Most of us understand by now that not all actors and actresses are willing to perform every stunt and every romantic scene. Regardless, the audience should never be able to tell that there’s an obvious stand-in double doing the work because we truly want to believe in what we’re seeing. Anyway, as it turns out, more often than one would think, we’re really watching the double on-screen. Here’s a list of the moments you didn’t realize you were really watching a double.
Lena Headey – Game of Thrones
Lena Headey plays Cersei Lannister on ‘Game of Thrones’. Her evil character was meant with a helping of karma when she was stripped down to be shamed through the streets of King’s Landing in nothing but her party suit. The scene is as intense as it gets as her character goes through the most humiliating experience of her life. However, what you might not know is that Lena Headey wasn’t the actress you were watching take a literal walk of shame. The entire walk is performed by a body double seamlessly merged with Headey’s facial expressions and body language to make one awkward, horrible trek to the Red Keep.
Natalie Portman – Thor: The Dark World
The passionate kiss between Thor and Jane Foster in Thor: The Dark World’s heavily anticipated post-credits scene is one of the steamiest moments Marvel has created. What you may not have realized is that Chris Hemsworth isn’t making out with his co-star Natalie Portman, but his real-life wife, Spanish actress Elsa Pataky. Portman was later interviewed when she said, ” was working in Hong Kong and I couldn’t get there because I was working on my own film,” Portman told the New York Daily News, “and so they put his wife in my wig and costume, that’s why it was so passionate.” Chris recalled showing up to the set that day and he was awkwardly asked to choose between a few stand-ins to make out with on screen. He suggested that his wife was right around the corner and he’d rather kiss her so he didn’t have to explain anything weird about his day later. Smart man…
Paul Walker – Furious 7
‘Furious 7’ was almost halfway done filming when Paul Walker tragically died in a car-wreck. As the star of the film, there was no way to move forward without him, and there simply wasn’t enough filmed already to try to piece a movie together. After shutting down production temporarily and consulting with Walker’s family, his two brothers offered to stand in for him for the rest of the scenes. It made little difference for the audience because his brothers both have a similar body-type and CGI was able to cover the rest.
Brandon Lee – The Crow
Brandon Lee, the son of legendary martial artist Bruce Lee, was expected to take Hollywood by storm. Even though he had big shoes to fill, he had plenty of charisma for a bright future. Tragically, on-set while filming ‘The Crow’, Lee was fatally shot by a prop gun that had a live round in the chamber. Lee’s friend and stunt double, Chad Stahelski, stood in for him for the remaining eight days of filming while special effects were used to give him Lee’s face.
Harrison Ford – Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
While filming ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’, Harrison Ford suffered a severe back injury, immobilizing him for weeks. Steven Spielberg was prepared and simply swapped Ford for his longtime stunt double Vic Armstrong. Armstrong looked and moved so much like Ford that Spielberg accidentally called him Harrison multiple times. A great portion of the film’s action scenes were filmed with Ford ever being on-set.
Jennifer Aniston – Friends
Friends was a massive success and Jennifer Aniston is arguably the biggest star it produced. One might think that they were all there for every moment of this incredible sitcom. However, in a random episode from the ninth season, a fan watching a Friends marathon happened to notice one scene when Aniston is standing next to Matt Leblanc, but it wasn’t Aniston at all. The presence of a stand-in isn’t unusual, however, it’s just that they typically don’t end up in the final cut.
Oliver Reed – Gladiator
British actor Oliver Reed died in 1999 after a night of heavy drinking. Reed gave his own obituary, which began, “I died in a bar of a heart attack full of laughter.” It caused a major headache for the cast and crew of Gladiator, which he was filming before his demise. Reed’s death forced the Gladiator team to rewrite the film’s ending, and it still required quite a bit of visual trickery to pull together. Reed’s remaining performance was pieced together from outtakes. The rest of the time, especially during wide shots, a body double with Reed’s face digitally attached filled the void.
Bruce Lee – Game of Death
‘Enter the Dragon’ might be the most important martial arts film ever made. Bruce Lee had to take a break from ‘Game Of Death’ (his mysterious film which was never finished due to an untimely death) to work on ‘Enter the Dragon’. Lee died of a brain edema on July 20, 1973, just a month before ‘Enter the Dragon’ hit screens. They only shot 40 minutes of film with Lee, leaving Clouse (the director of ‘Game of Death’) free to create a brand-new plot. This allowed the director to work around Lee’s absence by crafting a story that had room for Lee’s previously filmed scenes. In addition to archival film, Clouse also hired stand-ins to play Billy Lo, Lee’s character in the new version of Game of Death. In Clouse’s Game of Death, Lo receives plastic surgery after a brutal fight and later fakes his own death and wears a disguise, making it easy for Clouse to replace Lee with actors like Kim Tai-chung and Yuen Biao.
Michael Pitt – Hannibal
Pitt delivers a performance equal parts electric and terrifying as Verger in Hannibal, who showrunner Bryan Fuller called “The Joker to Hannibal’s Batman,” until Verger finally falls under Hannibal’s spell and suffers a grisly fate near the end of the season. But while Mason and Margo Verger return in Hannibal Season 3, Pitt decided to pass for unknown reasons. When Mason reappears, ready for revenge against everyone’s favorite cannibal, Joe Anderson appears in the role—even though Pitt and Anderson look nothing alike.
Nicholas Brendon – Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Donovan made his most memorable appearance on Buffy in the fifth season episode “The Replacement,” in which a demon creates a second Xander who threatens to take over the original’s life. According to a post on Nicholas Brendon’s now-defunct website, Brendon did most of the heavy lifting in the episode—Donovan was supposed to be more of a stand-in, although he turned in such a convincing performance that Brendon, Donovan, and Brendon’s wife Tressa di Figlia couldn’t tell them apart. In the episode “Intervention,” Donovan replaced Brendon entirely during some action scenes, as Brendon had pneumonia and couldn’t come to the set.
Crispin Glover – Back to the Future Part 2
This may be the ultimate actor switcheroo. So egregious was this swap that it resulted in not just a lawsuit against the producers, but new regulations from the Screen Actors Guild to prevent it from ever happening again. Crispin Glover refused to reprise his role as George McFly in the sequels to Back to the Future due to a dispute over his salary or ethical concerns about the moral of the movie. Unable to come to an agreement with Glover, producers recast the role with Jeffrey Weissman. They then covered Weissman in make-up and prosthetics that had been cast from Glover’s face in the first movie when they aged him in the scenes when he’s older. Weissman became a Crispin Glover doppelganger, basically trading on the actor’s appearance without actually using him. After Glover’s lawsuit, which he won, the Screen Actor’s Guild made it a rule that no actor’s likeness could ever be stolen from that point moving forward.
Gene Hackman – Superman II
With director Richard Donner at the helm and Christopher Reeve wearing the cape, the original Superman made $300 million at the worldwide box office. After success like that, you’d expect Donner to return for the sequel. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. During filming, Donner argued with producers Ilya and Alexander Salkind about the film’s budget, and although Donner had already filmed roughly 75% of Superman II, during the production of the first film, he was replaced by ‘A Hard Day’s Night’s’ Richard Lester. In order to secure a director’s credit, Lester reshot quite a bit of Donner’s footage, substantially changing Superman II’s story and tone in the process.
Josh Pence – The Social Network
In 2010, Armie Hammer made headlines (and picked up a couple of awards) for his portrayal of Olympic athletes, would-be entrepreneurs, and identical twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, but he couldn’t have done it alone. On the set, Tyler was actually played by Draft Day and Gangster Squad star Josh Pence. Later, Pence’s face was digitally replaced by Hammer’s by The Social Network’s special effects team.
Josh Dallas – Thor: The Dark World
For such a small role, Marvel Studios sure had a lot of trouble casting Fandral the Dashing, the Warriors Three’s swashbuckling lothario. Between Thor’s premiere and the start of filming on Thor: The Dark World, Dallas landed the plum role of Prince Charming on ABC’s fairytale drama Once Upon a Time. Because of Once Upon a Time’s rigorous shooting schedule, Dallas couldn’t join his fellow Warriors for their big screen return, and Marvel needed to recast the part. Their choice? Zachary Levi, of course, who was finally free to take the role after Chuck’s five-season run came to an end. Thanks to Fandral’s signature facial hair (and, honestly, his limited screen time), Levi effortlessly picked up right where Dallas left off, leaving audiences none the wiser.
Penelope Cruz – Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Mónica Cruz has been an accomplished dancer and actress for years, and while she has featured roles in movies like Asterix at the Olympic Games, Last Hour, and Jerry Cotton, she’s probably most famous in America for her part in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides—in which she played her sister, Penélope. Penélope took over from Keira Knightley as Pirates of the Caribbean’s female lead in Rob Marshall’s 2010 sequel, in which she played Angelica, Jack Sparrow’s love interest. However, while filming, Penélope learned that she was pregnant. In order to minimize the risk to Penélope’s unborn baby, Marshall hired Mónica (who, despite being three years younger, looks quite a bit like her older sister) to serve as a stand-in.
Shemp – The Three Stooges
Shemp Howard of the Three Stooges was contracted along with the other Stooges to produce eight films in 1956. Unfortunately, four films into the contract, Shemp Howard died of a heart attack at age 60. And in the 1950s, no one gave a damn if you died or not, your contract needed to be fulfilled. Thus was born the “Fake Shemp.” Producer Jules White set about producing four brand new films, each starring Shemp, by cutting together footage from older Stooges films with new scenes featuring Joe Palma, an actor who had long filled supporting roles in Stooges films. They just filmed him from behind or with his face obscured.
The Cast of Evil Dead