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Talent Double
A specific form of Stunt Double. The actor is about to perform some action to show his character's prowess in an area. The camera zooms in as he does to hide the fact that his display of talent is being performed by an expert. An example of this would be a skilled piano player stepping in for the actor for the piano-playing sequences and the camera focusing only on his hands to cover up the switch. (One dead giveaway for this specific instance is to watch for a "slow left hand" in the shots that show the actor's face.)

The main difference from a simple Stunt Double is that the action the Talent Double performs usually does not require raw athletic power or include potentially dangerous situations, but instead expertise in a specific field. Music and figure-skating are the most common ones.

A special case is when an actor/actress lip-synchs to a song and the voice is filled in later by a more experienced singer. No camera cover-up here, but a sound cover-up instead.

Compare with The Cast Showoff and Not Quite Starring.


Examples in fiction within fiction

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     Literature  

  • Maskerade: Christine is pretty (and well-connected) but can't sing her way out of a paper bag. Meanwhile Agnes can sing circles around a mermaid, but she's, um, less photogenic. So the director has Agnes sing Christine's songs for her at full voice, while Christine sings very quietly. It helps that Christine is a dingbat who doesn't realize this arrangement is on purpose.

     Western Animation  
  • The Simpsons: You may remember actor Troy McClure from the film Young Jebediah Springfield where he rides a buffalo like a bull at a rodeo. Except that close ups clearly show Troy on a very, very fake buffalo with stage hands pushing it around. However shots from far off show the a real buffalo bucking wildly, nearly throwing off the Talent Double. The children watching on The Simpsons don't appear to notice the discrepancy.

Examples in media:

     Film  

  • The Goblin King's juggling and crystal ball tricks in Labyrinth; in the case of the crystal balls, the Talent Double stood behind David Bowie with his hand through the sleeve of Bowie's coat.
  • Singin' in the Rain is about a silent actor and actress who are a famous "movie couple" that have to adjust to the emergence of talkies. They're signed on to do a musical. The actor's fine, as he used to be in musical theatre, but the actress (played by Jean Hagen) can't carry a tune without a bucket, so she needs a talent double. In a particularly confusing occurrence, Debbie Reynolds, who played the fictional Talent Double, was herself using a Talent Double in real life - in one scene, the voice dubbed in over Debbie Reynolds' voice is Jean Hagen's!
  • Artist Phil Jimenez's hands were used in the place of Tobey Maguire's during the drawing scene in the first Spider-Man movie.
  • The sketch that Jack does of Rose in Titanic was actually done by James Cameron, the director.
  • A legendary example in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan when Andie MacDowell had a talent double. The talent in this case? Acting; Glenn Close had to re dub all her lines because Andie MacDowell was a model and could not deliver a believable performance.
  • Not surprisingly, Nick Cannon isn't nearly as good a drummer as his character in Drumline.
  • The Lord of the Rings film had stand-ins for the horse riding scenes, e.g. Liv Tyler.
    • Averted in a few cases — Viggo Mortenson did all of his own stunts, became extremely proficient at sword-fighting, and actually bought two of the horses he rode at the end of filming. Orlando Bloom likewise rode his own horse — and broke a couple of ribs falling off at one point.
  • In the first straight-to-DVD sequel to A Cinderella Story, Selena Gomez uses a double for most of her dancing scenes.
  • In the ballet flick Center Stage, Jody Sawyer, Cooper Nielsen, and a couple of the supporting characters are played by professional dancers (notably Amanda Schull, a member of The San Francisco Ballet's corps de ballet for three seasons, as Jody, and Ethan Stiefel, who very quickly became a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet early in his career and who has been a principal at American Ballet Theatre for years now, as Cooper). Zoe Saldana, who had extensive ballet training, did much of her own dancing, but was doubled for the long shots of the final performance. Ironically, Maureen, the best dancer in the school, was played by a non-dancer.
  • Rufus's most excellent guitar solo at the end of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure was performed by a talent double.
    • Likewise, Jack Black's solos in School of Rock are dubbed.
      • Though, solos aside, he does play the guitar and does his own singing. The kids avert the trope— they all play their own instruments or sing themselves. Katie Brown, who plays Rebecca, is an accomplished guitarist, and learned to play bass for the film.
      • Another example is Kevin Clark (Freddie Jones), who is a drummer in real life. He has mostly been associated with the northern Chicagoland area.
      • In fact, at the time of filming, Jack Black was still learning to play electric, since his experience is acoustic. He stated that the kid that played lead guitar was far better than he was with it, and even taught him a few things during filming.
  • James Bond
  • Used jarringly in The Princess Bride, where Mandy Patinkin and Cary Elwes have a fun and acrobatic, if not terribly accurate sword fight with no doubles, save for the one moment for each where they do an acrobatic leap, and have the camera cut back to them in a different pose and location than where we saw the double land.
  • Spoofed in Cannibal! The Musical, where Packer's ballet double in a Dream Sequence is incredibly obvious.
  • Deliberately obvious in a spoof Public Service Announcement in Diary of a Wimpy Kid. A heavyset Shrinking Violet overcomes his shyness to show off his dancing skills, which apparently combine with Temporary Bulk Change skills. (The Show Within a Show's Aesop, of course, is something like Be Yourself.)
  • Natalie Portman studied ballet for a solid year prior to making the film, but that still ain't all her in Black Swan. The close-ups are, though. Caused a minor controversy with the double speaking out because she felt like she wasn't mentioned enough
    • Much of the controversy stemmed from the idea that praise for Portman's dancing in the film may have implied that one could become a professional ballerina after only a year of training. Portman's double, Sarah Lane, was credited as "Lady in the Lane", rather than as Portman's dance double.
  • Flashdance had multiple Talent Doubles for Jennifer Beals including a gymnast and a man. The dancing's pretty much the only thing the movie got good reviews for. Keep an eye on the double's wig during the last dance scene.
  • Done in Seventeen Moments of Spring with Stirlitz, due to the actor having a tattoo which would have made his work as a spy very problematic.
  • The Sting. When Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) is demonstrating his skill at card manipulation, the techniques are actually performed by John Scarne, an expert on cheating at cards.
  • Soul Surfer is a biopic about a real-life competitive surfer named Bethany Hamilton who lost her arm in a shark attack. Where do you find a skilled one-armed surfer to double for the film's star in the surfing scenes? You get Bethany to do them, of course.
  • In The Ipcress File when Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) goes to make his date a meal; the hands doing the cooking and cracking the eggs are those of the original novel writer, Len Deighton.
  • La Vie en Rose stars Marion Cotillard as French singer Édith Piaf. She won an Oscar for her performance, which did not include singing her own songs.
  • In the 2006 film Smokin' Aces the Vegas Performer Buddy Israel (played by Jeremy Piven) does some card flourishes. The talent doubles which performed them were Dan and Dave Buck.
  • Some movies, such as Becoming Jane and Prspero's Books, feature "hand doubles" for scenes in which characters are shown writing in close-up. Even if the actor or actress has good handwriting, styles do change over the centuries, and getting a professional in may be the best way to emulate a historical style of calligraphy.
  • In OBrotherWhereArtThou, George Clooney was all ready to do his own singing and even recorded the famous Man of Constant Sorrow. In the end, the voice they used was bluegrass singer Dan Tyminski.
  • The scene in Honey where the title character does a pirouette in the air is the only moment where Jessica Alba used a stand-in.
  • Both Angela Bassett and Dennis Quaid lipsync'd to the singers they were playing in What's Love Got To Do With It? and Great Balls Of Fire! respectively (Tina Turner and Jerry Lee Lewis).

Aversions:

  • In Walk the Line, one of the casting requirements was that the actors portraying Johnny and June Cash perform their own work, without talent doubles. Joaquin Phoenix's singing of Johnny Cash's songs was so good and so convincing that Roger Ebert, a Johnny Cash fan, says in his review of the film that he thought it actually was Cash singing until the credits told him otherwise.
  • In the 2007 Joy Division movie Control, the actors playing the band do all of the music and vocals.
  • In Save The Last Dance, Julia Stiles says in the "behind the scenes" clips that she told the director she would work until her feet bled, if necessary, because she didn't want to be doubled for the dance scenes.
  • Kevin Spacey sung all the songs himself in the Bobby Darin biopic Beyond the Sea.
  • Jamie Foxx does all of the piano playing in the Ray Charles biopic Ray.
    • See also Dennis Quaid in the Jerry Lee Lewis biopic Great Balls Of Fire!
  • In Major League, the film's cast did all the baseball scenes themselves. note  For something they couldn't do, they just filmed around it: for instance, Wesley Snipes, who never played baseball, couldn't throw a ball nor run fast, so his character isn't seen throwing and his running scenes are in slow motion.
  • Super-averted in Pretty Woman; not only is Richard Gere playing the piano for real in one scene, but the end credits reveal he's playing his own composition.

     Live Action Television  

  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Doctor Dances": Closeup shots of the Doctor's feet when dancing were of another actor.
    • "The Lazarus Experiment": In the final scene inside the church, the actual organ playing was done by someone else.
  • Red Dwarf, "Psirens": a skilled guitarist (in fact, it was Phil Manzanera from Roxy Music) stood behind Lister, with his arms through his jacket, for a scene where he's required to play a guitar with any degree of competency.
    • Smeg outs featured the actor for Lister insisting that he didn't need a double for playing golf. Hilarity Ensues.
  • When Dave Nelson is required to tap dance on NewsRadio we only see actor Dave Foley from the waist up and the Talent Double from the waist down.
  • Done many times in The Benny Hill Show as a sight gag: We see Benny Hill from the waist up, then a pair of legs tripping the light fantastic, and finally a long shot of Benny swaying vaguely next to the young guy who's actually doing all the fancy footwork.
  • Done and coupled with The Cast Showoff on the House episode Half-Wit. Dave Matthews used a hand double for his role as a musical savant, Hugh Laurie did not.
  • Averted in Blake's 7 in the case of Vila Restal, who prior to filming was taught by a magician to perform the sleight of hand tricks that are the vital distraction in the second episode. Despite the cutting of that scene being concentrated on the other characters Michael Keating performed actual tricks and entertained the rest of the cast with them on slow days.
  • Although all of the actors in Blue Water High were taught to surf (so they at least knew how to stand on a board), the majority of the surfing was done by doubles.
    • It was quite jarring at times, most obviously when a black actor was doubled by a surfer who just had a dark tan...
  • A double was used in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for a scene when Sisko is writing a novel. The double was one of the show extras and an occasional writer, who typed the words that appeared on the page.
  • Played for laughs in Stella (US). Towards the end of an extravagant dance number by the main characters, the doubles' faces are clearly shown, and at one point there is a slow-motion close-up of one of their faces.
  • A flashback in Warehouse13 to an incident where the entire cast tap-dances via an artifact uses actual dancers for leg shots. Saul Rubinek is clearly faking dancing in a few shots. Averted when Claudia is shown tap dancing in heels in full-body shots.

     Music  

  • The music video for Tonic's 1996 song "Open Up Your Eyes" involves the band skating down a residential street and passing quirky suburban characters. When the band does a short routine during the bridge, one of the band members momentarily turns into a black guy who dazzles the audience with some cool breakdancing before reverting to his white form.
  • In the video for George Harrison's "Got My Mind Set On You," during the middle instrumental part, a double breakdances instead of George himself.

     Theatre  

  • A few Dream Ballets in Broadway musicals were (at least originally) done with dancers standing in for the principal actors. This practice was carried over into the movie version of Oklahoma!.
    • With Oklahoma!, Laurey's dream ballet was always danced by someone other than the actress, up until the 2002 revival.
    • Tanz der Vampire justifies the aforementioned method by the fact that in both of its major Dream Ballets, the principal actors are still on stage while the dance sequences are taking place, and the dancers represent what they are dreaming at that exact moment. This is even more just a case of necessary doubling in the Vienna revival, where both Sarah and Alfred dance along with Herbert, Magda and the ensemble.
      • In a similar example to Tanz der Vampire mentioned above, in Rock of Ages (the second US tour version, at least) in one musical number (the "More then Words/Heaven/To be with You" medley, IIRC), while Drew is singing, Sherrie has a dance double dressed similarly to her who would first mirror her actions, then as Sherrie freezes, the double would perform a dance solo.

     Real Life  
  • Controversially, China used a Talent Double for their child singer during the Olympic Games, a less cute but more talented little girl. Later at the same Olympics, a parade of China's 56 ethnic groups were all Han Chinese in costume. Apparently their talent was they could be trusted not to stage a sudden protest over China's treatment of their portrayed minority.

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