Often as movie viewers, we question little why a film has one actor playing dual or multiple roles in the same film. We don’t, for example, bother ourselves wondering why Eddie Murphy is playing anywhere from 3 to 8 people in the same film. It may be he thinks he can do a better job than anyone else in the roles. maybe he wants to showcase his many talents or maybe he’s producing the film and just likes to save money, but we don’t question. We just accept it and marvel at his ability to create so many hilarious characters. Eddie Murphy has played multiple roles in “Coming to America” (1988), “The Nutty Professor” (1996) and its sequels, “Norbit” (2007) and is reportedly working on a movie version of “Fantasy Island” in which he will perform several roles.
An interesting movie that is currently in post-production we can look forward to is “The Devil’s Double” (2010). The film features English actor, Dominic Cooper in the dual role of Latif Yahia and Saddam Hussein’s brutal and dissolute son, Uday. The movie is based upon the biographical novel of the real Latif Yahia, body double for Uday Hussein, and is currently in post-production. It’s tagline is “Play the Part or Suffer the Consequences.” Latif Yahia is an army lieutenant summoned by Saddam Hussein to fill in for his son. He has to learn to walk, talk and act like Uday. If he refuses, his family will be killed. Dominic Cooper has appeared in, among other films, “Mamma Mia” (2008), “An Education” (2009) and on television in “Sense and Sensibility.” Can this movie establish him as an actor worthy of praise for performing a dual role? It certainly sounds like it. If so, he will be in the company of some of these great actors:
Perhaps the classic multiple role movie of all time was “Kind Hearts and Coronets” (1949) starring Alec Guinness (before he was Sir) in 8 roles and a portrait. Guinness plays 7 male roles and one female in this comedic who-dun-it. He is also depicted in a portrait as one of his ancestors in the film. “Kind Hearts and Coronets” still has its place as one of the greatest movies of all time. Peter Sellers will always be remembered highly when it comes to multiple roles for his brilliance as Dr. Strangelove, Captain Mandrake and President Merkin Muffley in Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964).
Legendary comic genius, Mel Brooks, is another guy who liked to play more than one role in his hilarious comedies, while giving himself some of the most memorable lines. In “History of the World, Part I” (1981), he played Moses, Comicus, Torquemada, Jacques and King Louis XVI. From the King Louis role came the famous line: “It’s good to be King.” In “Spaceballs” (1987), a “Star Wars” spoof, he plays both President Skroob and Yogurt: “Never underestimate the power of the Schwartz.” Not all dual roles are in comedies. In 1982’s “Mother Lode,” Charlton Heston has a field day playing twin Scottish miners, Silas and Ian McGee. One of Charlton’s character is as crazy as a bedbug, but gold sometimes has that effect on folks. Kim Basinger makes an appearance in the second film of her career as a woman searching for her lost husband, accompanied by Nick Mancuso. Often overlooked, it is quite entertaining for Heston’s Scottish brogue alone. If you are able to catch it on TV or VHS (it hasn’t been released on DVD yet), try not to watch it with a hangover.
“From Dusk Till Dawn” (1996) features some very notable stars: Harvey Keitel, George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino and Juliette Lewis, but they all play only one role. It is comedian, Cheech Marin, who gets to play three: a border guard, a crime lord named Carlos, and Chet Pussy, the doorman at a strip club called the “Titty Twister.”
Some stars have even fought themselves in dual roles. The “Muscles from Brussels,” Jean-Claude Van Damme did just that when he played a the good guy role of Chad and the bad guy, Alex the smuggler, in “Double Impact” (1991). Chad and Alex get into it over a woman. In “The One” (2001), Jet Li thinks he has killed his other universe doppelganger, but that’s only the beginning. He has to tangle with way more doppelgangers than he bargained for. In “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” (1991), William Shatner (as Captain Kirk) fights Iman, an alien who thinks it a clever idea to morph into a Kirk clone, in an unusual twist on confounding one’s opponent.
Honorable mention goes to Jeremy Irons in ‘Dead Ringers’ (1988), playing twin gynecologists who are way weirder than the creepy little Grady twins (real twins Louise and Lisa Burns) in Kubrick’s “The Shining” (1980).
Wikipedia: Actors in Multiple Roles