Doppelganger Movies

We take a look at the movies that had us seeing double…

ENEMY is released in Irish cinemas this week, and stars Jake Gyllenhaal in the dual lead role as Adam and Anthony; two men who seek one another out after realising they look exactly alike. The film is brought to us by PRISONERS director Denis Villeneuve, and is based on the book The Double by the late José Saramago.
Gyllenhaal does such a great job as Adam and his doppelganger, that decided to take a look back at other films which featured doubles, clones, twins or other such look alikes…


Richard Ayoade’s adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novella was released in Irish cinemas less than a year ago, and stars Jesse Eisenberg as Simon and his lookalike James.
Simon works for a data processing company and is completely in love with his co-worker Hanna (Mia Wasikowska), but is probably never going to do anything about it. When James is transferred in from a sister branch, Simon’s carefully ordered life is thrown into chaos; this newcomer looks exactly like him, yet no-one seems to be able to see it.
With THE DOUBLE, Ayoade not only steps away from his directorial debut SUBMARINE, but also channels Terry Gilliam’s BRAZIL to create a drab and grey world that is easily thrown into chaos. We may not truly get answers as to who James is, but Eisenberg is so strong in the leading roles, and Wasikowska is so warm, that answers are not the be all and end all of the film.


Richard Dreyfuss took on dual leading roles in Paul Mazursky’s remake of THE MAGNIFICENT FRAUD; MOON OVER PARADOR.
Dreyfuss plays Jack Noah, an actor who is filming in the small Souther American country of Parador. Little does Noah realise, but he is the spitting image of the country’s President, Alphonse Simms. Simms has set himself up as a dictator, and ‘President for Life’, but when he unexpectedly dies, Noah is drafted in to fool the nation, so the President’s right hand man Roberto Strausmann (Raul Juliá) can keep his position of power.
Much less an examination of life and existence as THE DOUBLE, and much more a switching places comedy, MOON OVER PARADOR has a strong cast and a wonderful performance from Richard Dreyfuss. The trouble is that the film was not well-received when it was first released, and failed to make back its budget of $20 million. A shame, as Dreyfuss is on wonderful form here, and Raul Julia was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance.


Steven Soderbergh’s 2002 film proudly proclaimed that it was not a remake of Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 film, but a new adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s 1961 novel. Whatever the case, Soderbergh’s version enjoyed a lack of solemnity, but shared the same ambiguous and unsettling feel as the first film.
Clinical psychologist Kelvin (George Clooney) is sent to a space station orbiting the planet Solaris, after reports that the crew is acting strangely. On his first night at the station, Kelvin awakens to find his dead wife Rheya (Natasha McElhone) alive again and beside him in bed. In shock, Kelvin jettisons Rheya in an escape pod, only to awaken the next day to find her beside him once more. This awakens questions of humanity and fate, which Kelvin must come to terms with, before Rheya harms herself again.
SOLARIS is not a doppelganger movie in the traditional sense – no two versions of Rheya appear on screen at the same time – but it is a film about clones and the nature of people as individuals. It is also a film about life, death and grief, as well as being a space epic in its own way. SOLARIS was generally well received on its release, and was praised as being a film that left the audience with issues to ponder.


Based on a true story, THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE tells the story of Latif Yahia (Dmonic Cooper), who is summoned to the palace and given an impossible choice; to become the body double for Uday Hussein – Saddam Hussein’s youngest son – or to allow his family to be tortured and killed if he refused. So Latif’s life – and his face – is changed so much as to become unrecognisable. He literally becomes the devil’s double.
Dominic Cooper impressed with his dual turn in Lee Tamahori’s film, capturing the essence of a man with no moral compass or scruples, and a man who feared for his very life. Although Latif Yahia’s claims that he was Uday Hussein’s body double have since been called into question, there is no doubt that THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE show’s Dominic Cooper at his strongest.


Based on Mark Twain’s story of the same name, THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER is a film that explores the repercussions and adventures that ensue, when Prince Edward of Wales and a commoner named Tom Canty trade places when they realise they look exactly alike. Each gets into scrapes and adventures, and pauper Tom Canty is almost crowned king after Henry VIII dies suddenly.
The film, which was not well received in cinemas, stars Oliver Reed, Mark Lester and Raquel Welch. In fact, the film was so savagely critiqued that it caused the 19-year-old Mark Lester to retire from acting.
THE PRICE AND THE PAUPER has been adapted several times since, including a Disney animated short starring Mickey Mouse, and a Disney Channel movie starring Dylan and Cole Spouse. The good news, however, is that Mark Lester is set to return to acting in the 2015 film 1066. Hurrah!


ENEMY is released in Irish cinemas on January 2nd, 2015

Words: Brogen Hayes