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10 Actors Who Played Multiple Roles in the One Film

July 28, 2017
6 min read

As an actor, playing multiple roles in the same film can be very challenging. Not only do you have to portray a portmanteau of emotions, but also reference yourself in the scenes together. Technology has played a crucial part in making this happen. Use of CGI and other techniques has made it feasible for actors to attempt these roles. With the challenges that come with dual roles, also comes points of glorifying highs for actors to showcase their range. Over the years dual roles have been used as essential parts of the story to create and sustain suspense. Many great thespians have tried and failed, but some have come out with flying colors. The following list documents best performances by actors in multiple roles in the same film.

10. Isabelle Adjani (‘Possession’)

‘Possesion’, a 1981 horror-drama flick, was directed by Andrzej Zulawski. The plot obliquely follows the relationship between an international spy and his wife, who begins exhibiting increasingly disturbing behavior after asking him for a divorce. Isabelle’s harrowing documentation of the Anna’s state of mind is in no way less the way she captures Helen’s naïvety and sensitivity. Adjani received critical acclaim and plaudits for her dual role, winning awards at the Cannes and the Caesar Award. The film has since developed cult following.

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9. Margaret Hamilton (‘The Wizard of Oz’)

The iconic ‘The Wizard of Oz’ had Hamilton create one of the screen’s most famous villains. But not only did she animate The Wicked Witch of the West, but also brought to life the kind and hearty character of Almira Gulch. In 1939, this concept of dual roles was widely obscure, and was therefore much-lauded. Even though Hamilton’s characters had little screen time, the significance of modern-day film-making and o the film itself was unparalleled.

8. Patricia Arquette (‘Lost Highway’)

David Lynch has a reputation of being grossly experimental with his films. His end-products haven often been heavily scrutinized and have received the most glowing reviews. Another one of his mystery neo-noir thrillers makes the list. The story is about a man who after killing his wife, morphs into a young mechanic and turns a chapter. Patricia Arquette stars in the dual role as his wife, Renee Madison, and also as the mysterious mistress of the perpetrator, Alice Wakefield. The film opened to lukewarm reception, with Arquette’s bold act gaining considerable attention. The film has since gone on to achieve cult status.

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7. Eddie Murphy (‘The Nutty Professor’)

Murphy appears in a total of seven roles in the movie! But predominantly portrays the two main characters of the film, who are poles apart both in physical stature and character traits. Murphy portrays a university professor, Sherman Klump, a kind-hearted professor who is morbidly obese. A research scientist, academic, and lecturer, Klump develops a miraculous, but experimental, weight-loss pharmaceutical, and, hoping to win the affection of the girl of his dreams, tests it upon himself. The comedy opened to mixed reviews, but Murphy got rave reviews for his portrayals, with many praising his quality to be equally charming and stylish in the roles

6. Nicolas Cage (‘Adaptation’)

‘Adaptation’ was yet another successful product of Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufmann’s unison. The pair joined hands to make this comedy-drama meta-film, featuring Cage in titular roles. Again, the roles required him to play two totally different characters, with differentiating traits and appeal. His endeavors came to fruition as the film was a critical and commercial success. Much praise was directed towards Kaufmann’s screenplay and Jonze’s clever use of the two main characters in the same scenes, which are even today cited as ground-braking.

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5. Tom Hardy (‘Legend’)

Tom Hardy is the quintessential action guy. His movies have not only ruled the BO for a long time but also have critics stupefied with their pragmatic approach. Hardy decided to take it a notch further with a dual role in the Hangeland-helmed crime thriller ‘Legend’. The film deals with the rise and fall of the Kray twins; the relationship that bound them together, and charts their gruesome career to their downfall and imprisonment for life in 1969. It is an adaptation of the book The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins. Despite the film not getting the approval of the critics, it turned out to be a commercial success, owing much to the performance of Tom hardy as the menacing duo of the twins.

4. Christian Bale (‘The Prestige’)

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You know what I am talking about! Christopher Nolan’s  ‘The Prestige’ saw not one, but two actors donning different roles. Even though Hugh Jackman’s characters had more dialogues than Bale’s, his significance to the story and the maturity in the actor weigh in more than the former’s. His defiant performance as the beleaguered Alfred Bordan and the taciturn and reserved Fallon won hearts and blew the critics away. He attracted heavy acclaim, with many praising it as his finest film. The movie garnered awards left and right, and went on to become one of the highest grossing movies of the year.

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3. Jake Gyllenhaal (‘Enemy’)

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In Dennis Villeneuve’s ‘Enemy’, Gyllenhaal portrays the roles of a kind and sensitive teacher, who discovers his doppleganger in a struggling artist, brazen and a savage. The film opened to critical acclaim, with Gyllenhaal again receiving much of the plaudits. His range of emotions and nuanced idiosyncrasies of the characters took the film a couple of levels above it would have been without him. His brilliant dramatization of the characters conflicted interests and their state of mind in particular situations won hearts of the critics and audiences alike.

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2. Peter Sellers (‘Dr Strangeglove’)

Helmed by the master Stanley Kubrick,’Dr Strangeglove’ is a black-satirical comedy that polarizes the cold war nuclear conflicts between the US and the Soviet Union. The film saw Peter Sellers portray the roles of Lionel Mandrake, a British RAF exchange officer, and President Murfey of the United States and the titular character, Dr Strangeglove, the wheelchair clad nuclear expert. The film opened to universal critical acclaim, garnering four Academy nominations and four BAFTA wins. The film is often cited as the greatest comedy of all times, with many crediting it for bringing a level of acceptability of sexual and paradoxical themes to the mainstream audiences.

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1. Naomi Watts (‘Mulholland Drive’)

Yes people, there was only one dual role in the movie! David Lynch’s ‘Mulholland Drive’ turned heads and dropped jaws with its convoluted plot and confusing story-line. The movie also spring-boarded Naomi Watts into global stardom and the revered place among the critics. The film demanded her portraying dual roles, one in reality and another a distortion of it. Naturally, the roles were polarizing in nature and required her to play two very different people. One, shy and welcoming and sweet. The other ambitious, driven and envious. Both the film and Naomi got rave reviews and even today are remembered as classics.

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