Dual role (also known as double role) refers to one actor playing two or more roles, which may be deliberately scripted in a play or film, or merely be a by-product of a low budget. In a theatrical production where more than one actor plays multiple characters, it is sometimes referred to as an "Ironman" cast. In film and television, a dual rule is commonly used either for comic effect or to depict identical twins.
In theatre, such as in the works of absurdists such as Tom Stoppard, characters played by the same actor may be of thematic significance. A good example of this is Tony Kushner's Angels in America, which has a cast of eight despite having many roles. Debate exists over William Shakespeare's use of such, with a famous example being whether the characters of Cordelia and the Fool in King Lear are one and the same. In stage productions of Peter Pan, it is a tradition for Mr. Darling and Captain Hook to be played by the same actor, a tradition often continued in film adaptations with the actors playing dual roles.
In film, this technique has often been used for comic effect, examples being Peter Sellers in movies such as Dr. Strangelove and Mike Myers in the Austin Powers films. In The Wizard of Oz the farmhands also play the parts of the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and Scarecrow. The Prisoner of Zenda, with its tale of lookalikes, has a long tradition of dual roles: from Lewis Stone (1922) to Ronald Colman (1937) to Stewart Granger (1952) to Peter Sellers (1979). An early and unusual example is the 1925 silent film Lady of the Night. Two women are portrayed by Norma Shearer to spotlight their very different social classes; otherwise, nobody takes any notice of their identical appearance. Lee Marvin won a Academy Award for Best Actor for his dual role in Cat Ballou, while Nicolas Cage was nominated for Adaptation.
More extreme cases exist. Buster Keaton played nearly every part in his 1921 film The Playhouse. Alec Guinness brought to life all eight members of one family in Kind Hearts and Coronets. Likewise, in The Nutty Professor and its sequel, Eddie Murphy played the title character and almost every member of his family.
In Bollywood, the "irony and excitement of having a living double has been exploited ad nauseum [sic?]", becoming "almost a genre in itself". Angoor (1982) features two pairs of identical twins, played by Sanjeev Kumar and Deven Verma. Tamil film actor M. N. Nambiar played eleven parts in the early 1950s film Digambara Samiyar. [Note: In Digambara Saamiyar, M. N. Nambiar played role of sage 'Digambar Saamiyar' who take 9 disguises to defeat the evil lawyer. This sentence will be removed.] Another Tamil Indian film actor, Kamal Hassan, had ten roles in the 2008 film Dasavathaaram (The Ten Avatars). Sivaji Ganesan played nine roles in the Tamil film Navarathiri.
In some cases of low-budget films, or community theater, actors may play more than one role to save money. In one of Peter Jackson's early films, Bad Taste, he played two characters; in one scene, one of them tortures the other.
In television, soap operas commonly use the technique to either portray twins (or even similar looking relatives), or to bring an actor back whose character has been killed. This technique is uncommon, although not unheard of, in primetime television. In Friends, Lisa Kudrow plays Phoebe and her twin sister Ursula. David Schwimmer played a character in heavy make-up named Russ, who was a parody of Ross (played by Schwimmer), both of whom appear on screen together. In the Star Trek episode called "Mirror, Mirror", the officers of the Enterprise switch places with their counterparts from a parallel universe, with the actors playing dual roles.
Notable soap opera examples include:
- Chris Kositchek and Roman Brady (played by Josh Taylor) on Days of our Lives
- Adam and Stuart Chandler (played by David Canary) in All My Children.
- Natalie Marlowe Dillon and Janet Marlowe Dillon (played by Kate Collins) in All My Children.
- Angie and Josie Russell (played by Laurie Foell) in Home and Away.
- Kirsty Sutherland and Laura DeGroot (played by Christie Hayes) in Home and Away.
- Kristen Blake DiMera. Susan Banks, Sister Mary Moira Banks, Thomas Banks, and Penelope Kent (played by Eileen Davidson) Days of our Lives
- Lily Snyder and her sister Rose D'Angelo (played by Martha Byrne) in As the World Turns.
- Vicky and Marley Hudson (played by Ellen Wheeler, Anne Heche and Jensen Buchanan) in Another World.
- Frannie and Sabrina Hughes (played by Julianne Moore) in As the World Turns,
- Katherine Chancellor and Marge Cotrooke (played by Jeanne Cooper) on The Young and the Restless
- Alex Devane Marick and Anna Devane (played by Finola Hughes) in All My Children
- Emily Quartermaine and Rebecca Shaw (portrayed by Natalia Livingston) in General Hospital
- Hope Williams Brady and Gina Von Amberg (portrayed by Kristian Alfonso) on Days of our Lives
- Nikolas Cassadine and Connor Bishop (played by Tyler Christopher) in General Hospital.
- Frankie Stone and Maggie Stone (portrayed by Elizabeth Hendrickson) on All My Children
- Lily Montgomery and Ava Benton (portrayed by Leven Rambin) on All My Children
- EJ DiMera and Santo Dimera (played by James Scott) on Days of our Lives
- Sami Brady and Colleen Brady (played by Alison Sweeney) on Days of our Lives
- Phyllis Summers Newman and Sheila Carter (played by Michelle Stafford) in The Young and the Restless
- Lauren Fenmore Baldwin and Sarah Carter (played by Tracey E. Bregman) on The Young and the Restless
- Patty Williams and Emily Peterson (played by Stacy Haiduk) in The Young and the Restless
- Erica Kane and Jane Campbell (played by Susan Lucci) in All My Children
- Lily Parks and her sister Angelina Zacchara (portayed by Victoria Justice) on up and coming soap opera California bay
- Colleen Murray Lambardi and Maureen "Isabella" Murray Carmichael (played by Vanessa Marcil Giovinazzo) on California bay
- Ashley Manning Brooks and Marnie Manning (played by Melissa Joan Hart) on California bay
- Patrcia Parks and her cousin Pandora Morgan (played by Marcy Rylan) on California bay
Notable primetime examples include:
- Elena Gilbert and Katherine Pierce (played by Nina Dobrev in The Vampire Diaries)
- Emma Becker and Sutton Mercer twin sisters (played by Alexandra Chando in The Lying Game)
- Bridget Kelly and Siobhan Martin twin sisters (played by Sarah Michelle Gellar in Ringer)
- American Patty Lane and her Scottish cousin Cathy Lane (played by Patty Duke) in The Patty Duke Show)
- Samantha and cousin Serena (played by Elizabeth Montgomery) in Bewitched)
- Jeannie and her sister (also named Jeannie) (played by Barbara Eden) in I Dream of Jeannie)
- Laura Palmer and Maddy Ferguson (played by Sheryl Lee) in Twin Peaks)
- Martin Payne and multiple various characters (played by Martin Lawrence) in Martin)
- Dorothy Zbornak and her grandmother Eleanor Petrillo (played by Beatrice Arthur) in The Golden Girls)
- Steve Urkel and multiple various characters (played by Jaleel White) in Family Matters)
- Clark Kent and various characters (played by Tom Welling) in Smallville)
- John Locke and the Man in Black (played by Terry O'Quinn) on Lost)
- Phoebe Halliwell and P. Russell (played by Alyssa Milano in Charmed)
- Piper Halliwell and P. Baxter (played by Holly Marie Combs in Charmed)
- Prue Halliwell and P. Bowen (played by Shannen Doherty in Charmed)
- Paige Halliwell and The Evil Enchantress (played by Rose McGowan in Charmed)
- Numerous members of the cast of Fringe play versions of their characters from a parallel universe.
- The cast of ((Once Upon a Time)) with the exception of Jennifer Morrison and Jared S. Gilmore.
- ^ Gulzar, Govind Nihalani, Saibal Chatterjee (editors) (2003). Encyclopedia of Hindi cinema. Popular Prakashan. p. 189. http://books.google.ca/books?id=8y8vN9A14nkC&pg=PT213&lpg=PT213&dq=actors+in+double+roles&source=bl&ots=rvXw0awue4&sig=SnVbKyLdqhcqdH_WGKQgp4OMpOs&hl=en&ei=OhDKTI_4NoGWsgOdqNiaDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CCMQ6AEwAzge#v=onepage&q=actors%20in%20double%20roles&f=false.
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