Separated-at-Birth Casting

Adam Kolkin and Chris Colfer. No, they're not related.

Sometimes, casting directors are called upon to cast, say, a father and son, or two brothers, or a younger and older version of the same character. And sometimes, they find someone that looks so uncannily like the original actor that it comes as a surprise to the viewers that the two aren't actually related.

Not to be confused with Real-Life Relative, which is when the actors actually are related, and playing relatives.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

     Advertising 
  • In the Kia commercials with Blake Griffin time traveling to his childhood selves, the childhood versions of him look a lot like him. This is especially strange because Blake Griffin is somewhat of an unusual looking person, being a biracial guy with brownish red hair and freckles.

    Film 
  • In Big Fish, Alison Lohman was cast (assisted by makeup) as the young version of Jessica Lange.
    • Supposedly, Ewan McGregor was cast by Tim Burton because he uncannily resembled Albert Finney when he was younger.
      • By McGregor's own recollection he saw a photo in Tim Burton's office of Albert Finney in ''Tom Jones'' and was trying to remember which photoshoot of his it was taken from before he realised that it wasn't a photo of him at all.
  • Mayim Bialik as the younger version of Bette Midler's character in Beaches.
  • Harrison Ford recommended River Phoenix for young Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade specifically because he reminded him of himself at that age. It helped that they previously played father and son in The Mosquito Coast.
    • Although it's generally a good idea to have stunt doubles resemble the actors they replace, Ford's stunt double, Vic Armstrong, looked so much like him that the two were often confused on-set, even by Ford's own son. At one point while filming Temple of Doom, Ford injured his back and was out of commission for a few weeks, so Armstrong filmed in place of Ford for several scenes during that time that didn't show his face. Close-ups of Ford were added later to make it more convincing.
    "Vic — If you learn to talk I'm in deep trouble!" (Ford's dedication to Armstrong on a photo depicting both of them during filming Indiana Jones)
  • Rachael Leigh Cook as the young Parker Posey in the movie adaptation of The House of Yes.
  • The boy chosen to be a young John Cusack in Hot Tub Time Machine.
  • Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny: Young JB.
    • The same actor played a young Jack Black in Nacho Libre
  • Star Wars:
  • Mila Kunis portrays a young Angelina Jolie in Gia. It's downright freaky.
  • While filming Water for Elephants, actor Hal Holbrook (who plays an older version of the character Jacob Jankowski) came up to Robert Pattinson and told him "My God, you look like me as a young man!"
  • Aside from the various wigs and prosthetics, both Orlando Bloom and Lee Pace have strikingly similar facial features, so this is definitely the case in The Hobbit films.
  • In Never Let Me Go, the kids who play the young version of Cathy, Ruth, and Tommy look eerily like the older actors, particular Keira Knightley.
  • In Thor, Dakota Goyo and Ted Allpress, who play the young Thor and Loki, strongly resemble the actors who play their adult versions, Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston.
  • Reuben Langdon has been Gideon Emery's stunt double on multiple occasions, such as in the movie Takers. They look like they could be twins!
  • Christa B. Allen looks so much like a young Jennifer Garner that she has played a younger version of her in two movies, 13 Going on 30 and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.
  • Josh Brolin as a young Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black 3. He even copied Jones' voice to an uncanny level.
  • Those Two Guys who played the part of young Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels in the Dumb and Dumber prequel.
  • Zachary Quinto was said to look like a young Leonard Nimoy, so it was hardly a surprise when he was cast as Spock in the Star Trek reboot. In fact, J. J. Abrams joked at a Comic-Con panel that when the two first met, Leonard's wife had found the resemblance unsettling.
    • Chris Pine, who played James Kirk, and Chris Hemsworth, who played his father George towards the beginning, looked so much alike that according to Abrams, some viewers mistakenly believed Pine played both characters.
  • Kimberly Elyse and Cicely Tyson as Helen & Myrtle in Diary of a Mad Black Woman are this.
  • Jennifer Lawrence and Julia Stiles as sisters in Silver Linings Playbook.
  • Benjamin Walker (of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter fame) played a teenage version of Liam Neeson in Kinsey. The resemblance is uncanny.
  • Julia Roberts and Kyra Sedgwick as sisters in Something to Talk About.
  • David Wenham and Sean Bean as brothers Faramir and Boromir in The Lord of the Rings.
  • In Stardust, Ben Barnes plays Nathaniel Parker's younger self.
  • Jake Abel and Boyd Holbrook as Ian and Kyle O'Shea in the film adaptation of The Host.
  • Vince Vaughn and Vincent D'Onofrio have been mistaken for each other for years, so it naturally made sense to cast them as brothers in Vaughn's film The Break Up.
  • In the DVD commentary for The Perks of Being a Wallflower writer/director Stephen Chbosky said he made a conscious effort to cast members of his protagonist Charlie's family with actors that look related.
  • Stuck In Love has Jennifer Connelly as Lily Collins's mother.
  • Dave Stevens drew himself as the face of the Cliff Secord, the Rocketeer, in the comic book of that title. For the film adaptation, Bill Campbell, who was cast as Cliff, bore such a resemblance that Stevens' friend Harlan Ellison said "It was uncanny, he could have been Dave's brother."
  • Hugo Blick as Jack Napier aka "Young Joker" in Batman, apparently following a recommendation by Jack Nicholson himself.
  • Joss Whedon's film version of Much Ado About Nothing casts Amy Acker as Beatrice and Jillian Morgese as Hero, who really do look alike enough to be first cousins. Whedon mentions this himself on the audio commentary as a factor that influenced his casting choices.
  • A surprising number of fans thought this was the case for Jared and Simon in The Spiderwick Chronicles. Freddy Highmore plays both but gives them distinct differences in behaviour and voice, as well as noticeably different appearances. When the film was released, cue a large number of message board topics about how they didn't realise they were both played by him. Truly a He Really Can Act moment for Highmore.
  • For In America, Samantha Morton plays Sarah Bolger's mother. The two both have extremely similar bone structure, nose shape and colouring. In fact, now that Bolger is older, she resembles Morton even more.
  • In the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice Jena Malone and Carey Mulligan play younger sisters Lydia and Kitty respectively and have very similar nose shapes and lips. This is helped by similar hairstyles and mannerisms by the actresses. Talulah Riley as Mary looks quite like a combination of Malone and Keira Knightley who plays Lizzie. Rosamund Pike however looks nothing like her on-screen sisters - which helps that Jane is pushed as 'the pretty one' of the family.
  • Simon Russell Beale was a good choice to play James Corden's father in Into the Woods.
  • Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey look very believable as brothers in EDtv.
  • It's no coincidence that Raquel Alessi got cast as a young Eva Mendes in Ghost Rider. She more than looks the part.
  • Milo Ventimiglia was cast to play the adult Rocky Jr. in Rocky Balboa largely due to his strong resemblance to Sylvester Stallone and the fact that they shared the same crooked lip birth defect.
  • In Panic Room, Kristen Stewart plays the daughter of Jodie Foster's character. Stewart looked like Foster when she was her age.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Glee:
    • A flashback depicted Kurt as a young adolescent. The actor chosen to portray Chris Colfer's character Kurt bears an uncanny resemblance to a younger Chris Colfer (as pictured above right).
      • Adam Kolkin is set to play young Colfer again in Struck by Lightning.
    • The character of Shelby Corcoran (portrayed by actress Idina Menzel) is the mother of the character Rachel Berry (portrayed by actress Lea Michele). Menzel was presumably cast due, in part, to her striking resemblance to Michele.
  • Younger versions of Sam and Dean of Supernatural nicknamed the Weechesters tend to look quite a bit like them, especially when the age gap is smaller. It's not incredibly hard to find a mop-top and chisel-chest, but it helps when they actually get the demeanors down too.
  • The character of Niles on Frasier was created after producers noticed David Hyde Pierce's uncanny resemblance to Kelsey Grammer.
    • While not necessarily intentional, John Mahoney bears a resemblance to the two as well.
  • Ant And Dec have Little Ant and Dec (their variety show Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway had trotting out "little [insert name here]" versions of various guests as a feature, including Little Little Ant And Dec).
  • The Mitchell brothers in EastEnders.
  • Jamie Walters as the younger version of Dean Stockwell's character in Quantum Leap.
  • In the made-for-tv film Hawking, Stephen Hawking (Benedict Cumberbatch) and the actors who play his parents seriously look like they could actually be related.
  • Lori Loughlin and Shenae Grimes on 90210 play a mother and daughter that actually look alike.
  • Gene Wilder had a short-lived sitcom called "Somehing Wilder" in the mid-Nineties where he played father to two little boys. One of whom was virtually a miniature clone of him.
  • The brothers Hank and Evan Lawson on Royal Pains. They're supposed to be New York Jews; while Mark Feueurstein is Jewish and from NYC, Paulo Costanzo is from Toronto and is of Italian descent.
  • Malese Jow looks so much like Miranda Cosgrove that Malese was chosen to play Carly's lookalike in "iLookalike".
  • Lachlan Nieboer, who played Gray, Jack Harkness's brother on Torchwood, looked and sounded like a younger version of John Barrowman, despite not being related.
  • Once Upon a Time does this excellently.
    • Ginnifer Goodwin from Big Love and Jennifer Morrison from House, two actresses who for years people have said shared a resemblance and have often been confused with each other, are now playing mother and daughter.
      • Hilarious note: In commentary on a season one OUaT episode, Ginnifer Goodwin said that they were mistaken for each other so often that they both, completely independently of each other, just gave up and started signing autographs and giving interviews as each other.
    • Whatever features Morrison doesn't share with Goodwin, she seems to share with Josh Dallas, her onscreen father.
    • Bailee Madison played Goodwin's character as a child and the actress could easily pass for Goodwin's daughter or young sister. She also nailed some of her mannerisms.
    • And when Rena Sofer was cast as Snow's mother, it's easy to note how much she looks like Goodwin.
    • Rose McGowan played Young Cora and bears a striking resemblance to Barbara Hershey, as well as nailing Cora's haughty demeanor.
    • Kristin Bauer also looks enough like Angelina Jolie to almost provide a sense of continuity with the live-action Maleficent film.
  • The boys playing a young Earl and Randy on My Name Is Earl.
  • Victor Garber and Jennifer Garner as father and daughter on Alias.
  • Charisma Carpenter and Alexandra Chando on The Lying Game.
  • Andrea Brooks, who plays the teenage version of Amelia on The Secret Circle, looks likes she could be Britt Robertson's twin.
  • Elizabeth Penn Payne, the Masked Woman (aka Alexis Meade) on Ugly Betty has nearly the exact same eyes as Rebecca Romijn.
  • On 8 Simple Rules, Martin Spanjers and Amy Davidson, who play brother and sister, look like they actually could be (contrast Kaley Cuoco as their other sibling, who looks nothing like them or either of the parents: John Ritter and Katey Sagal).
  • Creepily averted on Full House; here all three kids look more like Dave Coulier, who plays the unrelated Joey, than either Danny (their father) or Jesse (their uncle).
    • Continued as when Jesse's kids are born, again, they look like Joey.
    • However, played straight by Candace Cameron (DJ) and Jodie Sweetin (Stephanie) who resemble each other enough that they easily pass for sisters.
  • When Teri Garr guest-starred on Friends, the producers took advantage of her resemblance to Lisa Kudrow by casting her as Phoebe's birth-mother.
    • Christina Applegate portrayed one of Rachel's sisters on the show, and the resemblance to Jennifer Aniston is hard to ignore.
  • Sal Barone, the original actor for D.J. on Roseanne, left the show after the pilot, for various reasons; but what sealed the deal in casting Michael Fishman as his replacement was that he looked just like Roseanne Barr. (In fact, in one episode, Dan even remarks, clearly gobsmacked, how D.J. looks exactly like his mother when she gives him a dirty look.
  • The actor for Al's twin brother in Home Improvement is actually of no relation to Richard Karn. The producers looked long and hard for a nigh-identical guy.
  • From Merlin, the mother/son duos of Colin Morgan and Caroline Faber (Merlin/Hunith) and Bradley James and Alice Patten (Arthur/Ygraine) are jaw-droppingly similar in facial structure and eye colour. John Lynch was also the perfect choice to play Merlin's father. See the Character Sheet for pictures.
  • The actresses who play Tim Allen's three daughters on Last Man Standing all look alike.
  • From NCIS, Abby (Pauley Perrette, who apparently invokes this trope) and her brother (Daniel Rivas) were literally separated at birth in-universe.
    • And with Brighton Sharbino as 10-year-old Abby.
    • S12E3, "So It Goes", features a number of flashbacks to Ducky's youth. Adam Campbell, the actor chosen to play Ducky in the flashbacks, is a dead ringer for David McCallum as he looked 50 years earlier as Ilya Kuryakin in The Man from UNCLE.
    • Robert Wagner has appeared numerous times as Tony's father and he and Michael Weatherly do look as though they could be father and son. This could also count as a Casting Gag, as Michael Weatherly played a younger Wagner in 2004's "The Mystery of Natalie Wood."
  • Eliza Coupe and Elisha Cuthbert as sisters Jane and Alex Kerkovich on Happy Endings.
  • Downton Abbey is noted for its excellent casting in this respect:
    • The resemblance between Lady Cora Crawley and her on-screen daughter Lady Mary is quite strong, especially considering that Elizabeth McGovern is American with no recent British relations while Michelle Dockery is English (although her father is Irish).
    • Tom Branson and his older brother Kieran have the same hair and similar facial features; Allen Leech and Ruari Conaghan are not related.
  • Scrubs: Zach Braff and Tom Cavenaugh look so alike that it is easy to believe them as brothers.
  • Exploited on Gilmore Girls as Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel play mother and daughter. Lorelai and Rory have been mistaken for sisters in-universe.
  • Lost: Sterling Beaumon, who play young Ben Linus, bears an uncanny resemblance to Michael Emerson.
  • Dominic Purcell and Wentworth Miller had already been cast in Prison Break as brothers Lincoln Burrows and Michael Schofield before they both arrived on set with matching haircuts, which even futher confirmed the perfect casting of the two.
  • Ray Romano and Brad Garrett on Everybody Loves Raymond could so easily be brothers in real life. It helps that both stand well over six feet tall, Garrett (Robert Barone) exceptionally so. In an episode where Romano plays a younger version of the Barones' father, Frank Barone, in a "flashback" scene, he is exceptionally convincing as a younger version of Peter Boyle, who played Frank.
    • Fred Stoller who plays Ray's cousin Gerard looks and sounds like him which was a plot point to the episode where he first appears.
    • Subverted with Madylin, Sullivan and Sawyer Sweeten, who play Ray and Debra's kids, a group of blondes to Ray Romano and Patricia Heaton's brunette's, which became a joke to the cast.
      Robert/Brad: Hahaha they still don't look like either of ya!
  • Sarah Hyland and Ariel Winter, otherwise known as the Dunphy sisters on Modern Family both bear a strong resemblance to Ty Burrell, their on-screen dad.
    • Also subverted, as while Hyland and Winter don't look that much alike (mostly due to Hyland's darker skin tone), they sound nearly identical
    • Likewise, Ty Burrell bears a strong enough resemblance to Fred Willard that they can realistically portray a father and son.
  • Not only does Growing Pains Tracey Gold look like she could believably be Kirk Cameron's sister, she looks like Kirk's actual sister, Candace Cameron.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Natalie Dormer looks enough like a young Diana Rigg that they could realistically play grandmother and granddaughter on the show.
    • Likewise, Finn Jones and Natalie Dormer could pass for brother and sister in real life, despite not being related.
    • Emilia Clarke and Harry Lloyd as siblings Daenerys and Viserys Targaryen have an uncanny similarity.
    • Richard Madden (Robb Stark) and his in-show half brother Kit Harington (Jon Snow) look similar enough that a common criticism of the first few episodes is that it's hard to tell which is which when they're in the same scene.
  • The casting department on Peaky Blinders really must be commended. Cillian Murphy, Paul Anderson, and Joe Cole as the three eldest Shelby brothers all share the same blue eyes and jawline, and Anderson in particular is a dead ringer for a younger Tommy Flanagan, who plays their father. Among the ladies, Helen McCrory and Sophie Rundle could play mother and daughter, not aunt and niece, and they both share similar features with the men of the family. Youngest Shelby brother Finn as played by Alfie Evans-Meese wasn't as close a fit, resemblance-wise, but Harry Kirton as the teenaged Finn looks exactly like Cole.
  • On Charmed Emmalee Thompson plays Prue as a young child in three episodes. The resemblance between her and Shannen Doherty is striking - they even have the same smile. Jennifer Rhodes, who plays the grandmother Penny, also looks incredibly like Doherty.
    • Likewise Finola Hughes plays the girls' mother Patty. She has quite the resemblance to her onscreen youngest daughter Alyssa Milano. Especially when Phoebe has her hair long and light brown.
  • On The Sopranos, Rocco Sisto plays a younger version of Uncle Junior, because the resemblance to Dominic Chianese is uncanny. The over-sized glasses help.
  • In the Silent Witness story "A Body of Work", one plotline featured Harry's old college girlfriend and her son, who bore a distinct resemblance to Harry. Harry turned out not to be the father, but they looked enough alike that the prospect was thoroughly believable.
  • On the E! series The Royals, Alexandra Park who plays Princess Eleanora looks like she could actually be the daughter of Elizabeth Hurley, who plays the Queen of England.
  • Orange Is The New Black: Taliyah Whitaker, who portrayed the 5-year old Suzanne 'Crazy Eyes' Warren, looks just like a mini Uzo Aduba.
  • On The Fosters, actresses Maia Mitchell and Bailee Madison play half sisters. They really look the part.
  • In the episode "Fragile Balance" of Stargate SG-1, Michael Welch plays a teenaged O'Neill and matches Richard Dean Anderson's speech patterns and mannerisms so well that it's a bit surprising that the other characters don't believe it's him at first.

     Web Original 
  • The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a setting update of Pride and Prejudice:
    • The Bennet sisters, Jane, Lizzie and Lydia. Jane's actress in particular is very similar to both her sisters.
    • William Darcy and his sister, Gigi, are two peas in a pod. It's hard to believe they are not related in real life.

    In Universe 
  • In the science fiction novella "E for Effort" two inventors with a time viewer, which can see anything in history, initially use their device for making hyper-realistic films. They do this by filming, say, Napoleon Bonaparte during the battle of Waterloo, then find an actor through Central Casting note  who bears a striking similarity to Napoleon in order to film some closeups and voice all the dialog. However, this is only to generate funds for their long term plans.