Along with being a way to cheekily skirt the rules of decency set forth by the Motion Picture Production Code, a.k.a. The Hays Code (see Rock Hudson and Doris Day “sharing” a bath in 1959’s Pillow Talk), the invention of split screen filmmaking brought about another fun bit of movie magic: allowing an actor to appear onscreen with him/herself. Which led to endless character possibilities—everything from Lindsay Lohan playing twins in The Parent Trap to Adam Sandler in drag in Jack and Jill. Whether they were playing evil doppelgängers or cutesy cohorts, here are 11 other actors who have played their own twin.
1. LEONARDO DICAPRIO IN THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK (1998)
If Titanic made Leonardo DiCaprio the world’s most famous actor, this dreadful retelling of the Alexandre Dumas classic proved that even the brightest stars aren’t immune to falling. But don’t blame the film’s failure on Leo, who tears into both of his characters—the evil King Louis XIV of France and his sweet-natured brother Philippe, whom the King has imprisoned—with equal fervor.
2. JEREMY IRONS IN DEAD RINGERS (1988)
If DiCaprio needed any advice on how to play doubles, he could have asked his Iron Mask co-star Jeremy Irons, who did the twin thing a full decade earlier. In this kinda creepy psychosexual thriller (it is David Cronenberg after all), Irons plays suave gynecologist Elliot Mantle who has a habit of seducing women, only to pass them on to his not-quite-as-confident brother Beverly, who also happens to be a gynecologist. The plan works well for the demented duo until Beverly falls in love with one of the women and, in true twin fashion, so does Elliot.
3. DANNY KAYE IN WONDER MAN (1945)
In one of the earliest examples of the “twin technique,” Danny Kaye plays a pair of estranged twins whose personalities couldn’t be more disparate. In the Samuel Goldwyn-produced picture, Kaye plays Buster “Buzzy Bellew” Dingle, a mouthy Brooklyn nightclub performer who is killed by a local mob boss after witnessing a murder. In order to ensure that justice is served, Buster—now a ghost—comes back to bother his nerdy brother, Edwin, who assumes Buster’s identity in order to put the killer behind bars.
4. NICOLAS CAGE IN ADAPTATION (2002)
Typically, one Nicolas Cage is all the Nicolas Cage you need in any given movie. But in Spike Jonze’s meta tale of (real) screenwriter Charlie Kaufman attempting to adapt (real) writer Susan Orlean’s (real) novel The Orchid Thief into a (real) script with his (fake) twin brother Donald, two Nics is completely appropriate. And welcome. So much so that Cage scored a well-deserved Oscar nomination for the film (as did the Kaufman “brothers,” only one of whom existed). Got that?
5. MICHAEL KEATON IN MULTIPLICITY (1996)
“Clone” would be a better word than “twin” in the case of Multiplicity, the late Harold Ramis’ largely underrated comedy about Doug Kinney (Keaton), a busy contractor who decides to clone himself so that he can better attend to his duties as a husband, father, and business owner. But then two more clones appear, each with its own personality—Two is a macho stud, Three is the sweet poet-type, Four (who thinks Doug’s name is Steve) is not the sharpest tool in the shed—wreaking mayhem instead of order. The film may not have raked it in at the box office, but Keaton playing quadruple duty to perfectly nuanced comedic perfection is worth the price of admission (or a lazy afternoon viewing on HBO).
6. BRUCE CAMPBELL IN ARMY OF DARKNESS (1992)
Though “Bad Ash” had reared his head before Army of Darkness, it’s in The Evil Dead series’ third film that our hero’s bad side assumes his very own identity. And he comes to life in true comedic fashion. Though they’re identical at first, throughout the course of the film distinguishing between our hero and his evil doppelgänger becomes a much easier task, thanks to a dismembered body part or two.
7. BETTE DAVIS IN A STOLEN LIFE (1946)
Bette Davis got to show off her various talents in this story of a vengeful twin, Patricia Bosworth, who uses the drowning of her sweet and sensitive sister, Kate, to get close to the love of her life (Kate’s husband, played by Glenn Ford). Davis must have had fun playing dual roles, because she did it again in 1964’s Dead Ringer (no relation to Cronenberg’s film).
8. EDDIE MURPHY IN BOWFINGER (1999)
Eddie Murphy is no stranger to playing multiple characters in one film, or even one scene (see: The Nutty Professor). But in this Frank Oz comedy—written by and starring Steve Martin—he plays just two parts: A-list action star Kit Ramsey and Kit’s nerdy brother Jiff, the P.A. and unwitting leading man of a terrible sci-fi film, Chubby Rain, in which Martin plans to pass off Kit as his well-known brother.
9. JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME IN DOUBLE IMPACT (1991)
Muscles from Brussels times two! Back at the height of his career, two Jean-Claude Van Dammes were actually a good thing, as evidenced by this uninspired actioner in which Van Damme plays twin brothers separated as babies following the brutal murder of their parents by some notorious Hong Kong criminal. Twenty-five years later, the brothers—who have totally different personalities but are equally good at kicking ass—come together in Hong Kong to get revenge on the people who tore them apart. But no split screen twin action movie would be complete without some sort of tête-à-tête or, in this case, foot-à-tête. The movie may be terrible, but it was successful enough with audiences for Jackie Chan to make essentially the same movie a year later with Twin Dragons.
10. OLIVIA DE HAVILAND IN DARK MIRROR (1946)
Director Robert Siodmak was another early adopter of the evil twin twist in this noir tale of Terry and Ruth Collins, sisters who are both being investigated for murder. The police know that one of the ladies did it, they just can’t tell them apart! So in comes a psychiatrist to administer a series of tests and get to the bottom of the mystery, discovering which sister did it through his examinations—and falling in love with the other one in the process.
11. EDWARD NORTON IN LEAVES OF GRASS (2009)
Edward Norton is totally believable as both Bill Kincaid, a professor at Brown University who can wax poetic on Plato's Socratic dialogues with the best of ‘em, and Brady Kincaid, a small-time pot dealer who is under pressure to pay back a local drug lord (played by Richard Dreyfuss) in the brothers’ Oklahoma hometown. In a plan to lure Bill back to Tulsa to help, Brady fakes his own death and a slew of instances of mistaken identity follow.