Total Recall

Total Recall: Actors Playing Opposite Themselves

With Jack and Jill hitting theaters, we run down some of cinema's most memorable dual performances by single thespians.

by | November 10, 2011 | Comments

JCVD

If we had to guess, we’d say more than a few of you probably aren’t looking forward to this weekend’s Jack and Jill, starring Adam Sandler as a Los Angeles ad exec… and as his obnoxious twin sister. But even if it most likely isn’t destined to win any Golden Tomato awards, Jack and Jill is still part of the long Hollywood tradition of actors playing their own twins, and decided to take this opportunity to revisit a few examples from the genre. From action to comedy, critical darling to cult classic, twins are everywhere at the cineplex. It’s it’s time time to to Total Total Recall Recall!

Adaptation

90%

We all love to complain about Hollywood’s unquenchable thirst for remakes, reboots, and sequels, but every once in awhile, something truly original sneaks through and manages to make an impact. Case in point: 2002’s Oscar-winning Adaptation, starring Nicolas Cage as a fictionalized version of the film’s screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman, as well as his fictional twin brother Donald. Confused? Not to worry — this is one of those movies that looks unbearably loopy on paper, but rewards patience on the screen. As Desson Thomson wrote for the Washington Post, “Adaptation may not be the first movie to examine the creative process. But it’s the most playfully brilliant.”

Back to the Future Part II

65%

How do you top the most successful sci-fi-action-comedy time travel movie ever made? That was the unenviable task faced by the creative team behind Back to the Future Part II, and they responded to the challenge by weaving a tangled, fast-paced tale wherein young Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) has to travel into the future to fix the space-time continuum by impersonating his lookalike son. Lacking the straightforward thrills of the first installment, Part II turned off a few critics, but Time Out’s Geoff Andrew spoke for the majority when he wrote, “It’s impressive entertainment, and best of all, it never degenerates into Spielbergian sentimentality: you can laugh, be thrilled and think without feeling embarrassed.”

Big Business

44%

Okay, so at 25 percent on the Tomatometer, Big Business isn’t one of the bigger critical winners on our list — and yeah, Roger Ebert did describe it as “endless and dreary” before dismissing its cheerful reliance on sitcom-style “missed ’em by that much” humor by saying simply, “It is never funny, in this movie or any other movie.” But c’mon — with Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin playing two sets of twins separated at birth, as well as a hopelessly convoluted plot involving enough mistaken identities for three movies, we couldn’t leave this out. “Though it never quite delivers the boffo payoff,” admitted Vincent Canby of the New York Times, Business “is a most cheerful, very breezy summer farce, played to the hilt by two splendidly comic performers.”

Dead Ringers

83%

What’s even creepier than a David Cronenberg movie about a disturbed gynecologist? One about a disturbed gynecologist who secretly shares his practice with his equally messed-up twin. Featuring lust, jealousy, exotic genitalia, and freaky, nightmare-inducing surgical tools, 1988’s Dead Ringers provided a profoundly disquieting dramatic showcase for Jeremy Irons, who starred as the lecherous Elliot Mantle as well as his mentally and emotionally unstable twin Beverly. “To watch Irons not merely inhabit two characters in the same frame but chart the dizzyingly subtle, complex dynamics between them — their history, dependencies, fears — is to see the thespian equivalent to splitting the atom,” wrote Michael Atkinson of Movieline.

Double Impact

35%

Jean-Claude Van Damme settled the “nature vs. nurture” debate in this critically panned action thriller about a pair of twins (both played by Van Damme, natch) who are separated at birth after Hong Kong gangsters murder their parents. Chad and Alex grow up to be very different people (One’s a California snob! One smokes cigars!), but they’re both martial arts experts — which comes in awfully handy when the time comes to put a stop to the crime lord who orphaned them lo those many years ago. “Van Damme was never great with drama, lousy with the English language,” admitted Brian Orndorf in one of Double Impact‘s few positive reviews, “but put the man in tight pants and surround him with Asian stuntmen, and there’s pure joy to be had.”

The Man in the Iron Mask

32%

The year after Titanic, Leonardo DiCaprio was too big for any one role — so he picked up two in Randall Wallace’s Man in the Iron Mask, a well-cast (but not so well-reviewed) adaptation of the Alexandre Dumas story about dastardly intrigue in the court of King Louis XIV. Taking part in some writerly conjecture about one of history’s most intriguing mysteries, Dumas surmised that the infamous royal prisoner known as the Man in the Iron Mask was actually Louis’ fictional twin brother Philippe, and had the older-yet-still-dashing Three Musketeers rescue him from a life in the dungeon and help him ascend to his rightful throne. Wallace lined up an impressive roster of stars for his Man, including Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Gabriel Byrne, and Gerard Depardieu — but in the end, it was his marquee idol who packed ’em into the seats, and for some critics, that was enough. “The film is abysmally photographed, and it’s full of lazy, anachronistic dialogue,” sighed Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman, “but DiCaprio, a fluid and instinctive actor, puts his best face on a swashbuckling potboiler.”

Multiplicity

45%

Between 1986 and 1994, Michael Keaton starred in at least one film every year, including the huge hits Beetlejuice, Batman, and Batman Returns — so after taking a year off in 1995, maybe he was trying to make up for lost time with Multiplicity, a comedy about a construction worker whose harried life prompts him to clone himself repeatedly. Starring Keaton in a frantically demanding quadruple role, it might not have resonated with most critics (or audiences, who drummed up an uninspired $21 million at the box office), but not for lack of effort on the part of its leading man. As Chris Hicks of the Deseret News wrote, “If ever there was a movie that showed off an actor’s versatility, this is it.”

The Parent Trap

86%

She’s often used as a punchline now, but in 1998, Lindsay Lohan was an adorably precocious, fully formed talent — and she proved it with her starring turn in The Parent Trap as twin sisters Hallie and Annie, whose parents’ divorce led to them not only growing up apart, but completely unaware of each other. Unlikely? Perhaps. But it allowed Lohan to show a wide range of personalities and emotions — as well as accents — in a rare remake that went down as a critical and commercial hit. Steve Rhodes was one of the many critics who applauded her work, writing “The spunky Lindsay Lohan, the lead in Disney’s remake of The Parent Trap, is one of the best new actresses in years.”

The Social Network

96%

Most actors who’ve played twins have done so using split-screen photography, a relatively arduous process that requires doubling the shots. But while The Social Network director David Fincher used split-screen for some of Armie Hammer’s scenes as the litigious Winklevoss twins, he also employed state-of-the-art technology to digitally graft Hammer’s face onto his body double, Josh Pence. Watching the final result must have been truly surreal for both Hammer and Pence, but most critics thought the effect — and the movie — was close to seamless. Observed Rick Groen of the Globe and Mail, “It has the staccato wit of a drawing-room comedy, the fatal flaw of a tragic romance and the buzzy immediacy of a front-page headline, all powered by a kinetic engine typically found in an action flick.”

Twin Dragons

44%

Like Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Double Impact, Twin Dragons begins with a criminal act in Hong Kong, but its plot quickly becomes something altogether loopier and more entertaining, starting with the first act, where an escaped convict steals a baby from the hospital, leaving its twin behind and eventually abandoning it in the woods to be raised by a kindly alcoholic woman. It only gets nuttier from there — eventually, Jackie Chan ends up playing an American-raised classical musician as well as his long-lost mechanic twin brother — but the important thing is that it makes plenty of room for its star’s comedic gifts as well as his flair for spectacular feats of action derring-do. “It’s all pretty dumb,” shrugged the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Caro, “but if you’re in the mood for this sort of thing, you won’t have a bad time.”


Take a look through the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don’t forget to check out the reviews for Jack and Jill.

 

Tag Cloud

Amazon Prime cancelled target scene in color 93rd Oscars summer TV preview ghosts Avengers nbcuniversal latino Reality Pacific Islander Trivia Spike debate Ovation heist movie thriller book adaptation rt labs Elton John space dramedy Apple Black History Month festivals Amazon Studios Podcast satire series medical drama name the review finale serial killer know your critic Stephen King Spring TV GIFs Shondaland TruTV animated Walt Disney Pictures Rocky Freeform witnail politics Cartoon Network Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Esquire Mindy Kaling dogs PaleyFest Hear Us Out stand-up comedy HBO Go Instagram Live SXSW Ghostbusters Countdown comics Masterpiece A24 ABC Acorn TV BBC America sports summer preview DirecTV black what to watch emmy awards IFC hispanic crossover archives Crackle Musicals sequels Sneak Peek japanese Animation sag awards Heroines cartoon Superheroes Anna Paquin Disney+ Disney Plus MTV a nightmare on elm street docudrama Paramount Plus japan Best Actor TV One Lifetime Spectrum Originals live action casting Tokyo Olympics cats VOD kong Exclusive Video blockbusters laika discovery blockbuster Action kids Writers Guild of America boxing Hulu high school Red Carpet The Arrangement BET Superheroe Mary Poppins Returns spy thriller superman FX Awards Tour Creative Arts Emmys hidden camera television Trailer docuseries Horror stop motion deadpool elevated horror TCA Winter 2020 Chernobyl science fiction dragons Hollywood Foreign Press Association miniseries Lucasfilm superhero revenge Dark Horse Comics Logo Pet Sematary TLC 2018 Fargo directors feel good jurassic park Family Holidays Native women GoT posters Star Wars Celebration binge El Rey Classic Film free movies Focus Features streaming festival parents Tubi Mystery indie historical drama legend war The CW IFC Films Character Guide HBO hist saw renewed TV shows South by Southwest Film Festival gangster football Rom-Com reboot Watching Series Lifetime Christmas movies Rock cops hispanic heritage month scene in color series political drama video indiana jones streaming movies canceled asian-american Opinion dceu canceled TV shows SDCC ABC Family 2015 Film Sony DC Comics DC Universe Marvel Grammys Lionsgate venice video on demand fresh NYCC Tags: Comedy 90s slashers Comedy YouTube Red mcc BAFTA spider-man golden globe awards Apple TV Plus documentaries king arthur aliens HBO Max black comedy Bravo AMC TCA 2017 comiccon movie harry potter Comedy Central OneApp spider-verse Prime Video breaking bad San Diego Comic-Con technology halloween new zealand justice league dexter Marvel Television cults History anime foreign Best Director joker Legendary Starz vs. Fantasy Disney streaming service scene in color best romantic comedy screenings Turner Christmas award winner young adult Television Academy comic 73rd Emmy Awards toy story Year in Review streamig stoner basketball Box Office obi wan Rocketman children's TV boxoffice Hallmark child's play Amazon Prime Video AMC Plus NBC cars diversity Marvel Studios TIFF Paramount richard e. Grant mission: impossible Academy Awards rotten Thanksgiving obituary popular Alien First Look prank composers scene in color film series A&E Tomatazos Neflix crime drama BBC period drama Amazon king kong cooking zombie YA Fox Searchlight trophy OWN E! trailers Sony Pictures 007 doctor who TV renewals Discovery Channel Pop TV sopranos YouTube game show 2019 Video Games hollywood Oscars The Walking Dead quibi leaderboard cancelled TV shows Film Festival south america art house game of thrones 94th Oscars Baby Yoda royal family die hard 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards DC streaming service National Geographic Columbia Pictures 2017 Sci-Fi Epix zero dark thirty 24 frames ViacomCBS Best Actress Western Disney Song of Ice and Fire PlayStation Syfy FOX Black Mirror spanish language Geeked Week interviews Best Picture godzilla Nickelodeon Showtime strong female leads vampires singing competition remakes adaptation Sundance TV ratings sitcom Interview transformers mutant CW Seed Reality Competition rotten movies we love MCU spinoff DGA Image Comics Winter TV monster movies Sundance Now USA Network Winners Funimation WGN disaster news TBS TCA rom-coms Turner Classic Movies teaser jamie lee curtis NBA ITV aapi Cannes wonder woman chucky Tarantino Captain marvel 2020 CNN scary movies independent See It Skip It action-comedy CBS TV Land broadcast green book 45 lord of the rings social media Schedule Apple TV+ nature police drama VH1 spain The Academy australia TNT Pride Month 2016 rt archives IMDb TV marvel comics Fox News Comics on TV kaiju movies scorecard VICE HFPA toronto Mary poppins christmas movies Mudbound Nominations live event TCA Awards Television Critics Association Extras RT21 72 Emmy Awards halloween tv 79th Golden Globes Awards unscripted Endgame critic resources pirates of the caribbean facebook YouTube Premium dark true crime tv talk psychological thriller X-Men Indigenous Best and Worst Broadway Holiday Vudu CMT comic book movie Shudder telelvision Cosplay 1990s Tumblr Drama dreamworks Disney Channel twilight anthology Kids & Family 2021 Marathons mockumentary Ellie Kemper Star Wars ESPN screen actors guild adventure travel documentary 4/20 Election Pirates Mary Tyler Moore Pixar Arrowverse Star Trek Infographic Paramount Network romance classics Travel Channel SXSW 2022 razzies FX on Hulu robots Peacock Chilling Adventures of Sabrina cinemax Biopics Disney Plus Summer Sundance cancelled TV series Comic Book LGBTQ Emmys Music MSNBC spanish comic book movies based on movie Britbox First Reviews Martial Arts SundanceTV Nat Geo Brie Larson Wes Anderson Comic-Con@Home 2021 fast and furious Calendar The Witch 20th Century Fox MGM ABC Signature Quiz Netflix Christmas movies new star wars movies CBS All Access Premiere Dates concert james bond BBC One criterion olympics Photos new york TV movies Polls and Games Certified Fresh italian TV batman comic books biopic 71st Emmy Awards genre PBS Paramount Pictures Binge Guide BET Awards Awards worst movies biography WarnerMedia blaxploitation franchise mob GLAAD New York Comic Con The Purge Set visit Fall TV comedies scary President Women's History Month critics TCM Universal sequel ID Universal Pictures Toys supernatural Food Network Super Bowl The Walt Disney Company talk show psycho 21st Century Fox APB all-time American Society of Cinematographers versus Teen international LGBT FXX Trophy Talk Musical theme song slasher 99% E3 golden globes Crunchyroll Oscar book adenture summer TV USA films marvel cinematic universe french suspense worst zombies Hallmark Christmas movies target crime thriller Pop dc nfl Netflix Country universal monsters crime reviews werewolf Warner Bros. RT History natural history Adult Swim Emmy Nominations rt labs critics edition Valentine's Day cancelled television