert filled in the role), only Pumbaa and Rafiki retain the same voice actor in the spinoff Timon and Pumbaa and Kingdom Hearts II. (Mufasa had a different voice in House of Mouse, and was "voiced" by archive recordings for Kingdom Hearts II)
    • The sequel to Pocahontas replaces Mel Gibson with his brother Donald.
      • In games and merchandising for Disney/Pixar's Toy Story, Woody is not voiced by Tom Hanks but his brother Jim (who has carved a niche in Hollywood as the go to guy for those who can't afford his brother).
    • Averted by the sequel to The Hunchback of Notre Dame (only Laverne and the Archdeacon are replaced, by Jane Withers [due to Mary Wickes dying - and even then, Miss Withers did some of her dialogue in the first movie] and Jim Cummings [in for David Ogden Stiers]) and Hercules: The Animated Series (only Danny DeVito and Rip Torn didn't return).
    • Mulan: Mark Moseley replaces Eddie Murphy as Mushu.
    • The Emperor's New School had to substitute David Spade and John Goodman (although the latter, just for one season).
      • Similarly, if you can't get Edward Norton for a voice, use David Spade!
    • James Arnold Taylor played Michael J. Fox's character in a Milo's Return (the Pilot Movie for a planned TV series based on the movie Atlantis: The Lost Empire; Cree Summer was involved in both the movie and its video sequel).
    • On Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, Patrick Warburton was Poor Man's Substitute for Tim Allen as the voice of Buzz Lightyear (although Allen did reprise the role in Buzz Lightyear: The Adventure Begins; Warburton revoiced Buzz when the movie was shown as episodes of the series).
    • Actually, this happens quite a bit in Kingdom Hearts, probably due to the nature of the whole thing - Tate Donovan apparently turned down the role of Hercules for the first game, so Disney hired Sean Astin . However, once it took off, Donovan reprised the role for II. Nowadays, they still have three Darrins, the voice actresses for Kairi and Naminé, presumably because Hayden Panettiere was doing Heroes and Brittany Snow was off doing... somethingnote , and the voice actor for Ansem (Richard Epcar replacing Billy Zane). Also, all of the voices of the Hollow Bastion Restoration committee (plus Sephiroth) were replaced for II (resulting in Mandy Moore, Aerith, being replaced and resulting in a hugely amusing voicing situation for Yuffie). And the game RE: Chain of Memories offers Darrins for the entire Castle Oblivion party because all their voice clips in the original game were of Japanese actors simply with any sentences or spoken phrases removed. There are, however, quite a few surprising aversions for this trope, regardless; the original game had Kathryn Beaumont, the original voice actress of Alice and Wendy.
    • Keith Ferguson replacing Owen Wilson as the voice of Lightning McQueen in the Cars Toons series of shorts (Larry The Cable Guy still reprises his role as Mater, however).
  • Nigel Bennett (Lexx, Forever Knight) can fill in for Malcolm McDowell in a pinch, and Malcolm can fill in for Sting given the right wig.
    • Also Tim Curry is often the answer to the question "Who's available for the Malcolm McDowell role when Malcolm is busy?
    • Uh, Terence Stamp for live action and Corey Burton for voiceover?
  • Bryce Dallas Howard was substituted for Nicole Kidman in Lars von Trier's Manderlay, when Nicole refused to work with him again after Dogville.
  • Josh Radnor is the poor man's substitute for Zach Levi.
  • Charles Durning was described as "the fat man's Brian Dennehy" (though in recent years both men have slimmed down quite a bit).
    • Bruce Campbell's autobiography mentions Brian Keith feeling kind of like a Poor Man's Brian Dennehy (although not in those words), since Keith kept losing roles to Dennehy.
  • Jonathan Lloyd Walker, playing Rankol in the new Flash Gordon series, is clearly a Poor Man's Gary Oldman.
  • Before the second war in Iraq, Jerry Haleva made a living portraying Saddam Hussein in multiple movies (both comedy and drama). He was frequently cast due to his uncanny resemblance to the Iraqi despot.
  • Tom Sizemore: the poor man's Michael Madsen.
    • Have you taken a good look at Michael Madsen's filmography? He might be a poor man's Tom Sizemore these days.
      • Also, given his various problems, Sizemore's probably more expensive anyway.
  • Can't afford Demi Moore? Try Mimi Rogers on for size.
    • Mimi Rogers, with eerie accuracy, played an actress playing Wendie Malick's character in an episode of Dream On.
  • Christian Bale actually makes a better Tom Cruise than Tom Cruise.
  • Ethan Hawke has also been described as a cut-rate Tom Cruise.
  • Ron Silver is an obvious replacement for "Hoo-ah"-era Al Pacino, and played a Pacinoesque actor in the film Lovesick.
  • In the forgotten TV version of the movie Harry and the Hendersons, Bruce Davison and Molly Cheek were substitutes for John Lithgow and Melinda Dillon.
  • Crispin Freeman has voiced Will Turner (Orlando Bloom's character from Pirates of the Caribbean) so often that even he has lost track of when the character is voiced by him and when the character is actually voiced by Orlando Bloom in anything other than the movies themselves.
  • James Callis (Dr. Gaius Baltar, Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined)) has been described by sci-fi fans as "the poor man's Alexander Siddig" (Dr. Julian Bashir, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), though the two actors are similarly accomplished. Ron Moore, who has worked on both shows, was once asked by a fan if he noticed this resemblance, and he replied that he hadn't... but now couldn't stop seeing it after having it pointed out, and that he considered it seriously creeped him out.
  • Also from Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined), Matthew Bennett (Aaron Doral) has been dubbed "a poor man's Kevin Spacey".
  • Almost happened to Dudley Moore at the height of his American success. He had his biggest box-office hit in Arthur just a year after Peter Sellers, a fellow Brit star (in fact, a friend and colleague), had died. Though he was a very different personality than Sellers, two films that had been in development for Sellers were made with Moore (Lovesick and Unfaithfully Yours). He was even the initial choice to take over the role of Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther series, but according to Wikipedia was only willing to do the script Sellers had co-written as a Grand Finale, Romance of..., and only if Blake Edwards (who wasn't supposed to have been associated with it) would direct it; Edwards didn't want to film that script, and ultimately Moore moved on.
  • Corey Burton perfected a spot-on David Warner impression for the character Shockwave on Transformers. Some 22 years later, he actually got to substitute for Warner in Kingdom Hearts II. Interestingly enough, he played Sark, whose voice was the primary influence behind Shockwave's.
  • James Arnold Taylor has played the prequel incarnation of Obi-Wan Kenobi (originally played by Ewan McGregor) on three separate occasions; he's actually not too shabby at it.
    • Recently, he's been allowed more free reign with his Obi-Wan. He put pieces of Sir Alec Guinness into his performance, making the character his own and breaking free from being another poor man's substitute.
    • Tom Kane often stands in for Frank Oz as Yoda.
    • Terrence "TC" Carson usually takes over for Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu.
    • Nick Jameson as a VA stand-in for Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine.
    • Matt Sloan (the voice of Chad Vader) is the go-to VA stand in for James Earl Jones as Darth Vader
    • Actually the Kenobi situation is quite funny, as Ewan's performance is supposed to be an impression of Sir Alec Guinness in the first place.
  • If you can't afford James Cromwell, Donald Moffat will substitute very well.
    • Also, James Cromwell and James Rebhorn are more or less interchangeable.
  • In The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Julius Carry seems to be filling in for Mr. T, especially with frequent exclamations of "sucka!"
  • Since Tomb Raider fans obviously have no way of getting Keeley Hawes to voice Lara in their fanmade works, they use Tomb Raider Forums mod Greenkey2 (Jenni Milward) who sounds very similar to both Keeley and a previous voice actress, Judith Gibbins.
  • After her roles in Superbad, The Rocker, The House Bunny and Zombieland, Emma Stone seems to have become an uncannily perfect substitute for Lindsay Lohan.
    • This is later inverted as Emma Stone has gone on to be one of the most talented and popular stars today, while Lindsay Lohan is seen as a drug-addicted mess.
  • John Rhys-Davies' voice bears a remarkable similarity to Sean Connery, to say nothing of his uncanny performance in Aladdin and the King of Thieves.
    • Unable to get either Connery or Rhys-Davies for a voice role? Leave it to Bob Joles.
  • Nicolas Cage was the producer of the Dresden Files television adaptation; Paul Blackthorne, the lead actor in the series, bears a strong resemblance to, and sometimes seems to be performing an impression of, Cage; possibly Cage wanted to play the part but was either deemed too old or was otherwise engaged.
  • Several actors have tried being poor man's versions of Jim Carrey, to varying degrees of success. Eric Christian Olsen played a younger version of Carrey's character Lloyd in Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd. Jamie Kennedy played a character similar to Carrey's from The Mask in Son of the Mask. Rob Paulsen is the go to guy for voicing animated version of Carrey roles.
  • In a World where Don LaFontaine is no longer with us, Hal Douglas is still around for dramatic movie trailer voiceovers.
  • There has been a fair amount of talk describing Katie McGrath of Merlin as a potential substitute for Keira Knightley, despite their notably different body shapes (one has famously modest cleavage while the other... doesn't) and the fact that Katie isn't even English (she's Irish). Apparently having a stong jawline and being a pale, twenty-something brunette actress (and one who is naturally blonde at that) is enough similarity.
  • Keira Knightley herself was the poor man's Natalie Portman in The Phantom Menace: she was cast as the decoy queen because of her resemblance to Portman, who was playing the actual queen.
    • To the point where Portman's own parents thought Keira was their daughter. Though to be fair, she was in costume and wearing a ton of make-up.
    • Christina Ricci has often described herself as the poor man's Natalie Portman. In the 90's, she often took roles that Portman had already passed on.
  • Averted when Nathan Lane voiced Timon on the Timon and Pumbaa animated series, but played straight when he was replaced by Kevin Schon after the first season. Schon also replaced Lane in Disney's Teacher's Pet in a few episodes, sometimes with both voices appearing in the same episode.
  • Despite being a (marginally) better actor, Joe Flannigan has been described as the small-screen Keanu Reeves.
    • Should you need a faux Reeves for the big screen, Chris Klein might work, which seems to be what the producers of the excruciating Rollerball remake were going for.
  • The band Journey hired Filipino singer Arnel Pineda as a replacement for former lead Steve Perry. Obviously, being Filipino, Pineda looks nothing like Perry— but his voice is incredibly similar.
  • Similarly, it can be hard to tell Tim McGraw and Rodney Atkins apart.
  • Phil Collins, already the drummer for the band Genesis, became the lead singer after Peter Gabriel left, and was described as being a better Gabriel sound-alike than Gabriel himself (though without the eccentric theatrical flair). So, possibly an inversion.
  • Star Trek III: The Search for Spock has Robin Curtis as a poor woman's Kirstie Alley. Notice only one of those actresses went on to become a household name.
  • Can't get Sean Bean? Go with David Wenham instead. The latter was even cast as Faramir in The Lord of the Rings because he looked so much like Sean, who played Faramir's brother. Coincidentally, their on-screen father Denethor treats Faramir like he's merely a poor man's substitute for his older brother.
    • Better yet, Richard Armitage- similar look, similar voice and similar taste in roles- compare John Porter from Strike Back to Andy McNab, or antiheroic Guy of Gisbourne to Boromir.
  • Jeffrey Dean Morgan (the Comedian in Watchmen) is often compared to Robert Downey, Jr., mostly because they have almost the same exact face. It came up many interviews he did in the run-up to Watchmen. Ironically, the sudden surge in Downey's popularity appears to have made this Poor Man's Substitute too expensive for shooting flashback scenes in Supernatural.
  • Matthew Goode's Adrian Veidt from Watchmen looks like David Bowie, which is only natural because that's who the original character was modeled after.
  • When Chuck Jones wanted to make a sequel to One Froggy Evening, in honor of Michigan J. Frog becoming the mascot of The WB, they ran into a major problem—nobody seemed to be able to pinpoint who had played him. When they finally figured it out, they found the voice was that of Bill Roberts, who had been dead for years. For the new short and WB bumpers, the Frog was voiced by Jeff McCarthy until the character was retired in 2005.
  • If you can't afford Sir Ben Kingsley, Erick Avari will do in a pinch. It helps that he's a classic That Guy.
  • Ben Kingsley himself is a viable substitute for early actor Georges Méliès of A Trip to the Moon fame, especially since the man himself is long dead. He played Méliès in Martin Scorsese's film Hugo.
  • James Arnold Taylor is your man to go if you want a Johnny Depp stand-in voice on the cheap, as evidenced by the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Licensed Game and Kingdom Hearts II.
  • James Purefoy is pretty much a Hong Kong Knockoff of Gerard Butler.
  • Nicholas Farrell makes a good substitute for Bill Nighy. Another classic That Guy, who's been in Chariots of Fire, Foyle's War, Pearl Harbor, and The Choir, to name a few.
  • Olivier Rabourdin in Taken plays a convincing Kevin Spacey acting as a French cop.
  • Chris Rock did an infamous rant on this subject during his Academy Award host monologue. He actually called people in the room poor men's substitutes (for other people in the room).
    • Including himself as Denzel Washington's substitute ("If you want Denzel Washington and all you can get is me, WAIT! Denzel is a fine actor. He wouldn't never do Pootie Tang. After I did Pootie Tang, Cuba Gooding sent me a check for $80.").
    • Dave Chappelle did a commercial for Chappelle Show in which he shouted "I am not Chris Rock!".
  • Eli Roth looks a lot like Zachary Quinto. Apparently, Eli has tweeted about getting mistaken for Zach.
  • Here's a fun drinking game. Go on Jesse Eisenberg's IMDb board, take a shot every time you see a thread title with "Michael Cera" in it.
    • Since both of those guys are expensive, try Jay Baruchel.
    • In a similar vein, if you can't afford Cera OR Eisenberg, Gaelan Connell slots in just as easily for a fraction of the cost.
  • Need a younger, cheaper Jack Black? Dan Fogler's your man. Or you can get the Canadian import brand: Tyler Labine.
    • A clean-shaven Fogler can also fill in for Jonah Hill.
  • Cheap horror spoof Stan Helsing is notable only for having at least three Poor Man's Substitute - Diora Baird and Steve Howey are uncanny substitutes for Rachel Bilson and Ashton Kutcher and while Desi Lydic doesn't especially physically resemble Christina Applegate (other than being blonde and pretty in a kooky sort of way) her voice is absolutely identical.
  • Moira Kelly took over the role of Donna Hayward from Lara Flynn Boyle in Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me.
  • George C Scott took over at least three roles from Lee J. Cobb: Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman onstage, Juror #3 in 12 Angry Men on TV, and Lt. Kinderman in The Exorcist III. (Of course, in this case, Scott is an Oscar winner and would generally be considered more famous.)
  • Can't get Lea Salonga, Disney? Don't worry, there's always Liz Callaway.
  • Really, the only reason that Michael Ironside has had such a successful career is that Jack Nicholson is so damn expensive, and Powers Boothe a little too much.
    • If Nicholson starts getting too old, Christian Slater is still up for his jobs. At least that's what they did in Heathers.
  • Jerry Doyle is the poor man's Bruce Willis. Compare Doyle in season 1 of Babylon 5 to Willis in the original Die Hard, then season 3 Doyle to Die Hard With A Vengeance Willis, and cap it off with season 5 Doyle to Live Free Or Die Hard Willis. It's uncanny.
    • Mr. Doyle's first professional acting role was on Moonlighting, playing a guy who was impersonating Bruce Willis' character.
  • Robert Costanzo (Die Hard 2, Total Recall (1990), Sewer Shark) definitely looks like a poor man's Danny DeVito.
    • He sounds like him as well, considering he replaced DeVito as Phil in the Hercules Recycled: The Series.
  • Can't cast Kate Beckinsale in your next movie? That's fine, Rhona Mitra will do.
  • Rita Wilson seems to be a poor man's Kelly Preston.
  • Mia Wasikowska of Alice in Wonderland looks uncannily like a young Gwyneth Paltrow, should one be called for.
  • Charles Shaughnessy looks a lot like Richard Gere. His most well known role is Maxwell Sheffield - exactly the kind of guy, Gere is often typecast as.
  • Opera world has a tendency lately... can't get Sir John Tomlinson? Go and hire Peter Rose. (Well, since Tomlinson is over 60 and Rose in his prime, both great British basses and moving in the same repertory, also both bearlike, it's logical.) Then again, years ago, a young Tomlinson was this when James Morris refused to sing Wotan in the futuristic Kupfer Ring.
  • Megan Fox is what happens when Angelina Jolie takes a quasi-break from acting (or maybe just a quasi-break from crazy) to raise her own soccer team. After all, what's Hollywood without at least one Bi the Way starlet?
    • Similarly if you can't get Megan Fox, Odette Yustman is probably available - and can, you know, act.
    • If you don't want somebody so young, Dina Meyer makes a great poor man's Angelina Jolie. As if Dina Meyer is a poor man's anything.
  • Can't get Julia Stiles for your sequel? Just call Kam Heskin or Isabella Miko.
    • Erika Christensen is frequently referred to as a poor man's Julia Stiles.
  • Can't get Ali Larter? Call Alice Eve Or Amy Smart.
  • Can't get Zooey Deschanel, Anne Hathaway, Alison Brie OR Lizzy Caplan? That's bad enough, but lucky for you Krysten Ritter and Kat Dennings can swing by.
  • Need an older Miley Cyrus? Call Alexis Dzienza. Need someone less annoying? Get Lyndsy Fonseca.
  • Stellan Skarsgård and Liam Neeson. Skarsgård was actually asked by Spielberg to play the lead in Schindler's List but declined due to the role of Oskar Schindler being too similar to his role as Raoul Wallenberg in Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg. When he declined he suggested to Spielberg that he should offer the role to Liam Neeson instead, since people kept getting Neeson and Skarsgård mixed up.
  • Robert Cait can pass as Norm MacDonald, at least in voice acting. (See: The Fairly OddParents in Fairy Idol)
    • So can Adam Carolla.
  • So you want a young Harrison Ford but don't have a time machine? Get Jensen Ackles. Eric Kripke did. (Note: personality, not looks.)
    • Jensen could also work as a Brad Pitt-type.
    • If you want the role of an older Harrison Ford without the money, try Dennis Quaid.
      • The Nostalgia Chick once remarked that Dennis Quaid could be referred to - word for word - as "the poor man's Kevin Costner".
  • Leonardo DiCaprio to River Phoenix in the early 90s. He took on two roles that was meant for River (Total Eclipse and Basketball Diaries), and was considered to play Daniel in Interview with the Vampire, which was initially meant for River Phoenix (ultimately played by Christian Slater).
  • Meet Mónica Cruz, the 3 years younger and nearly indistinguishable sister to Penélope Cruz. The most hilarious part is that she wasn't an actress originally but a dancer and choreographer, and began acting just because how much people who couldn't cast Penélope kept offering roles to her.
  • Can't get Joaquin Phoenix? Try Rufus Sewell.
  • Who doesn't think that Nathan Fillion would be an awesome poor man's substitute for Brendan Fraser?
    • I think you have that backwards.
    • Nathan Fillion is sometimes mistaken for Jason Bateman. To the point where it got him out of a speeding ticket once. Later lampshaded on Castle, when (fictional) celebrity author Richard Castle is mistaken for Bateman by the press.
      • On the Richard Castle twitter feed, Castle says he's sometimes mistaken for actor Nathan Fillion. He mentions in one episode that he's a fan of that old Joss Whedon scifi show, though he doesn't mention it by name. Thus resolving the Celebrity Paradox in the Castle-verse.
  • James Franciscus was cast in Beneath The Planet of the Apes specifically because he looked like Charlton Heston (who is also in the movie, but for much less time).
  • According to Bryan Danielson, Michael Cole is a poor man's Jim Ross.
    • In this case, it's decidely not meant to be a compliment.
  • Also applies to the soundtracks of movies too. Can't get Elton John? Get Barry Manilow instead.
  • Worried that Russell Crowe might just be a bit too talented for your movie? Then give Gerard Butler a call.
  • Jeremy Irons damage his vocal chords while screaming "You won't get a sniff without me!"? Christopher Lloyd just can't sing? Just need someone to say something while sounding somewhat like someone else? Call Jim Cummings!
  • Jude Law has twice taken roles once played by a younger Michael Caine, in remakes of Alfie and Sleuth.
    • Tom Hanks has sort of taken roles twice played by Cary Grant, directly doing so in The Money Pit, a remake of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House and indirectly doing so in Sleepless in Seattle, a pseudo-remake of An Affair to Remember.
  • James Roday practically is Ben Stiller in The Dukes of Hazzard movie.
  • Eric Loomis voice subs for Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man for the tie in game to the second film and The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. It's actually pretty damn close and since those, he's reprised the role in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. It also happens to be his natural speaking voice.
  • Tina Fey did this to herself by casting Julia Louis-Dreyfus to play her in flashbacks during 30Rock's live episode. It's a toss up who's the poor man in this one.
    Liz Lemon: My memory has Seinfeld money.
  • If you can't get Rie Kugimiya, you'd do well to track down Kyouka (Reo Kawamura's seiyuu from Sonohana).
  • The resemblance between Martin Sheen and his brother Joe Estevez, both in appearance and voice, came in handy during the making of Apocalypse Now. First, there was Sheen's near-fatal heart attack during the filming, which led to Estevez being brought in as a double in some shots. Later on, Estevez was again used during the editing to record Willard's voiceover narration when Sheen was unavailable.
  • Maggie Lawson and Alicia Silverstone look almost identical.
    • Also Rachel Blanchard who Other Darrined for Silverstone in Clueless TV series.
    • Alicia Silverstone, Drew Barrymore, and Reese Witherspoon have all said that they sometimes get mistaken for each other.
  • According to an interview, Kiefer Sutherland started his career by calling places and claiming he could do "Donald Sutherland voiceovers"...for half price.
  • Thickly accented German bodybuilder Ralf Möller for thickly accented Austrian bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger in the low-budget TV series Conan The Adventurer.
  • Since Wesley Snipes wouldn't resume his role as Blade for Blade The Series, the creators replaced him with rapper Kirk "Sticky Fingaz" Jones.
  • French martial artist Olivier Gruner for Belgian martial artist Jean-Claude Van Damme.
  • Need an Alec Baldwin sound-alike? Look no further than Fred Tatasciore.
  • Jim Cummings is the embodiment of this trope. He's replaced Sterling Holloway as Winnie the Pooh, Louis Prima as Louie from the Jungle Book, and Mel Blanc as the Tasmanian Devil in Tasmania.
  • Non - acting example: Long before his death, Jerry Goldsmith was often the poor man's substitute to John Williams. If you can't get the more expensive John Williams (who is often picky about the films he wanted to score) you could get the equally awesome Jerry Goldsmith to score your films.
  • Non-acting example: During the 1980s, Paddy Kingsland filled in nicely when Tangerine Dream wasn't avaialable.
  • Even now that his career is slowing down, Rutger Hauer can sometimes still be a bit pricey. When that problem arises, just call Patrick Bergin.
  • If Jason Statham isn't available to do The Transporter TV series, Chris Vance (Prison Break, Mental, Burn Notice, Dexter) can drive around and kick butt, while retaining the accent.
  • Someone looking for a less prominent Tom Cruise could go with John Barrowman, who has almost identical cheekbones and even a similar voice, though much higher and smoother, like a Tom Cruise without a hypothetical pack a day smoking habit.
  • If Jackie Chan is not available, there is always James Sie. James Sie is Jackie Chan in Jackie Chan Adventures cartoon segments while the real Jackie Chan is in the live action segments. Sie also voices Master Monkey in Kung Fu Panda Legends Of Awesomeness and the video game adaptation of the original movie.
  • David Tennant and Callum Blue haven't filled in for each other, but totally could.
  • Josh Lucas bears a striking resemblance to Matthew McConaughey (and is arguably a better actor, though not as well-known. This perception might change considering the latter won an oscar).
  • Micah Solusod is often considered to be Funimation's equivalent to Johnny Yong Bosch. This was mainly because his role as the titular character of Soul Eater was misattributed to Johnny. To hamer this comparison out, Micah's recent role as Liszt in Ookami-san sounds exactly like Johnny's role as Itsuki. And made funnier when it's been announced that he will be replacing Johnny in the role of Kazuki Makabe in the Fafner film adaptation and Claus Valca in the Last Exile sequel.
  • Want James Arnold Taylor to do anime voice work? Too bad, union issues. Hire Vic Mignogna instead. This is lampshaded in the comments of a Disgaea 3 gameplay.
  • Many have mistaken the voice acting of Travis Willingham with Patrick Seitz and vice versa. This is mainly due to their similar-sounding voices.
  • Jessica Boone and Melissa Davis also get mistaken for each other, whenever either of them use a teenage-like voice, they sound creepingly the same.
  • Jeff Bridges unavailable for voice work? Just call Fred Tatasciore.
  • Blonde B-movie actresses Kristy Swanson and Erika Eleniak are about the same age (Eleniak is a few months older) and look enough like each other to be confused often - so much so that Swanson was once credited as a Baywatch cast member (Eleniak's show) despite never having appeared on it. These two actually subvert the Marilyn Monroe/Jayne Mansfield dynamic in that Eleniak is (arguably) the more famous of the two due to Baywatch and her Playboy appearances, but Swanson is (arguably) the superior actress. In fact, one website humorously refers to Swanson as "the rich woman's Erika Eleniak."
  • Older than You Think: In the 1930's, Warren William was sometimes referred to as a poor man's William Powell.
  • When Scooby-Doo made its Channel Hop from CBS to ABC, Nicole Jaffe was replaced as the voice of Velma with Patricia Stevens. She did serviceable work, but she left in the middle of the 1979 season and was replaced with Marla Frumkin, whose voice reading was flat and disjointed.
    • Scooby himself had his voice filled by Hadley Kay and Scott Innes following the death of original voice Don Messick until Frank Welker became his new permanent voice.
  • Craig McCracken originally wanted Jack Black as the voice of the evil gnome in the Powerpuff Girls episode "See Me, Feel Me, Gnomey." Black was too busy and too expensive, so Jess Harnell assumed the voice, doing an eerily good impression.
  • Need a tough, rugged-faced New York Jew but can't get a hold of Harvey Keitel? Joseph Bologna will do (even though he isn't actually Jewish).
  • While either is fairly pricy, if you need Samuel L. Jackson, and he's not available, Laurence Fishburne would do nicely. Likewise, if you need Fishburne and can't get him, Jackson's a good bet.
    • Though they look nothing alike, Ving Rhames is a cheaper alternative to both, if all you're looking for is a generic Scary Black Man character.
  • Can't get Mark Hamill to voice a villain for you? Hire Liam O Brien instead.
  • This is a much older example, but on Broadway, if you couldn't get Paul Ford (due to his TV and film commitments), you'd hire an actor named David Burns. Funnily enough, Burns opened on Broadway in characters that Ford would play in films, even though Ford was the original choice of most of the Broadway directors.
  • Can't get a Kari Wahlgren to voice a Lady of War, Femme Fatale, mature/stern woman, Ms. Fanservice or a spunky girl? Hire Lauren Landa.
  • Can't get Akira Ishida to voice a Nice Guy bishonen? Hire Hiro Shimono instead.
  • Kevin James has carved out a niche for himself as the poor man's Chris Farley.
  • Marta Dusseldorp, who among other minor roles played Officer Yal Henta (an old friend of Aeryn Sun's from her Peacekeeper days) on Farscape ("Into the Lion's Den" parts I and II), bears an uncanny resemblance to Bridget Fonda.
  • Jon Cryer spent the 1980s taking on the excess workload that Matthew Broderick didn't have time for. He even replaced Broderick in Torch Song Trilogy on Broadway.
  • Can't get Crispin Freeman due to Union issues? No problem! Either Liam O Brien, Doug Erholtz or Keith Silverstein will do the job.
  • Can't get Yuri Lowenthal to voice a Kid Hero in an anime? No problem! Either Bryce Papenbrook, Johnny Yong Bosch, Steve Staley or Todd Haberkorn will do the job.
  • If an anime is being dubbed in Houston and you want someone to voice a loli and Hilary Haag is somewhat not available, get Luci Christian to do it.
  • If you need someone like George Clooney but can't afford him, Adam Arkin is your man.
  • Saskia Reeves looks and sounds remarkably like Emma Thompson (coincidentally, both were born in the same area of London, which explains the similarity of accents).
  • Either will probably cost you, but Ginnifer Goodwin and Jennifer Morrison are apparently so interchangeable they've actually done interviews as each other (without discussion between them about it), since people mix them up so frequently.
    • If you need a child version of either (especially Goodwin), you need Bailee Madison.
  • Looking for a younger version of Tommy Lee Jones? Look no further than Josh Brolin. (He could be an excellent substitute for Harrison Ford, too.)
  • Need Tim Curry and he's not available or is too expensive for you? Jemaine Clement demonstrated in Men In Black 3 that he'd do very well as a substitute.
  • Need Zac Efron but can't get a Zac Efron? Drew Seeley's your man! They don't actually look too much alike, but mister Seeley did Zac's signing bits in the first High School Musical and toured with the cast (which is odd because Zac can actually sing). Since then he's been in a lot of lower budget tween friendly musical projects, the type Zac would have been perfect for it High School Musical hadn't somehow turned him into a known name.
  • Doing a dinosaur documentary and Tyrannosaurus rex hasn't evolved yet? Well, Allosaurus is nearly as big! The poor thing's name even means 'other lizard.'
  • The movie Infamous set Toby Jones on the path of a poor man's Phillip Seymour Hoffman. However, since then Toby Jones has had at least some fairly high-profile roles, including a fairly significant supporting role in the Captain America movie.
  • The success of Modern Family has created a demand for a more affordable Ty Burrell, a niche capably filled by Mather Zickel.
  • Since John Belushi is no longer with us, his brother, Jim Belushi, is almost as good.
  • If anyone ever wants an animated Frasier, Maurice LaMarche could easily pass for Kelsey Grammer and he already is the world champion Orson Welles.
  • If Daniel Craig is too busy with the latest Bond film, Callum Keith Rennie is physically nearly identical, though he's untested in a starring action role.
    • Thomas Kretschmann looks quite like him too. But he would also do a good Ralph Fiennes.note 
  • And Anthony Lapaglia certainly has a Bill Pullman vibe to him.
    • Bill Pullman and Bill Paxton are so similar it can be tricky to remember which was in which movie without looking it up.
  • The entire city of Vancouver (and Toronto, to a lesser extent) tends to be used as this for New York City. It helps that Vancouver, like the Big Apple, is a peninsula that's urbanized on both shores and both cities already have a thriving film industry.
  • Worried that we'll never get another voice like Michael Jackson ever again? Don't worry, Bruno Mars (himself a giant MJ fan) comes to the rescue!


  • Don Adams for Inspector Gadget.
  • In Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined), when the casting agents were asking for "a Mary Mc Donnell type" for Laura Roslin, and wound up getting Mary McDonnell. Apparently, the same thing happened with Edward James Olmos for Commander Adama. Cooler still, the role was written for Mary McDonnell... they just never imagined they'd actually get her.
  • A similar subversion happened when voice actors were being cast for Who Framed Roger Rabbit The production team wanted someone who sounded like Kathleen Turner for Jessica Rabbit — and ended up hiring Kathleen Turner.
  • Similarly, the creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender wanted somebody who sounded like Jason Isaacs to play Zhao, as they got the idea for the character from Isaac's character in The Patriot — but the real Jason Isaacs wound up taking the job instead.
  • And then there's Douglas Adams looking for a "Peter Jones-y" type for the voice of the Guide in the radio series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Eventually, "someone's secretary" suggested...
    • Jones voiced the Guide from then out in any adaptation that required audio, until his death in 2000. William Franklyn replaced him in the revival of the radio series, and Stephen Fry replaced him for The Movie.
  • Casting was looking for the part of Dr. Cox on Scrubs to be filled by a John C. McGinley-type. Apparently, John C. McGinley still had to audition, possibly making him his own Poor Man. The mind boggles...
  • After Betty White heard that the producers of The Mary Tyler Moore Show were looking for a Betty White type, she approached them and said they could have the real thing.
  • Mel Brooks advertised in the trade papers that he wanted a "Frankie Laine-type" to sing the theme song to Blazing Saddles. A few days later, Frankie Laine turned up at Brooks' office and offered his services. He was also unaware that it was a comedy, causing Brooks to feel embarrassed by how much heart Laine put into the song.
  • Sean Connery agreeing to appear in Time Bandits. The original script even said something like "Agamemnon takes off his helmet, revealing Sean Connery, or an actor of equal but cheaper stature."
  • Casting for Taxi Driver, Scorcese asked for a "Cybill Shepherd type". When her agent offered Shepherd herself for the part, Scorcese replied "We can't afford her." The agent told him "She'll do it for whatever you can pay." At that time, Shepherd had just come off Daisy Miller for which she got bad reviews; coupled with her relationship with the recently-backlashed Peter Bogdanovich, she was desperate for the credibility that the role would bring.
  • Another example was The Princess Bride. When it was first planned in the 1970s, William Goldman wanted wrestling star Andre the Giant to play Fezzik, but settled for an unknown bodybuilder named Arnold Schwarzenegger. By the time it got out of Development Hell in the '80s, Arnold was well out of their price range, but Andre the Giant was very much available.
  • Michael York heard a rumor that the makers of Cabaret wanted to cast a "young Michael York type" and suggested to his agent that "he might possibly qualify".
  • For the role of Nina Van Horn on Just Shoot Me!, creator Steve Levitan wanted a "Wendie Malick type, but older". When none of the actresses who auditioned proved satisfactory, Levitan cast Malick and wrote the character younger.
  • Recalling his performance as Nick Locarno in Star Trek: The Next Generation, the producers of Star Trek: Voyager sought a "Robert Duncan McNeill type" to play Locarno type Tom Paris. When no suitable replacement could be found, McNeill got the part.
    • Another version of this story is that Paris was originally going to be Locarno, but the producers decided that the character was unredeemable (or they didn't want to pay royalties to his creator, depending on who you ask)... then hired McNeill anyway.
  • When NBC needed an Ian McShane-type to play King Silas Benjamin on Kings...
  • The first-season Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Oasis" guest-starred Trek veteran Rene Auberjonois. As he tells it, they were looking for someone similar to him, and Rick Berman said "Why don't we just get Rene?"
  • A similar thing happened with the character of Leo McGarry on The West Wing. Aaron Sorkin asked for "someone like John Spencer" and got... John Spencer.
  • In an interview, Ben Stiller claimed that getting Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand to play the titular couple in Meet the Fockers was "the pipe dream" and the production crew were considering other possibilities until both accepted, much to their surprise.
  • When the creators of The Golden Girls were casting the role of Dorothy, they said they were looking for a "Bea Arthur-type". Guess who got the part?
  • For the film Love Actually, one of the producers reportedly wanted "a Laura Linney type" for a specific role and mentioned it at the slightest opportunity. Eventually the director snapped, told him "Oh for fuck's sake, just get Laura Linney then," and she joined the cast.
  • The Leverage writers wanted Nate, the leader of the titular band of thieves, to be an actor similar to Timothy Hutton. Hutton got the part.
  • The producers of the Flipper big screen adaptation were looking for a 'Paul Hogan type'; Paul Hogan heard and contacted them.
  • For Brütal Legend, Double Fine based the main character, Eddie Riggs, on something of a caricature of Jack Black. Now they just needed to find someone who could imitate Jack Black. Guess who they ended up getting for the part?
  • Played with in The Simpsons. They actually got Michael Jackson to play as a fat white guy who was in a mental hospital who thought he was Michael Jackson. However, Michael Jackson used a plain sounding pen name in the credits and used an impersonator to do his songs on the show which were sung by an impersonator that he voiced the speaking voice of. Confused yet?
    • To be more clear: The Simpsons paid enough for 'talking' Michael Jackson, but not enough for 'singing' Michael Jackson.
      • Actually it had less to do with money and more to do with contract stipulations. Jackson just didn't WANT to do the singing parts. He still recorded versions of those parts, however.
  • The Punisher (the 2005 video game) is a good subversion. The game itself was written by long time writer Garth Ennis, and was loosely based on various events from his run with the comic as well as events from the 2004 movie. Imagine the surprise the developers had when Thomas Jane responded to the casting call.
  • One of the teasers for JCVD has Jean-Claude Van Damme turn up to a casting call for the film, which is about Jean-Claude Van Damme. He still has to audition.
  • Supposedly Alec Baldwin had volunteered to voice himself in Team America: World Police but the creators refused on the grounds that the guy they had was better. Actually, Baldwin, George Clooney, and Matt Damon all thought that their caricatures were so hilarious, that they would have gladly voiced themselves if Trey & Matt had asked.
  • The Coen brothers wanted the opening narration for The Big Lebowski to be read by someone "sounding not unlike Sam Elliott." Ultimately, they were able to get Sam Elliott himself.
  • Zach Braff has stated in interviews that when Garden State was in development, he and his friends kept saying they wanted somebody like Natalie Portman for the lead female role, never dreaming that they might actually get her.
  • Valve wanted someone with the vocal talent of Louis Gossett Jr. to voice the extra-dimensional beings known as the Vortigaunt in Half-Life 2, based on his performance in Enemy Mine. They ended up with... Louis Gossett Jr. Too bad not for the following episode releases though.
    • Another Valve example: the writers of Portal 2 wrote Wheatley's character specifically with Stephen Merchant in mind, but they never expected to actually land him for the role. It wasn't until after the actor they first cast backed out that they decided to contact Merchant, just for the hell of it, and, lo and behold, he said yes.
  • When casting for the film Super, James Gunn, never imagining having Kevin Bacon or Ellen Page cast, had asked for Kevin Bacon and Ellen Page-types.
  • The script of Predators described Cuchillo as "a guy who looks like Danny Trejo." When Danny heard this, he called Robert Rodriguez and said "Hey, I heard there's a guy in the script for Predators who looks just like Danny Trejo and guess what, I look just like Danny Trejo!"
  • Character Tod Spengo from Momand Dad Savethe World was so heavily based on Jon Lovitz' stage persona that they would have simply named the character "Jon Lovitz" if they thought they could get him. They actually did, and Lovitz loved the Tod-centric set pieces so much he said he wanted to take them home and put them around his pool.
  • Inverted with Kamen Rider Dragon Knight. Jason David Frank was set to play Len/Wing Knight, but he was later replaced with Matt Mullins, since the producers wanted Dragon Knight to succeed on its own merits rather than piggybacking on JDF's popularity from Power Rangers.
  • Discord from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic was created after Lauren Faust had a Star Trek Archive Binge and is basically a sadistic, but Laughably Evil version of Q. As such, they originally intended to get a John de Lancie sound-alike for the role, but instead managed to get the real John de Lancie. Lauren has even said herself to have been blown away when they got him.
  • The producers of Arrested Development didn't expect Liza Minelli to actually agree to play a recurring role on the show, but when Ron Howard asked her, she agreed because the two of them had been close friends for a long time.
  • Jessica Walter became interested in Archer after her manager sent her the pilot script, which included the line "think Jessica Walter in Arrested Development" to describe Malory Archer.


  • There's a moment in the Skins series 4 finale where - prompted by a drunk Naomi - Cook realises that his latest random squeeze (Arcia) is a Poor Man's Substitute for Effy. He ditches her as soon as he twigs what he's doing.
    • Played for laughs in Friends when Rachel breaks up with nerdy paleontologist Ross (played by David Schwimmer) and hooks up with nerdy periodontist Russ (played by David Schwimmer).
    Monica: See? They're as different as night and...later that night.
  • Rare fictional example - in the Marvel Universe, USAgent is treated by everyone as a poor man's substitute for Captain America. This was lampshaded in an issue of Mighty Avengers, by Loki of all people. Disguised as the Scarlet Witch (long story), he attempts to recruit Captain America for his new Avengers team and on discovering that Cap is dead goes to USAgent and effectively says "You'll have to do".
  • Similarly, in the Justice League Unlimited episode "The Greatest Story Never Told", Booster Gold spends the beginning of the episode teamed with the Elongated Man, who complains about being the League's poor man's Plastic Man. He is indeed used for that purpose by the end of the episode.
  • Armored Core 2 gives us Eight Ball/Hustler Two, poor man's substitute and claimed descendant of the series' Nine Ball/Hustler One. He's very low ranked and pilots a vastly inferior mech. Nine Ball was also an AI.
  • According to the The Nostalgia Critic, Jean-Claude Van Damme is this to Chuck Norris.
    Nostalgia Critic: So what's the main problem with this piece of shit movie? Four syllables: Jean-Claude Van Damme. Van Damme is like the poor man's Chuck Norris. The guy you get if you think Steven Seagal is too classy for your movie.
  • Parodied in The Simpsons in the episode "A Star Is Burns", when Mr. Burns requests for Steven Spielberg to direct his movie. Upon being told that he was unavailable, Burns then requested Señor Spielbergo, his non-union Mexican equivalent.
    Mr. Burns: Get me Steven Spielberg!
    Smithers: He's unavailable.
    Mr. Burns: Then get me his non-union Mexican equivalent!
    • Also, when Bart opened a casino, he hired a Liza Minelli impersonator but needed another kind of show when he found out the "impersonator" was Liza Minelli.
  • South Park: When pee-wee football team South Park Cows played against Middle Park Cowboys, the entertainment hired for the halftime was John Stamos' brother Richard Stamos.
  • Ultimate X-Men has Colonel Wraith refer to Sabertooth as "the poor man's Wolverine."
  • Given a weird twist in Girl Genius, when Agatha, who's on the run from the Baron's forces, joins a traveling show, and in one performance of a "Heterodyne play," fills in for actress Pix. The twist? The character she's playing is her own real-life mother.

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alternative title(s): The Poor Mans Substitute
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