The newest installment in the growing trend of sci-fi flicks with dramatic overtones is the interstitial space and time film "Cloud Atlas," co-directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski.
The movie's lofty plot hops through the past, present and future as relationships develop and re-develop through the pseudo-recurrent lives of characters portrayed by actors Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Sturgess, Susan Sarandon, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent and more. For the picture, which hits theaters this weekend, each of these thesps tackle up to half a dozen transformative roles and thereby join a bevy of other Hollywood heavyweights who've also nimbly maneuvered multiple on-screen personalities.
Here are some of our other favorites who've preceded them in portraying more than one man or woman (and sometimes both) on-screen.
One might consider the "Grindhouse" segments "Planet Terror" and "Death Proof" to be distinct films since they were each full-length and directed separately by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, but since the features were released to theaters as one, Rose McGowan's double-take as Cherry Darling and Pam counts for our list. In the first, McGowan's Cherry is a survivor through and through. Instead of letting a leg loss (to zombies, no less) slow her down, she makes herself into a cyborg killing machine. Good - albeit gory - stuff. For the second, she's not quite so fortunate. Her Pam, a local barfly, immediately falls victim to the crazy road rampage of a former stunt man-gone-psychopath who's out for his idea of a small town good time. The differences were as clear as blonde and brunette, literally.
Warwick Davis first got a shot at switching on-screen personas for "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace," in which he portrayed Wald and a couple of other small (no pun intended) parts, but he really impressed with his fictional identity juggling skills in the "Harry Potter" franchise. From the first film to the last, he carried two parts - Professor of Charms Filius Flitwick and Griphook, the goblin banker. Both characters grew to become instrumental in the various adventures of the central leads but were completely dissimilar in appearance, demeanor and utility. Warwick Davis is unrecognizable in both, save for volume of talent.
Up-and-comer Armie Hammer submitted to some newish CGI techniques to accomplish twinning it up as the rowing uppercrust brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss for David Fincher's "The Social Network." His body stand-in, Josh Pence, hardly gets a mention thanks to Hammer's flawless ascension into both stuffy roles, although one might contend that the brothers were pretty much identical in more than just the realm of looks.
The unconquerable Ewan McGregor and his co-star Scarlett Johansson did some dualing of their own for Michael Bay's 2005 thriller "The Island." McGregor in particular stands out for his double-dipping for the flick because of the sheer polarity of his two versions, Lincoln Six Echo and Tom Lincoln. Clone Six Echo, until made aware of his coming fate, was a mystifyingly sweet and doe-eyed bundle of innocent curiosity, while his ritzy counterpart Tom was a rat bast*rd - pardon our French.
Oscar winner Kevin Kline has done his fair share of movie multiplicity (see also "Soapdish," "Fierce Creatures" and "Wild Wild West") but his seminal work in this fold took place in Ivan Reitman's political rom com "Dave." For the film, Kline convinced as both the crotchety and highly disfavored President Bill Mitchell and his affable look-alike Dave Kovic, who warily stepped into the presidential seat as the nation's leader fell into a coma.
Rich versus poor. The bourgeoisie versus the proletariat. One percenters versus the ninety-nine... It's an age-old dichotomy, but rarely do the players look so similar as they did for "The Man in the Iron Mask." Leonardo DiCaprio - then, fresh off a potentially typecasting back-to-back run as doomed dreamboats for "Romeo + Juliet" and "Titanic" - played both King Louis XIV and his poor, dungeon-dwelling brother Philippe in the period film. As with Kline's "Dave," disillusioned royal staffers tried to pull the old switcheroo with the boys and trouble quickly followed. DiCaprio's strength with both brothers marked the beginning of a new, post-heartthrob direction for his career.
Mike Myers' ability to transform into varying screen presences for one picture was first seen in the 1993 comedy horror "So I Married an Axe Murderer," in which he played both father and son, but his "Saturday Night Live" sketch character-jumping skills really shone through in the "Austin Powers" franchise. Without his commitment to goofiness of several sorts, there would be no Dr. Evil or Fat Bastard, baby. We'll just pretend "The Love Guru" never happened.
Spike Jonze's art-imitating-life-imitating-art mind twist that was aptly named "Adaptation" produced not just an unlikely transformation of literal work but also an all-new Nicolas Cage ... times two. Unlike Armie Hammer's bipartite task for "The Social Network," Cage's "Adaptation" twins were frustratingly different from one another. While both Kaufmans - Charlie (based on the real-life screenwriter) and Donald (a fictional derivation of the former) - were "screenwriters," only one inherited a respect for the craft. Too bad it was the other which enjoyed windfall success from his cheesy thriller script. The battle of wits which ensued produced some fascinating dialogue, to say the least, and Cage handled both sides beautifully.
Of all the troupers out there, the one with the most myriads of roles in individual films is definitely Eddie Murphy. Count "Vampire in Brooklyn," "Meet Dave," "The Nutty Professor" films and "Norbit" among his ventures in amping up his production value, but "Coming to America" stands out as Murphy's first and foremost instance of role-hopping. From his adorable Prince Akeem to the cartoonish, jheri curled soul singer Randy Watson to the bumbling barber Clarence and his most faithful client Saul, Murphy covered a lot of hilarious ground for the flick. Co-star Arsenio Hall, who also portrayed a quartet of zany characters for the flick, wasn't too shabby, either.