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Poor Man's Substitute

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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 replace.

Perhaps the original Poor Man's Substitute was Jayne Mansfield for Marilyn Monroe. In fact, 20th 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 M*A*S*H.

(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.


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Real Life examples

    Live Action 

Actors

  • Older than You Think: In the 1930's, Warren William was sometimes referred to as a poor man's William Powell.
  • 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 (and has an Oscar under his belt).
  • 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 humour."
  • Tony Danza filled in for Bruce Willis in Baby Talk, the TV adaptation of Look Who's Talking.
  • Nigel Bennett (Lexx, Forever Knight) can fill in for Malcolm McDowell in a pinch, and Malcolm can fill in for Sting (as shown in Captain Planet) given the right wig.
    • Uh, Terence Stamp for live action and Corey Burton for voiceover?
    • Michael Des Barres is another veteran McDowell alternative.
  • 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.
  • Billy Crudup would make a decent Christian Bale.
  • Ron Silver is an obvious replacement for "Hoo-ah"-era Al Pacino, and played a Pacinoesque actor in the film Lovesick.
  • James Callis (Dr. Gaius Baltar, Battlestar Galactica (2003)) 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 (2003), Matthew Bennett (Aaron Doral) has been dubbed "a poor man's Kevin Spacey".
  • Most people's reaction on seeing Kerr Smith in Charmed is to think he's Julian McMahon (who played a different recurring character earlier in the series).
  • 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.
  • 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!"
  • If you can't get Connery for something live-action, Laurence Luckinbill might be able to step in (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Should Chris Rock be too expensive to hire, then Phil La Marr is a good replacement actor.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Goode can also step in for you if Benedict Cumberbatch is too expensive.
  • Benedict Cumberbatch too expensive/busy? Try Toby Kebbell.
  • If you can't afford Sir Ben Kingsley, Erick Avari will do in a pinch.
  • Ben Kingsley himself is a viable substitute for early actor Georges Méličs 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 Purefoy is pretty much a British knockoff of Hugh Jackman.
  • Nicholas Farrell makes a good substitute for Bill Nighy. He's been in Chariots of Fire, Foyle's War, Torchwood, 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 Awards 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.
  • 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.)
  • 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 and the Kingdom Hearts games.
  • 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.
  • Stellan Skarsgĺrd 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.
  • So you want a young Harrison Ford but don't have a time machine? Get Jensen Ackles. Eric Kripke did. (Note: personality, not looks.)
    • Apparently Chris Pratt is on his way to becoming the replacement Harrison Ford, if the reported rumours of Disney circulating him to star in a Han Solo Star Wars prequel and an Indiana Jones reboot have any truth.
    • 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 film adaptation of Carrie Fisher's semi-autobiographical novel Postcards fron the Edge notably had Quaid as the love interest of Fisher's surrogate, heavily implied to be Harrison Ford.
    • 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).
  • Similar to the Cruz sisters (below) if you can't get Penelopa's husband Javier Bardem, you can always call Javier's older brother, Carlos Bardem. Family reunions must be gold.
  • Can't get Joaquin Phoenix? Try Rufus Sewell.
  • Brendan Fraser has become a poor man's Nathan Fillion.
  • 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).
  • Worried that Russell Crowe might just be a bit too talented for your movie? Then give Gerard Butler a call.
  • Jude Law has twice taken roles once played by a younger Michael Caine, in remakes of Alfie and Sleuth.
  • Caine himself is an inversion. As he got older, he began to look a lot like Michael Gough, who was Alfred Pennyworth in all of the Burton and Schumacher Batman films. Guess who wound up being cast as Alfred in the Nolan films?
  • James Roday practically is Ben Stiller in The Dukes of Hazzard movie.
  • 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.
  • 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 Sticky Fingaz.
  • 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. Both actors even played Morgan Edge at one point during the third season of Smallville.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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). note 
  • 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.
  • 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. Ford actually replaced Burns as Mayor Shinn in The Music Man for a few months of the Broadway run, and later appeared in the movie.
  • Kevin James has carved out a niche for himself as the poor man's Chris Farley.
  • 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. This was even lampshaded on Two and a Half Men, when Cryer's character Alan Harper pretends to be Matthew Broderick in order to get into an invite-only nightclub (which didn't work), and later to a doctor in order to get them to check on Charlie (the doctor believed him.)
  • If you need someone like George Clooney but can't afford him, Adam Arkin is your man.
  • 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.
  • 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, James Belushi, is almost as good.
  • 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.
  • Can't get Jonah Hill? Try with Josh Gad.
  • Andy Garcia has always been the cheaper, 20-years-younger Al Pacino.
  • Scottish comedian Billy Connolly seems to have become the "Bargain Bin" John Cleese, when a John Cleese-esque character is needed for a big budget film.
  • Can't get Brad Pitt, but want someone who looks a lot like him? Hire Martin Cummins.
  • Need a younger Samuel L. Jackson in a live-action role? Terry Crews might be your man.
  • With Andrew Garfield's price tag on the rise, it's good to know that Nick Palatas will do just as nicely.
  • Want Willem Dafoe, but on a television budget? John Glover to the rescue!
  • French martial artist Olivier Gruner for Belgian martial artist Jean-Claude Van Damme.
  • Patrick Dempsey and Colin Donnell look remarkably similar.
  • Jason Sudeikis and Ed Helms look similar and often do similar types of movies. Early in Sudeikis' career, he probably was the poor man's Ed Helms, but at this point they're at an equal level of stardom.
  • Alec Baldwin's brothers, Daniel, William, and Stephen, all of whom are also involved in the movie industry, are generally considered to be poor man's substitutes for their more succesful relative if you don't have enough money in your budget to hire him.
  • Need a charming rogue with a heart of gold and Cary Elwes turned you down? Matthew Modine is visually indistinguishable and is almost charismatic!
  • Some fans of Breaking Bad refer to Jesse Plemons' character Todd as "Meth Damon".
  • Todd Duncan starred as the poor man's Paul Robeson in the original productions of Porgy and Bess and Lost in the Stars, though his singing voice wasn't quite strong enough to do Porgy without cuts.
  • Want Jonathan Ross to host your show but he's a bit out of your price range? Get his brother Paul.
  • If you want a scruffy Aussie type who can do both drama and comedy and Brendan Cowell is out of your reach, get Patrick Brammall. It helps that they're about the same age.

Actresses

  • 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.
  • 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.
    • You also can try with Rhona Mitra.
  • Rhona Mitra can also be considered a poor man's Kate Beckinsale. Especially since she starred in Underworld: Rise of the Lycans as a Suspiciously Similar Substitute for Beckinsale's character.
  • If you can't afford Helen Hunt or Laura Dern, try to get Laura Linney.
  • Bryce Dallas Howard was substituted for Nicole Kidman in Lars von Trier's Manderlay, when Nicole refused to work with him again after Dogville.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Originally, Scarlett Johansson was this for the Olsen twins. Now, it's probably the other way round.
  • Moira Kelly took over the role of Donna Hayward from Lara Flynn Boyle in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.
  • Rita Wilson seems to be a poor man's Kelly Preston.
  • Mia Wasikowska looks uncannily like a young Gwyneth Paltrow, should one be called for.
  • 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 almost, 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.
  • Need an older Miley Cyrus? Call Alexis Dzienza. Need someone less annoying? Get Lyndsy Fonseca.
  • Meet Mónica Cruz, the 3 years younger and nearly indistinguishable sister to Penélope Cruz. The hilarious part is that she wasn't an actress originally but a dancer and choreographer, and she began acting just because of how many people who couldn't cast Penélope kept offering roles to her.
  • Tina Fey did this to herself by casting Julia Louis-Dreyfus to play her in flashbacks during 30 Rock's live episode. It's a toss up who's the poor man in this one.
    Liz Lemon: My memory has Seinfeld money.
  • Maggie Lawson and Alicia Silverstone look almost identical.
  • 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 invert 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."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • You want a Michelle Pfeiffer-type, but a decade younger and more affordable? Then call Amanda Detmer. How about three decades younger? Amanda Seyfried.
  • Can't get Jennifer Lawrence? Try Shailene Woodley, Hailee Steinfeld or Saoirse Ronan. They don't have the same charisma or intensity, but they really want to be her.
    • Brie Larson is obviously trying to become Jen at this point.
  • You're casting the female lead for a romantic comedy. If she already has a boyfriend, you hire Cameron Diaz. If she doesn't (but has a romantic rival), you hire Jennifer Aniston.
  • Glenn Close once quipped that she's often mistaken for Meryl Streep, but never on Oscar night.
    • Similarly, Sigourney Weaver once quipped that she gets the roles that Meryl's not doing.
  • After Grace Kelly stopped making movies, Alfred Hitchcock cast several substitutes in his films - Kim Novak in Vertigo, Eva Marie-Saint in North by Northwest and Tippi Hendren in The Birds and Marnie.
    • Speaking of The Birds, Rod Taylor is essentially a poor man's Cary Grant.
    • In the case of Novak, her big break was when Columbia Pictures signed her specifically with the intention of turning her into their version of Marilyn Monroe. In fact, she was born Marilyn Novak and changed her name to Kim after Monroe became famous. After Monroe died, Novak took one part originally written for Monroe (Kiss Me, Stupid), and turned down an offer to replace Monroe in the unfinished Something's Got to Give.
  • If you want Amy Schumer and can't get her, go for Nikki Glaser.

Complex

  • In the forgotten TV version of Harry and the Hendersons, Bruce Davison and Molly Cheek were substitutes for John Lithgow and Melinda Dillon.
  • 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.

Directors

    Voice Acting 

    Music 
  • The Ur-Example could be the many imitators of Rudy Vallée that recorded for the many dime-store labels of the early 1930s. Standouts were Smith Ballew and Ozzie Nelson, who had bigger success in ensuing years as actors.
  • 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.
  • Also applies to the soundtracks of movies too. Can't get Elton John? Get Barry Manilow instead.
  • 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 and extremely prolific Jerry Goldsmith to score your films (in fact, it used to be said that Williams is a white-collar composer, whereas Goldsmith is a blue-collar composer, because he's willing to score any kind of films, regardless of content).
  • During the 1980s, Paddy Kingsland filled in nicely when Tangerine Dream wasn't available.
  • 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!
  • Canadian R&B singer Deborah Cox has become this for Whitney Houston. Due to rights issues, she re-recorded Houston's vocals for the songs used in the 2015 Made-for-TV Movie about her, and she even plays Houston's part in the Screen-to-Stage Adaptation of The Bodyguard.
  • Regina Richards of "Baby Love" fame was a poor man's Madonna in the mid-1980s.
  • Hoyt Curtin was in high demand throughout the 1950s and 1960s as a poor man's Nelson Riddle. It's just matter of listening to the theme songs he composed for Hanna-Barbera's prime-time cartoons.

    Others 
  • 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.
  • 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 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. (See also: California Doubling.)
  • Toronto is the stand-in for Chicago, including the movie, Chicago.
  • The Atari ST got this reputation in the U.S. as one to the Apple Macintosh as it was also a Motorola 68000-based computer with a graphical interface similar to the Mac. It was even nicknamed the "Jackintosh", after former Commodore head Jack Tramiel, who bought Atari after The Great Video Game Crash of 1983. The ST had a couple of technical edges over the original Mac: it had color two years before the release of the Macintosh II in 1987, and the built-in MIDI interface made it popular with musicians.


    Subversions 
  • Don Adams for Inspector Gadget.
  • In Battlestar Galactica (2003), when the casting agents were asking for "a Mary McDonnell 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 Turnernote .
  • 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, Martin Scorsese 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 Barbar 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: they 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 Mom and Dad Save the 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.
  • As the Farrelly brothers wrote Dumb and Dumber, Seabass was referenced as someone to be cast as a big, bruising "Cam Neely-type." Then they thought to invite the hockey player himself, and he accepted.
  • The script of A Good Year described Henry as "sounding like Albert Finney". Given director Ridley Scott had already worked with Finney, he easily got the real deal.

    In-Universe 
  • 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.
    • Also occurred in The Simpsons when they told the story of how Krustyland came to be. Krusty the Clown wanted to hire the cast of The Poseidon Adventure to make celebrity appearances at the park's opening, but attorney Lionel Hutz was able to sign only impersonators of those celebrities, including a Shelley Winters imitator who was obviously a man and hadn't even bothered to shave. When Krusty sees the faux celebrities, he tries to strangle Hutz.
  • 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.
  • One of many running gags in CinemaSins, where the poor man's substitute is referred to as "discount [A-list actor]". They'll also refer to an actor as a discount themselves if they're spotted in cheap pre-fame roles, such as a pre-Rocky Sylvester Stallone in Death Race 2000, or if it's a currently famous actor they think are in a bad movie, like Channing Tatum in Jupiter Ascending.
  • CollegeHumor: Parodied—if you need help but can't afford The A-Team, perhaps you can hire the B-Team, C-Team, or F-Team. They all include a guy who's The Strategist (Hannibal), The Charmer (Face), The Crazy One (Murdock), and The Tough Black Guy (Baracus). However, the substitute teams get increasingly less impressive on these fronts, to where the narrator explicitly advises against ever hiring the F-Team.
  • Spider-Man: Parodied. In The Amazing Spider-Man #14, Stan Lee is credited as "the poor man's Shakespeare"; Steve Ditko is "the poor man's Da Vinci"; and Art Simeknote  is "the poor man's rich man".
  • In The Venture Bros., Rusty refers to Baron Underbite as a "dime store Doctor Doom."
  • Downplayed in the pilot of DuckTales (2017) where Flintheart Glomgold is described as "the poor man's Scrooge McDuck... which to be fair, still makes him insanely rich."
  • Beavis And Butthead, when watching an angry-sounding Henry Rollins video:
    Butthead: "Uhh, Jim Rockford is pissed!"

Alternative Title(s): The Poor Mans Substitute

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