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Twinning & Losing: The Best & Worst Of Actors Playing Their Own Twins

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    Photo: Courtesy of Disney.

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    Tom Hardy has clearly never met a challenging role he didn't want to face head on, and this week we'll see how he does tackling two of them at once. He's playing '60s British gangster twins Reggie and Ronnie Kray in Legend. Since the silent movie days of Lon Chaney, actors have been fooling us into thinking they have an uncanny double in real life.

    It's a shtick that can either wow us with an actor's versatility and an array of special effects — or, it can make us groan. Who else needed to be convinced as a kid that The Parent Trap (either the Hayley Mills or the Lindsay Lohan version) did not, in fact, star twins? How many of us have wondered what ever happened to Armie Hammer's brother? And how often during Orphan Black do we simply forget that Tatiana Maslany has no clones?

    Yet, just as often, twin roles can mean double trouble. Plots revolving around squabbling identical siblings can feel tired. And, yeah, no one needs to see Adam Sandler play his "sister," ever. Here are just some examples of the good and evil of the twin device.



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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.