Even with the movie-making styles and special effects of today, a film scene doesn’t usually become memorable without the skills of an actor; just try imagining anyone but James Earl Jones uttering, “I am your father,” or The Godfather without Marlon Brando’s Vito Corleone. Without the talents of these performers, would these moments really have been so iconic?
Believe it or not, the answer isn’t so black and white. While most of the scenes you know and love were performed by the actors themselves, a handful of Hollywood’s greatest sequences and shots were actually carried out by stunt doubles and stand-ins. So take a closer look next time you watch some of your favorite films, as even on the big screen, things aren’t always as they seem…
1. Harrison Ford: The conveyor belt battle in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is one of the franchise’s most iconic, though Harrison Ford watched the whole thing from the sidelines. After hurting his back, Ford’s stunt double Vic Armstong took his place.
Movieclips / YouTube
2. Penélope Cruz: If Cruz’s swordplay and action work in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides impressed you, you’ll be disappointed to learn it wasn’t her. Cruz’s sister, Monica, actually took her place after the leading lady discovered she was pregnant.
3. Bruce Lee: While Bruce Lee did finish Enter the Dragon before his untimely death in 1973, his film The Game of Death was left incomplete. To finish it, the studio used body doubles and even a cardboard cutout of Lee to replace the legendary martial artist.
4. Jennifer Aniston: Most sitcoms pride themselves on flawless execution, but even a beloved series like Friends slipped up here and there. In fact, this brief shot manages to catch a glimpse of a stand-in that looks nothing like Jennifer Aniston!
5. Courteney Cox: Friends just can’t seem to get it right with their stand-ins, as in this scene you can very clearly see that the brunette in the second shot is not Courteney Cox. Whoever directed this episode surely could’ve used a crash course on framing…
6. Crispin Glover: After a contract dispute, Crispin Glover refused to reprise his role as George McFly in Back to the Future Part II. To make up for his absence, the studio molded the prosthetics Glover used in the first film onto actor Jeffrey Weissman.
7. Hugo Weaving: Though his role as V in V for Vendetta earned him acclaim, Weaving wasn’t the only man behind the mask. English actor James Purefoy shot six weeks’ worth of film as V before quitting, and some of his scenes were used in the final cut.
8. Bela Lugosi: Technically, Bela Lugosi never actually agreed to his role in 1959’s Plan 9 From Outer Space. The film was made three years after his death, with director Ed Wood using a combination of stock footage and a lookalike (who constantly covered his face) to recreate the iconic actor.
9. Natalie Portman: Who could forget such a passionate kiss at the end of Thor: The Dark World? As it turns out, though, Natalie Portman wasn’t the one doing the smooching. Instead, Chris Hemsworth’s wife, Elsa Pataky, stepped in to lock lips with the Asgardian hero.
10. Brandon Lee: Though Lee’s death was just as tragic as his father’s, his post-mortem replacement thankfully wasn’t a cardboard cutout. The late star’s face was superimposed over his stunt double’s, making Lee the first actor to be revived on screen in such a way.
11. Armie Hammer: For those that didn’t already know, Armie Hammer does not have a twin brother. So, to play the role of both Winklevoss twins in The Social Network, the studio grafted Hammer’s face onto his body double, Josh Pence.
12. Gene Hackman: 1980’s Superman II was plagued with difficulties, and things eventually got so bad that Gene Hackman stopped showing up to set. For the rest of the shoot, director Richard Lester made do with body doubles and voice impersonation.
13. Peter Cushing: Thanks to CGI and the impersonation skills of Guy Henry, Peter Cushing reprised the role of Grand Moff Tarkin in 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story despite losing his life to prostate cancer 22 years earlier.
Slash Film / Little White Lies
14. Hugh Jackman: Hollywood studios have nearly mastered the art of illusion, so don’t kick yourself if you believed the man driving the limo in Logan was Hugh Jackman. His likeness was actually CGI imposed onto a stunt driver.
15. Hugo Weaving (Again): Though Weaving established himself as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger, he was later replaced by impressionist Ross Marquand in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War.
Fandom / IGN
16. Paul Walker: Everyone’s seen this heartwrenching end scene from Furious 7, but what’s heartbreaking is that this wasn’t Paul Walker. The actor’s brothers, Caleb and Cody, stood in for many of the film’s later scenes after Walker was killed in 2013.
17. Nicholas Brendon: When the writers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer pitched the episode “The Replacement,” they knew they’d need an actor that resembled Nicholas Brendon. And so, Brandon’s twin, Kelly Donovan, stepped in and mimicked his brother perfectly.
18. Bruce Campbell: Low-budget horror flicks usually have a tendency to get creative with their casting, and 1981’s The Evil Dead was no different. According to Bruce Campbell, director Sam Raimi used 18 different stand-ins over the course of filming.
19. Peter Sellers: Though Peter Sellers passed in 1980, director Blake Edwards still sought to keep the Pink Panther alive. So, to create 1982’s The Trail of the Pink Panther, Edwards used body doubles and outtakes from previous films for most of the film.
20. Alessandra Torresani: Cast as George Michael’s girlfriend Ann Veal, Torresani was replaced by Mae Whitman in the second season. The character was written as bland and forgettable, so maybe this was a good thing for Torresani…
Bustle / Entertainment Weekly
In Hollywood today, CGI is so prevalent that more and more actors are finding themselves replaced by fantastical characters. Take 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy; on set, a tall guy with a literal Groot helmet played the Flora colossus, and Rocket Raccoon was really just a crouching, angry-looking Sean Gunn.
2. Jurassic World: Guardians wasn’t Chris Pratt’s only foray into the world of CGI. In the 2015 follow-up to the beloved Jurassic Park franchise, Owen — played by Chris Pratt — quite literally had his back to the wall as velociraptors surrounded him in a tense, terrifying scene. But before digital effects?
Before special effects brought the raptors to life, Pratt faced-off with the on-set equivalent of three poodles in a trench coat: four guys slightly crouched in raptor helmets. It doesn’t exactly scream tense and terrifying.
3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: As Hermione walked with Harry through the Hogwarts library in the sixth film of the eight-film franchise, her returned books floated back into place magically. On set…?
Director David Yates didn’t rely on a well-placed Wingardium Leviosa spell to place those books back on the shelves; instead, the muggles on set donned green gloves and grabbed the books out of her hands. No magic here.
4. District 9: With just a $30 million budget, director and CGI-guru Neill Blomkamp delivered beautiful digital effects in the sci-fi flick by utilizing bright lights and keeping the alien prawns relatively simple (by CGI standards).
5. Superman Returns: “It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s a guy in a Superman costume suspended from wires in a green room with people lying beneath him and gusting him with portable fans!” (That line didn’t make it into the movie).
6. The Desolation of Smaug: When there weren’t any Screen Actors Guild-registered dragons available to play Smaug in the sequel to The Hobbit, director Peter Jackson required some digital effects to get the job done. On set, it looked a bit goofy.
See, Benedict Cumberbatch didn’t just lend his voice to Smaug. He studied lizards at a London Zoo so that he could accurately represent how a dragon might move, too! Motion capture cameras allowed him to play Smaug.
7. Rise of the Planet of the Apes: Andy Serkis is the leading motion capture performer in Hollywood, and he showed why with his award-nominated performance as Caesar in Rise. So, this photo features a man pretending to be an ape sitting on a horse.
8. Lord of the Rings: Serkis is most well known for his role as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, however. For some reason, a man in a skin-tight, bright blue suit is about as creepy as a shell of a man corrupted by an evil artifact.
9. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End: Davy Jones terrified viewers as captain of The Flying Dutchman, but as the film’s Animation Director, Hal Hickel said, “we don’t want audience members to think about this…Davy’s 100 percent computer generated.”
While cameras were rolling, The Flying Dutchman’s crew proved they understood fashion in a way the barnacle-covered pirates in the digitized, completed version of the film didn’t. The grey CGI suits were spooky.
10. The Avengers: In the 2012 blockbuster, The Hulk revealed a secret to Captain America: he’s always angry. In his motion-capture suit, Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo was angry, too. “I was…miserable,” he said. “A trained actor reduced to the state of a Chinese checkerboard.”
11. The Avengers: Ruffalo didn’t get any reprieve from his frustration during fight scenes, either, though his Chinese checkerboard did get upgraded—or downgraded?—with the addition of an incredibly green bulk.
12. The Twilight Saga: New Moon: Because petting an actual wolf might’ve cost actress Kristen Stewart her hand, director Christ Weitz had her gently stroke Taylor Lautner’s head, instead.
13. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Digital-effects guru Pablo Helman said the film’s director wanted “people to look at the characters and say, ‘How do they do this? Is this is a real character, is this makeup?'” None of the above. Just four guys with big backpacks.
14. Alice in Wonderland: When Alice strolled through the fauna of Wonderland in the 2010 remake of a classic, she passed brilliant mushrooms with lumbering, fat baby giants at her side. It didn’t look like that when cameras were rolling, though.
Turns out, Alice was just about the only real part of Wonderland. Producers and directors utilized people in CGI suits—and other CGI’d props like nerf balls—to ensure that actress Mia Wasikowska’s interactions with her surroundings felt authentic.
15. Beauty and the Beast: Before digital effects, The Beast, played by Dan Stevens, looked like a little kid in a superhero Halloween costume with stitched-in muscles while wearing his CGI suit. Still, that suit required some muscle to wear—it weighed 40 pounds!
16. Deadpool: Five actors played Colossus: one on set, one in the studio, a face model, a dialogue performer, and then a final facial performance actor. Did the on-set actor know he wasn’t just playing a giant in grey pajamas?
17. The Life of Pi: To put 17-year-old actor Suraj Sharma on a 20-foot lifeboat with a live tiger would’ve been dangerous at best and a bloodbath at worst, so the 2012’s films creators resorted to some less threatening digital effects.
While a real tiger played the part in certain scenes, a haphazardly sewn together stuffed doll with Sharpie eyes brilliantly performed the up-close-and-personal moments. The doll was not nominated for an Oscar, a true travesty.