We all know that stunt doubles ensure that Hollywood’s finest don’t have to risk life and limb. But there are also times when the stars of the show need to be temporarily replaced for less daredevil reasons. Here’s a look at 20 cases in which big-name actors were briefly substituted without anyone really noticing.
20. Hugo Weaving – V Is For Vendetta
V Is For Vendetta had a relatively easy task when it came to hiding its secret switch from the great cinema-going public. Indeed, its titular character spends the entirety of the comic book adaptation behind a mask of Guy Fawkes’ face. Audiences therefore had no reason to doubt that billed star Hugo Weaving portrayed V in each and every scene.
However, Weaving wasn’t the original choice to play the masked man. Best known for appearing in swords and sandals series Rome, James Purefoy was initially cast as V. But the British actor decided to quit the role six weeks into the shoot. Rumors surfaced that Purefoy had quit due to the restrictive nature of the mask, although he later dismissed this as pure speculation. Several of his scenes were still used for the final cut.
19. Crispin Glover – Back to the Future Part II
Producers’ attempts to replicate a departed Crispin Glover in Back to the Future Part II changed one particular rule in Hollywood forever. After a disagreement over his fee, the actor decided against reprising his role as Marty McFly’s dad in the 1989 sequel. As a result, the prosthetics Glover had worn to look older in the original were then reused to make his replacement Jeffrey Weissman look as identical as possible.
Of course, Glover wasn’t particularly happy to see an exact replica of him appearing in a movie he reportedly felt was morally dubious. Indeed, he went on to file and win a lawsuit against Back to the Future II‘s producers. The Screen Actor’s Guild then ruled that no other film could ever use similar doppelganger tactics ever again.
18. Armie Hammer – The Social Network
The Winklevoss twins in The Social Network, of course, weren’t played by actual twins. Instead, Armie Hammer’s face was grafted onto another actor’s to make it look as though the future A-lister had a real-life double. Josh Pence, who had previously appeared in Gangster Squad and Draft Day, was the man who did just as much body work as Hammer but without the same reward.
Indeed, Pence had to undergo some rigorous training to ensure that his and Hammer’s bodies were naturally in sync. The two actors even headed to a “twin boot camp” to ensure that no one could tell the difference between the pair. Thankfully, the Winkelvoss twins were appreciative of their efforts and later took the pair out for drinks.
17. Bruce Lee – Enter the Dragon
Bruce Lee used a stuntman while filming Enter the Dragon on two occasions. Indeed, the high front flip and legendary back-flip kick featured in the iconic martial arts movie were both performed with the help of stunt double Yuen Wah. Lee actually took a break from shooting another film, Game of Death, to make Enter the Dragon. And this project was left incomplete when the star tragically passed away without adding to the 40 minutes he’d originally worked on.
To get around the problem, producers used both the existing scenes and archival footage to focus on a new storyline in which Lee’s character Billy Lo would don a disguise after faking his own death. Stand-ins Yuen Biao and Kim Tai-chung were therefore able to pass for the star with relative ease. In fact, only the low-budget archival clips and the bizarre use of a cardboard cutout give the game away.
16. Harrison Ford – Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Yes, even one of the most recognizable action heroes of all time was briefly replaced without anyone realizing. After injuring his back while shooting Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Harrison Ford was forced to sit out filming for nearly a month. Unwilling to hit the pause button, director Steven Spielberg and his behind-the-scenes crew simply opted to use Ford’s regular stuntman instead.
It proved to be an inspired decision. Indeed, Armstrong was so convincing as Harrison Ford Mark II that even Spielberg struggled to tell them apart on several occasions. The stunt double actually appears in one of the film’s most famous scenes, the legendary conveyor belt battle between the titular hero and the villainous member of the Thugee cult.
15. Penélope Cruz – Pirates of the Caribbean
Having replaced Keira Knightley as the main female star in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Penélope Cruz then threw a spanner in the works. Indeed, while filming On Stranger Tides, the star discovered she was pregnant and therefore unable to carry out the swashbuckling stunts she’d spent months previously training for. Luckily, Cruz’s sister came to the rescue.
Indeed, Mónica Cruz, an experienced performer in her own right, was subsequently asked to stand in for the older sister she closely resembled. Mónica, who had previously appeared in the likes of Last Hour and Asterix at the Olympic Games, duly obliged and used her skills with a sword to impressive effect. The next chapter of the franchise also kept things in the Cruz family by casting Penelope’s spouse Javier Bardem as the dastardly villain.
14. Hugh Jackman – Logan
Fans of the X-Men spinoff should prepare to have their illusions shattered. The man behind the wheel of Wolverine’s limousine during Logan‘s high-octane car chase wasn’t Hugh Jackman. Yes, even though you can quite clearly see the Aussie star’s face, the man driving the vehicle was in fact a stunt double.
Indeed, Jackman’s hirsute face was simply grafted onto the stuntman’s body using state of the art CGI. Canadian VFX company Image Engine was responsible for the effects that even fooled the notoriously eagle-eyed comic book audience. Jackman’s co-star Dafne Keen was also given the same treatment for her role as X-23.
13. Nicholas Brendon – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s producers were gifted with the perfect solution when they needed more than one Xander at a time. For the man who played the character in every single episode bar one, Nicholas Brendon, had a real-life twin brother. Indeed, Kelly Donovan showed up on several occasions throughout the fantasy series’ lengthy run.
His most notable performance was in season five episode “The Replacement.” Here, another far more villainous Xander is created by a demon to assume the original character’s identity. In another episode titled “Intervention,” Donovan filmed several action scenes as a Xander stand-in after his brother was forced to miss filming through a bout of pneumonia.
12. The cast of The Evil Dead
You have to take your hat off to director Sam Raimi for managing to use at least 18 different stand-ins on The Evil Dead without anyone really noticing. Indeed, forced to shoot the cult horror film on a pittance, Raimi often found it difficult to assemble all the main actors at the same time. But he certainly didn’t let such an obstacle get in his way.
Indeed, according to If Chins Could Kill, the autobiography of leading man Bruce Campbell, The Evil Dead used a rotating cast of stand-ins throughout its shoot. Raimi even had a pet name for them: the Fake Shemp. This was inspired by the actors who replaced Shemp Howard to help fulfill a studio contract previously signed by the late Three Stooges star.
11. Jennifer Aniston – Friends
While most body swaps on this list are entirely deliberate, the one that occurred during a particular Friends episode was a genuine mistake. In fact, the sitcom’s editing team must have been having something of an off day to let such a gaffe slip through the net. Although to be fair, it was only spotted several years later after first being aired by a super observant fan.
The offending incident happens in season nine’s “The One with the Mugging,” when Rachel is standing side by side with Joey in Monica’s apartment. Indeed, in one shot you can quite clearly see that Rachel’s face has completely changed to that of an unknown body double. To make matters worse, she’s even wearing an entirely different outfit.
10. Gene Hackman – Superman II
The shooting of Superman II was notoriously difficult. Director Richard Donner was replaced by Richard Lester roughly three-quarters of the way through. Star Christopher Reeve reportedly became angered with producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind about the way they had treated Donner. And Gene Hackman eventually stopped showing up at all.
Lester and co. were therefore forced to get creative while wrapping up the storyline that Hackman’s Lex Luthor had previously been a major part of. Indeed, a body double of the Hollywood legend was used for some scenes. And in others they simply opted for a voice impersonation to try and smooth over the cracks.
9. Hugo Weaving – Avengers: Infinity War
No stranger to big-screen franchises, Hugo Weaving (The Lord of the Rings) assumed the role of Red Skull, a.k.a. Johann Schmidt, in Captain America: The First Avenger. The character famously “died” at the end of the 2011 superhero movie. But you can’t keep a good supervillain down and much to everyone’s surprise, Schmidt popped up again in the MCU seven years later.
Yes, turns out that Red Skull hadn’t perished at all but had simply been protecting the Soul Stone while trapped on the remote planet of Vormir. However, in Avengers: Infinity War, he was played by an entirely different actor. This time around, Ross Marquand (The Walking Dead) used his impressive impressionist skills to pass as the absent Weaving.
8. Alessandra Torresani – Arrested Development
Even the most eagle-eyed of Arrested Development viewers can’t be blamed for not spotting that George Michael’s girlfriend was replaced after just one episode. The sitcom’s writers purposely made the character so impossibly bland that they initially toyed with the idea of recasting her every time she appeared. Alessandro Torresani was the first to take on the role in the first season.
However, the producers changed their minds about the idea when they cast Mae Whitman as Ann in the second season. Indeed, the actress proved to be so impressive that she was allowed to remain on the show for a further 14 episodes. Whitman later joked to PeopleTV, “And then they stuck with me, which I feel like is a real insult. They were like, ‘No, no, you’re making the whole not-memorable thing work, we’ll just go with that.’”
7. Brandon Lee – The Crow
Just like his father Bruce, Brandon Lee also had to be replaced on the big screen for tragic reasons. While shooting the movie that was set to launch his career, The Crow, the actor was accidentally but fatally struck by a round from a prop gun. The cult hit only had just over a week left to film at the time.
Luckily, both Lee’s fiancé and mother urged director Alex Proyas to complete his movie. As a result, the late star’s face was superimposed over his stuntman friend’s Chad Stahelski in a groundbreaking move. Indeed, this made Lee the first late actor to be revived on screen in such a manner.
6. Paul Walker – Furious 7
The tragic death of Paul Walker in 2011 prompted many to wonder just how the seventh instalment of The Fast and the Furious franchise could continue. The star had already filmed half of his scenes before he lost his life in a car accident, but this wasn’t sufficient for producers to complete a movie around. However, his family then came up with the most touching solution.
Indeed, both of Walker’s brothers Caleb and Cody used their close physical resemblance to the late actor to help bring the film to a close. They were assisted by WETA, the special effects team who had previously worked on the likes of The Lord of the Rings and Planet of the Apes. Audiences proved to be on board with the idea and Furious 7 subsequently became the franchise’s highest-grossing movie.
5. Bela Lugosi – Plan 9 from Outer Space
Ed Wood is renowned for being one of the worst Hollywood directors of all time. And 1959’s Plan from Outer Space didn’t exactly help his cause. Indeed, despite the fact that Bela Lugosi had died three years previously, Wood still decided to cast the horror movie icon as the film’s leading man.
Wood attempted to bring Lugosi back from beyond the grave by recycling archival footage of the star in his famous Dracula costume. A Lugosi double was also used to help fool audiences, although his appearances weren’t exactly subtle. Indeed, the stand-in spends each and every scene he appears in covering his face.
4. Peter Sellers – The Trail of the Pink Panther
The hugely successful Pink Panther franchise looked like it had come to an end when its leading man Peter Sellers passed away. However, Blake Edwards had other ideas. Indeed, the director simply used deleted scenes from the sixth entry in the series, The Pink Panther Strikes Again, to make a seventh.
Edwards also made use of a Sellers stand-in to help complete the 1982 comedy. And to make things easier, he incorporated a storyline that meant that Inspector Clouseau’s face had to be heavily bandaged for many scenes. In the end, audiences are left to ponder whether the hapless detective has also perished.
3. Peter Cushing – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Legendary actor Peter Cushing sadly lost his life to prostate cancer in 1994. And yet his list of film credits was surprisingly extended 22 years later thanks to state-of-the-art technology. Indeed, in 2016 Cushing posthumously reprised his role as Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Blending groundbreaking CGI with the impersonation skills of Guy Henry, visual effects studio ILM was responsible for this unlikely revival. Of course, not everyone was happy with the tactics used by Garth Edwards. Indeed, the British director was even described as a grave robber by a few particularly scathing critics.
2. Roy Scheider – Iron Cross
Few are likely to remember the final film appearance from Jaws and The French Connection star Roy Scheider. Indeed, British revenge thriller Iron Cross only ever made it into a handful of cinemas. But the story of how it was completed in the wake of Scheider’s death is far more interesting.
Indeed, using a mixture of CGI and make-up, director Joshua Newton was able to bring the late actor back to life to shoot the film’s final scenes. Louis Lazzara, who had worked as Scheider’s make-up artist since SeaQuest DSV back in the 1990s, also came on board. This included recreating the broken nose that had become one of Scheider’s trademarks.
1. Natalie Portman – Thor: The Dark World
Saving the hottest moment for last, the end credits sequence of Thor: The Dark World saw the titular superhero locking lips with love interest Jane Foster. And there’s a very good reason why the pair’s embrace was so passionate. Star Chris Hemsworth wasn’t kissing his co-star Natalie Portman but his wife in real life: Elsa Pataky.
The Spanish actress was asked to step in during the scene, filmed long after the regular shoot had finished. Portman had commitments on another movie in Hong Kong at the time, so Pataky donned Jane Foster’s costume and wig to provide a more than convincing cover. And Portman wasn’t exactly upset at being temporarily replaced, describing the switch as “the perfect solution.”