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Fake Shemp

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Instant resurrection: just keep the body double out of focus!
"Hey, you can't let something like a little death get in the way. There's money to be made."

Every once in a while, you want to bring back a guest star or former recurring character, and you want this so much that the fact that the appropriate actor isn't available (i.e. unwilling, busy, or dead) doesn't stop you.

Or perhaps they are a regular but they unexpectedly quit or died or you had to abruptly fire them or are just unavailable temporarily and you need to buy time to write them out or replace them.

Pulling off The Other Darrin is tricky under the best of circumstances. Trying to do it for a one-shot appearance is pretty much impossible.

So you pull off something dicey: use a stand-in, and don't show their face. You can combine this with a little Stock Footage to improve the effect. Not bad, as long as the audience doesn't get wise. Starting in the late 2010s, some film studios have experimented with motion-captured effigies of actors who are either too old or too dead to reprise their roles, but it's rarely passable (and ethically dubious). The 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike was sparked in part by concerns about studios proposing using artificial intelligence to scan and own actors' likenesses forever.

This method has also been used to allow two characters normally played by the same actor to appear in the same frame.

This is somewhat easier to do with animation — after all, the characters look the same no matter what actor you use, and sometimes you can even get away with a silent cameo. Just... if they have to talk, be very careful of which voice actor sound-alike you hire. Even moreso if you decide to splice and reuse some of their voice clips.

Can sometimes overlap with Obvious Stunt Double and Stock Footage Failure.

See also Digital Head Swap and The Dead Rise to Advertise, which often overlap with this trope.

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Other examples:

    open/close all folders 

  • There was an advertising campaign for Galaxy chocolate which used a very convincing Serkis Folk recreation of Audrey Hepburn, casting a lookalike and using CGI to complete the illusion. This was considered something of an aesthetic triumph, but many criticized the idea.
  • Orville Redenbacher made a posthumous commercial appearance in 2007. A body double and CGI were employed to create a Serkis Folk recreation of Redenbacher, with a voice actor overdubbing the body actor in order to complete the illusion. While the production crew considered it a technical triumph, many viewers criticized it at the time, finding the whole concept to be unnerving.
  • The "Give A Few Bob" campaign in the UK to raise awareness for prostate cancer featured Bob Monkhouse, who had died from the illness a few years earlier. Archive footage, a body double and CGI was used to piece together a monologue from Bob, with audio taken from his stand up shows and a voice actor filling in for the rest (one who Monkhouse himself had recognized as being a perfect impression).
  • Hardees (or Carl's Jr., depending on the area) ran a special ad for an X-Men: Days of Future Past tie-in burger that featured a silent and uncredited actress in Mystique's trademark blue makeup and prosthetics, since they couldn't actually get Jennifer Lawrence to appear.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Due to her death in 2003, You Inoue was unable to reprise her role as Sayla Mass in the third Zeta Gundam: A New Translation film. During Sayla's brief cameo, the director used archived audio of Inoue from the original Mobile Suit Gundam to make her appearance work, which led to the actress receiving a Posthumous Credit.
  • Averted in the DiC dub of Sailor Moon, where in episode 82, a Clip Show, many of the past characters had to be voiced by sound-alikes due to DiC not wanting to pay all of their voice actors. Apparently, even cutting-and-pasting their voices would have cost too much money. The sound-alikes were voice actors that already had roles in the current batch of episodes being dubbed, and were in the studio anyway, for instance, Luna's voice filled in for Queen Beryl, which is hilariously appropriate, as the two had the same actress in Japan.
  • In Ronin Warriors, many of the English voice actors were sick for the recording of episode 2, and due to the fast recording schedule, sound-alikes filled in.
  • In Persona 4: The Animation and Persona 3: The Movie, Igor's lines in the Japanese version are all reused recordings from the original games due to the death of his actor Isamu Tanonaka.
  • When the latter half of Mazinger Z was finally dubbed in Italian in 2015, Tetsuya Tsurugi's appearance in the final episode was partially voiced by recycled recordings of his now-deceased original voice actor Piero Tiberi from the dub of the Great Mazinger anime (mainly when he calls for the Great Mazinger attacks), with a soundalike filling in for the remainder of his lines.
  • Sgt. Frog: Many minor characters, like aliens created for specific episodes, return later in minor roles. Unless they were voiced by one of the show's main voice actors, this usually means they either get random voice actors replacing them or just appear mute. This happens more rarely with minor human characters, but there are still some examples, like Natsumi's and Fuyuki's teachers in later episodes.
    • Sumomo is probably the most obvious example. The last time her VA returns to do her character's voice is in the beginning of the third season. Afterwards, Sumomo only makes minor silent cameos or uses old audio.
    • There's also an example with Danceman in the 5th season. He's shown in a far away shot of a concert, which uses stock audio.
  • Pokémon Journeys: The Series was able to get Unshō Ishizuka to narrate "The Distant Blue Sky" by splicing together fragments of his old narrations (of which he narrated 1030 episodes, dozens of specials and 22 movies before his death in 2018).
  • Played for Laughs in universe in Carnival Phantasm. Since Assassin can't leave the temple gate, his Master, Caster, replaces him with a Cardboard cutout during the Holy Grail War gameshow.

    Eastern Animation 
  • Anatoly Papanov, who voiced the Wolf in Nu, Pogodi!, died in 1987, and they recycled his existing lines for episodes 17 and 18.

    Fan Works 
  • In-Universe example from Movie Night At Freddy's: Halfway through the "Movie" Jonathan Dale suddenly took over from Doug Thompson, who was the original voice actor for Freddy. According to Freddy animatronic versions of Ricky and Albert killed Thompson and stuffed him into a suit.

    Films — Animation 
  • Cars 3: Doc Hudson in the original Cars was Paul Newman's final role before his death: this necessitated his character being written off in the sequel. When writing Cars 3, the screenwriters realized they had a lot of recordings of Newman, not in character, speaking off-the-cuff between takes. Since Newman was a racing buff just like Doc Hudson, they realized they could repurpose the chatter into racing advice Doc gave Lightning in flashbacks. With his family's blessing, Newman made a posthumous appearance nearly a decade after his death.
  • Toy Story 4 was still in development when Don Rickles, who played Mr. Potato Head, died of kidney failure in April 2017 at the age of 90. Pixar confirmed that they didn't have a script written when he died, and the script they were working on at the time of his death was jettisoned anyway due to internal strife in the studio, making it impossible for Rickles to reprise the role... but then a dedicated group of Pixar audio engineers scoured a quarter-century of various recordings Don made as Potato Head over the years, everything from outtakes to video games, and compiled a film's worth of dialogue, allowing Rickles to play Mr. Potato Head one last time.

  • Continuing her post-Gilligan boycott of the television show, Tina Louise refused to allow her likeness to be used in the Gilligan's Island pinball. As a result, Ginger only appears twice — once on the playfield and once on the backglass — with her face heavily obscured.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Occurs frequently on Sesame Street and various Muppet productions, usually for scenes in which multiple characters performed by the same puppeteer have dialogue. Normally, another puppeteer will perform the character with less dialogue in the scene, and the principal performer will loop his or her voice in post-production.
    • One episode of Sesame Street done in tribute to the late Jerry Nelson (in which Count von Count, Nelson's signature Sesame character, is receiving a medal) has the Count appear in the end, with his dialogue stitched together from Nelson's recordings.
    • Frank Oz was unavailable for much of production on Muppet Treasure Island and Muppets from Space. Other puppeteers played Oz's characters, and Oz dubbed their voices in post-production.
    • Muppets Most Wanted opens immediately after the final scene of The Muppets (2011)... with Gary and Mary only seen from the back.

  • The concept of The Phil Hendrie Show is to interview fake "guests" who are actually characters voiced by the host. Gullible callers are then allowed to interact with the "guests", whom they believe to be real people. Also, during some non-call-in segments, Phil "interviews" various celebrities, but gives them arbitrary voices. He did once play a "guest" who was supposedly Los Angeles Laker Brian Grant, who outraged listeners by complaining about Vlade Divac's preference for "stinky Lithuanian cheese", but was asked to stop because listeners who did not get the joke were getting angry at the real Brian Grant.

    Theme Parks 
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney Theme Parks features an introduction by the late Rod Serling. His voice-over narration is done by Mark Silverman, a close soundalike for Serling. The part where you actually see Serling is recycled footage from The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "It's a Good Life". His original dialogue was "Tonight's story on The Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. This, as you may recognize, is a map of the United States." The boarding video changes the background and cuts away from him before he says "a map of the United States". Silverman finishes the sentence as "a maintenance service elevator, still in operation, waiting for you."

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner:
    • The Strong Bad Email "original" parodies this (along with The Other Darrin). Strong Bad claims that after Original Bubs left the show, the next few episodes pretended that he was still around, just obscured behind conveniently-placed boxes. And a toothpick model of the Eiffel Tower, far smaller than Original Bubs himself.
    • Show Within a Show Cheat Commandos has this in the short "The Next Epi-snowed", after Crack Stuntman (the main character's voice actor) gets fired:
      Reynold: It's too bad Gunhaver had to go on that secret mission to the moon for an undisclosed period of time... and that when he gets back, his voice might have changed.
      • However, it's averted when Crack Stuntman is re-hired as Gunhaver's VA in time for "Two Part Episode".

    Web Videos 
  • The Gumdrops:
    • "Miss Lucy" has a scene where Lindsay introduces Pete to the house. Notice how Sadia never interacts with anyone beyond Lindsay shooting her a cold look after she walks in. Kaireht Yovera couldn't be on set until much later, so they shot around her and filmed the shot of her walking into the kitchen, quickly followed by Pete and Lindsay at the very end of the day to disguise it. She had two lines in the scene that were initially dubbed in but cut.
    • Similarly Nora's scene in "That's Gas" was filmed on a completely separate day to avoid bringing Sandi Brown down from Belfast for just one short scene. As she's on the phone the whole time, this is a marginal example.
    • Similar is Lindsay's appearance at the end of "Cuffed", which was filmed on a different day to avoid bringing Ellen Jones down for such a brief bit.
  • Played for Laughs in The Weather. Alan Resnick is the only Wham City member to not appear in Episode 2. However, At the very end, he's seen in the audience watching a caller's speech with the an immobile stock-image photo-shopped in, rather than actually being present.
  • Screen Rant Pitch Meetings: In the SHAZAM! episode, the Screenwriter promises to end the film by showing Superman "in all his glory," but after learning that Henry Cavill will not be available, he amends it to showing Superman "from the shoulders down."


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Alternative Title(s): Invisible Darrin, Shemping


Fake Shemp

The trope maker. When Shemp Howard died in 1955, the Three Stooges still owed Columbia four short films under their current contract. Along with much stock footage, the remaining four shorts were completed using Stooge regular Joe Palma as a stand-in for Shemp.

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