The Best & Worst Of Actors Playing Their Own Twins

This story was originally published on Octber 1, 2015.
Advice for all you identical twins out there: Be sure your twin hasn’t racked up thousands of dollars in gambling debts from the mob, and then disappeared. Because when the mafiosos come a-sniffin’, they’ll turn to whoever looks like him the most — you. At least that’s what happens to James Franco’s character, Vincent Martino, in the new HBO drama The Deuce. The mafia isn’t sympathetic to Vincent’s sob story about being an honest man with a no-good brother, and so Vincent must inherit his twin, Frankie’s, debts. Ouch.
It’s easy to understand why the mob mistook Vincent for Frankie. Unlike most identical twins, who have some distinguishing characteristics (even Haley and Emily from The Bachelor can be told apart if you try), Vincent and Frankie have truly the same appearance. They’re both played by James Franco.
This is a typical Hollywood tactic. Instead of casting two actors who barely resemble one another to play twins (or actual twins), they just cast the same person...twice. For all you growing up under the impression that Lindsay Lohan had a twin after seeing The Parent Trap, this one’s for you. Here’s all the memorable times actors have played their own twin.
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Bette Davis, A Stolen Life (1946)

Bette Davis plays a quiet, reserved painter, Kate Bosworth (really, that's her name), who goes to work on her art in Cape Cod. She falls in love with a Bill (Glenn Ford), a local engineer. All's well until Bill mistakes Kate's sensual, seductive twin sister for Kate, and sends the relationship into a tailspin.

Download A Stolen Life from Amazon.
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Olivia de Haviland, Dark Mirror (1946)

If it's a film noir movie about identical twin sisters, one of them is bound to be evil. But which one is it? That's what Lt. Stevenson (Thomas Mitchell) has to find out after Terry Collins' (Olivia de Havilland) boyfriend dies, and he suspects one of the twins is to blame.

Watch Dark Mirror on Youtube.
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Hayley Mills, The Parent Trap (1961)
Once upon a time, long before Lindsay Lohan came on the scene, this perky movie used to be on TV all the time, and it certainly convinced quite a few of us as kids that Hayley Mills was not one person, but twin sisters. Now, we're completely horrified by the central premise: that two parents getting a divorce would be totally fine with never seeing one of their twin daughters again and lying to the one they kept.

Watch The Parent Trap on Amazon.
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Bette Davis, Dead Ringer (1964)
The great Bette Davis was at peak flamboyance when she took on this film — actually her second time playing twins (the first was A Stolen Life in 1946). She plays a down-on-her-luck bar owner, who shoots her twin sister in the head and takes over her life as a rich society lady. The lies and bodies pile up, and so does the melodrama.

Watch Dead Ringer on Amazon.
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Bette Midler & Lily Tomlin, Big Business (1988)
The funny thing about the main premise — two sets of twins are mixed up in a tiny hospital at birth — is that it's actually happened more than once in real life. What probably hasn't happened is the zany plot of this movie. One set of the mismatched twins, Sadie (Midler) and Rose (Tomlin) Shelton, are big-city businesswomen trying to sell off the small-town furniture business where the other set, Sadie (Midler) and Rose (Tomlin) Ratliff work. This, naturally, sets off a series of absurd mix-ups and near misses in the Plaza Hotel.

Watch Big Business on YouTube.
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Jeremy Irons, Dead Ringers (1988)
The uncanny nature of identical twins plus the uncanny nature of a David Cronenberg movie makes for one seriously unsettling film. Irons plays twin gynecologists Elliott and Beverly, who have very different personalities — Elliott is a manipulative seducer of women, while Beverly is shy — but who make a habit of standing in for each other, particularly on dates. Their romantic entanglement with a patient devolves into drug abuse, paranoia, and violence, all played to creepy perfection by Irons.

Watch Dead Ringers on Amazon.
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Lindsay Lohan, The Parent Trap (1998)
It's tough to get over how adorable LiLo was in this movie, long before she was actually LiLo. She was just 11 when she played laid-back, California girl Hallie and uptight Brit Annie. How innocent we all were back then.

Watch The Parent Trap on Amazon.
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Leonardo DiCaprio, The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)
Leo plays both tyrannical King Louis XIV and his good-natured twin brother Philippe, who has been imprisoned and trapped behind a mask — until the Three Musketeers save him and plot to overthrow the bad king. DiCaprio is actually quite good at playing polar opposite characters in the same film (based on the Alexandre Dumas novel). Too bad the rest of the movie is melodramatic and boring.

Watch The Man in the Iron Mask on Netflix.
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Eddie Murphy, Bowfinger (1999)
Murphy has made some ridiculous movies in the latter half of his career, but in this case, ridiculous works brilliantly as he plays successful action star Kit Ramsey and his super nerdy brother, Jiff. Steve Martin is a small-time movie producer, who decides to work around Kit's refusal to star in his alien movie by filming actors as they walk up to Kit in the street and say their lines. This sleight of hand sends the superstar actor off the deep end of paranoia, particularly since he's part of MindHead, a Scientology-like religion. Murphy is funniest as Jiff, who stands in for his brother and manages to look nothing like him most of the time.

Bowfinger is not available on digital video, so you'll have to get it on DVD.
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Nicolas Cage, Adaptation (2002)
Real-life screenwriter Charlie Kaufman did the unthinkable by writing a movie about his own inability to write a movie, an adaptation of Susan Orlean's nonfiction story The Orchid Thief. Cage embraces the absurdity as a fictionalized version of Charlie — sweaty, depressed, nervous — and as his completely fictional twin brother Donald — energetic, positive, and effortlessly successful. It's hilarious, awkward, frustrating, and rather sublime.

Watch Adaptation on Amazon Prime.
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Chris Rock, Bad Company (2002)

As in Avatar, Chris Rock's character is pulled into some nonsense because of his twin's sudden passing. When CIA Agent Kevin Pope (Chris Rock) is killed, his (very convenient) long-lost twin brother is plucked off the streets of Newark, and sent to Prague to complete Kevin's mission.

Watch Bad Company on HBO.
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Jeffrey Tambor, Arrested Development (2003 - present)
Tambor says that series creator Mitch Hurwitz came up with the idea of writing a twin brother for George Bluth, Sr. when he saw the actor in a long-haired wig from afar. George is the scheming, corrupt businessman, while Oscar is the laid-back hippie, whose relaxed lifestyle has kept him from losing all his hair. Until George manages to cut that hair and get his brother arrested in his place, that is.

Watch Arrested Development on Netflix.
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Warning: Spoiler

Christian Bale, The Prestige (2006)

If you know what to look for, the "twist" in Christopher Nolan's period piece is hiding in plain sight.

Watch The Prestige on Showtime.
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Lindsay Lohan, I Know Who Killed Me (2007)
One wonders, if this movie had been any good, what would Lindsay Lohan's career and life look like today? Instead, we have the story of twins separated at birth until one (a college student) goes missing, and the other (a stripper) is found and mistaken for her. This is often listed as one of the worst movies of all time, but we still have to admit it's got a compelling plot. Maybe if Cronenberg had taken a shot at this one...

Watch I Know Who Killed Me on YouTube.
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Sam Worthington, Avatar (2009)

The entire movie Avatar is predicated on the fact Jake Sully's (Sam Worthington) twin brother dies before going on a mission to the planet Pandora. Since Jake matches his brother's biological specifications, Jake replaces him as an avatar operator.

Download Avatar from Amazon.
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Paul Dano, There Will Be Blood (2007)
Paul and Eli Sunday were not meant to be twins in this eerie Paul Thomas Anderson movie. But when the original actor set to play fiery preacher Eli dropped out, Dano had already filmed his own scenes as Paul, the brother who brings oil man Daniel Plainview into their home. So, Dano stepped into this larger role with gusto. That's the kind of on-the-spot promotion that makes careers.

Watch There Will Be Blood on YouTube.
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Ed Norton, Leaves of Grass (2009)
Norton shows off his acting chops as polar-opposite brothers Bill, a professor at Brown, and Brady, a drug dealer in Oklahoma. Bill gets caught up in Brady's plot to kill his supplier, leading to all sorts of mix-ups and fights, and eventually, things get dark. Despite the movie's oddities, some critics embraced it, largely due to Norton.

Watch Leaves of Grass on Amazon.
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Armie Hammer, The Social Network (2010)
Many people assumed that actual twins appeared in the movie, because no one really knew who Hammer was before The Social Network, and because the subtle special effects that turn him into Harvard athletes and budding entrepreneurs Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (a.k.a. the Winklevii) are so good. Not that we would mind a second Armie Hammer out there in the world.

Watch The Social Network on Amazon.
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Adam Sandler, Jack and Jill (2011)
You know how sometimes it was a little funny when Adam Sandler dressed as a woman on SNL? This is nothing like that. Advertising exec Jack has his unbearable twin sister Jill over for Thanksgiving, which turns into a much longer visit, and ultimately one of the worst-reviewed movies of all time.

Nope, don't even stream this one.
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Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black (2013-present)
If you're not already a fan, you've probably heard the hype about Maslany and her mind-blowing performance as at least a dozen characters in one show. For those who haven't paid attention, let us recap how a freak coincidence sets off the action in this BBC America series: Sarah is on a train platform when she sees a woman who looks eerily like her set down her bag, remove her shoes, and jump in front of an express. Thinking it's an opportunity to get a bit of this look-alike's cash, she takes on her identity...and finds out she's part of the craziest scientific experiment known to man: human cloning. Sometimes, the plot gets even more outlandish than that, but we're hooked on the often light, witty dialogue that takes place between action scenes — and, of course, on watching Maslany's magic trick of making us forget she's just one actress.

Watch Orphan Black on Amazon Prime.
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Zoe Kazan, The Pretty One (2014)
Though they're identical twins, everyone accepts that Audrey is "the pretty one." She's the sophisticated sister who moved out and works in real estate. Laurel, by comparison, is plain and withdrawn, and lives at home with their widowed dad in the country. Audrey plans to bring her sister to live with her in the big city, until the two are in a car wreck (right after Laurel gets her hair cut like Audrey's). Audrey is killed, but everyone assumes it was Laurel who died, an error she doesn't correct, so she can go off and take over her sister's life. It's a silly, sometimes icky story, but Kazan makes it go down easy.

Download The Pretty One from Amazon.
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Tom Hardy, Legend (2015)

At one point in Legend, Tom Hardy's British ganglord twin brothers, Ron and Reggie Kray, had to have an actual fight. To pull this feat off, Hardy and his stunt double really did fight each other.

"We had a good old slap-fest!" Hardy told Entertainment Weekly. "We beat each other up quite badly — for fun."

Watch Legend on HBO.
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Tilda Swinton, Hail, Caesar! (2016)

When it comes to sniffing out the most cutting Hollywood news, gossip columnists Thora and Thessaly Thacker are each other's biggest competition. To their endless frustration, no one can tell Thora and Thessaly apart.

Download Hail, Caesar from Amazon.
24 of 25
James Franco, The Deuce (2017)

Try processing this doozy. James Franco directed two of The Deuce's pilot season's episodes, while playing two principle characters: Vincent and Frank Martino. In order to pay off his brother's gambling debts owed to the mob, Vincent Martino is forced to open a bar in Times Square that doubles as a mob front. He's dragged further into the area's seedy subculture as a result.
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