Warning: This post contains spoilers for Christopher Nolan's The Prestige.
Audiences could be forgiven for thinking that they're seeing double when watching #AlienCovenant, because #MichaelFassbender plays not one, but two roles in the latest Alien prequel. While reprising his role as David, the mysterious android from Prometheus, Fassbender also appears as the character's double (or his "brother," as he put it) named Walter, the resident android of the colonial ship Covenant.
Once again, Michael Fassbender gives it his all while depicting two distinct androids that have their own personalities, despite their programming. Fassbender's dual role as a pair of sentient androids with ulterior motives is just the latest example of an ambitious actor taking on more than one role in a movie. Here are five instances an actor played more than one character in a single movie to great effect.
1. Jake Gyllenhaal in Enemy
The idea of a person meeting their doppelgänger, an exact lookalike who may or may not have a different personality, is one that has fascinated people for a long time. Denis Villeneuve's #Enemy takes this to the logical extreme when history professor Adam Bell (Gyllenhaal) watches a movie starring Anthony St. Claire (Gyllenhaal), an actor who looks exactly like him.
What ensues is a psychological battle with paranoia, as Bell's aggressive search for answers threatens to tear his life apart. Gyllenhaal once again delivers an outstanding, well-received performance that helps drive the movie's central mystery. Thanks to his performance, several interpretations of Enemy suggest that the whole movie could be taking place in Bell's crumbling mental state, but no clear answer is given.
2. Christian Bale in The Prestige
When it comes to actors playing two roles in a single movie, the most common plot device that justifies the casting decision is when the movie features twins. Most of the time, the use of twins shows an actor's full range, but rarely is it used as the plot twist that could spoil an entire movie.
In #ThePrestige, Christian Bale plays the stage magician Alfred Bordon, whose amazing "Transporting Man" illusion defies logic and baffles his rival, Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman). Bordon's tricks seemingly requires a double to appear on the other side of the venue, but Angier refuses to believe that his rival would resort to such an easy solution.
The truth is far simpler than Angier realizes, as Bordon does have a double: his twin brother, Bernard Fallon. Bernard makes up one half of the shared life of the magician Alfred Bordon, an alias that twins Albert and Frederick created to make a living as illusionists.
3. Nicolas Cage in Adaptation
What's better than a movie starring #NicolasCage? A movie starring two Nicolas Cages!
In #Adaptation, Nicolas Cage plays the Kaufman twins, Charlie and Donald. Adaptation was supposed to be a straight-forward, big screen treatment of the book The Orchid Thief, but real-life writer Charlie Kaufman found himself stuck due to his battles with depression and writer's block. So, instead of adapting the novel, he wrote a screenplay about himself trying to adapt said novel.
Kaufman made up a twin for himself, Donald Kaufman, who was his exact opposite: talentless but incredibly upbeat and happy with his life. Cage brought the Kaufman twins to life with a critically acclaimed performance, and this solidified his impressive skills as an actor.
4. Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb
Prior to the iconic and relevant Cold War satire #DrStrangelove, director #StanleyKubrick and actor Peter Sellers worked on another acclaimed movie together, Lolita. Erroneously believing that Sellers was the sole reason for the success of Lolita, the producers of Dr. Strangelove demanded that Kubrick give the actor four roles to maximize his popularity. Kubrick complied, citing that there was nothing he could do about it.
Sellers played three of the four roles given to him: the British liaison Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, President Merkin Muffley, and the outlandish ex-Nazi, Doctor Strangelove. The fourth role meant for the actor was actually that of Major T. J. "King" Kong, the B-52 aircraft commander who famously rides the bomb, but Sellers' hesitation and a sprained ankle prevented him from doing so. The role was recast, and western veteran Slim Pickens was immortalized as the cowboy who patriotically ended the world.
5. The Entire Cast of Cloud Atlas
Based on the book of the same name, #CloudAtlas tinkered with the idea of reincarnation over the course of human history. Because these characters lived through various periods of time with new appearances, races and genders, the cast of Cloud Atlas had at least three roles assigned to them. Each role had a varying degree of importance, though it could be argued that #TomHanks and #HalleBerry were the central characters.
The casting of Cloud Atlas attracted some controversy due to its depiction of race, since some of the white actors' roles were reincarnated into Asian characters - which were in turn still played by white actors in make-up. The Wachowskis responded, saying that Cloud Atlas was about the "continuity of souls", and emphasized that the multiple roles were integral to the movie's depiction of reincarnation.
As you can see from the examples above, Michael Fassbender is adding his name to an impressive list of actors who were brave enough to take on multiple roles for a movie. Be sure to check out his performance when Alien: Covenant hits theaters on May 19, 2017.
What other movies do you know that feature an actor playing more than one character? Share your favorites in the comments section below!