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A Layperson's Guide to Hollywood's Confusing Doppelgangers

By Cindy Davis | Guides | April 8, 2013 | Comments ()


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We're old, we're tired, or young or stupid, or forgetful or drunk...maybe some other combination therein. Whatever it is that causes our brains to short circuit trying to match actors and names doesn't really matter; what matters is our frustration. We've all hit that wall; "Hey, you remember that movie with Tom Hanks and that guy--John something, the one who looks like the other John in Children of a Lesser God--but it's not him, it's the one who was in Home Alone? Which one is he?"

No worries, I'm here to help clear things up. I've devised an idiotic foolproof bunch of nonsense system to help you keep everyone straight.


1. Jeff Bridges and Kurt Russell

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All floppy-haired and squinty-eyed, these two solid actors are only a year apart in age and as their careers have progressed, it hasn't gotten any easier to tell them apart. But which one likes to work with Terry Gilliam, and which with John Carpenter? Who played the Dude, and who, the King? Easy peasy...

Russell (Always picture him with a patch over his left eye): Tombstone reads: Snake Who Escaped the Backdraft, Fought the Troublesome Thing in China, Went Overboard to Graceland and Broke Through the Stargate.

Bridges (Always picture him in a robe, smoking a joint): Baker's Boy Knocked on Heaven's Gate, Nadine Answered; Starman Ran to the Last Picture Show, Saw King Kong, Was Blown Away; That Fisher King Dude Has Two Faces, Seabiscuit left the Scenes of the Crime through the Door in the Floor, Surfed Up to Tideland, Spent a Gritty Dog Year Staring at Goats with a Crazy Heart and landed in Tron.

Got it? (Yeah, me neither.)

2. Julia Stiles and Erika Christensen

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A Google image search will quickly reveal one of these thirty-something actresses is more prone to er...*revealing* herself; fully clothed, it can be difficult to discern their differences. But thanks to their prominent television roles, things are a little simpler: Stiles played Lumen on the fifth season of Showtime's "Dexter," while Christensen currently stars as Julia (uh-oh) in NBC's "Parenthood."

You may remember Stiles from the Bourne series, 10 Things I Hate About You; she also does stage work (Oleanna, The Vagina Monologues, Twelfth Night).

Christensen has leaned more toward television ("Third Rock from the Sun, The Practice, The Geena Davis Show, Six Degrees, Robot Chicken"); her film roles include Soderbergh's Traffic, Swimfan and The Upside of Anger.

But honestly, the easiest way to tell these two apart lies in that image search I mentioned. Stiles is modest; Christensen is, shall we say, less so?

3. Javier Bardem and Jeffrey Dean Morgan

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Yes, there's a physical resemblance here, but come on now--once either actor speaks--it should be easy to tell them apart (one has a heavy Spanish accent, one does not). But if that's not enough, just remember this:

Bardem = Very Bad Hair

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Morgan = Hair Not So Bad

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4. Amy Adams and Isla Fisher

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Okay people, this one's simple. Amy (left) is the one who actually acts (The Master, The Fighter, Doubt, Sunshine Cleaning, Julie and Julia); Isla (right) is the one who is married to Borat. Ta-da!


5. Bill Pullman and Bill Paxton

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Here, we move on to name confusion, rather than physical resemblance. I don't know exactly why we have such trouble mixing up these two actors, but so it goes. In this case, we'll go under the radar vs. big screen.

Pullman tends more (though not all) toward the *quieter* stuff: Lost Highway, The Killer Inside Me, The Serpent and the Rainbow, The Accidental Tourist, The Last Seduction, Brokedown Palace, Igby Goes Down; he has done some big box films such as Independence Day, Sleepless in Seattle...

Paxton, on the other hand, likes to be noticed: "Big Love, Hatfields & McCoys" Aliens, Titanic, Apollo 13, Twister and the Spy Kids series.

6. Keith David and David Keith

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You'd think it would be easy to tell them apart, but these two get me every time (note the similarities in expression and eyebrow usage!). I can't tell you how many times I've looked up An Officer and a Gentleman to reassure myself. But we can do this; we have the technology and voice is key.

David is the southern boy, he starred in the (ridiculously) prematurely cancelled "Lone Star," played Elvis in Heartbreak Hotel and the suicidal Sid with a drawl, alongside Richard Gere's Zack Mayo.


Keith, on the other hand, has a beautiful, booming voice (often used in voiceover animation and video games). Where David slings and slurs his words, Keith is all power and gravitas; he narrates "The Bible," voices "Adventure Time's" Flame King, and delighted as "The Cape's" Max Malini. Here on out, I'll remember him as Keith Go Boom(ing...as in voice).


7. William Hurt and John Heard...and sometimes John Hurt

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This trio carries the one-two punch of look-alikes and name similarities. First up, the easily confusable John Heard and William Hurt. And speaking of punches, here's a quick way to tell these actors apart:

William (left) is the one who physically abused then girlfriend/actress Marlee Matlin. Hurt also starred in "Damages," A History of Violence and I Love You to Death.

John Heard (right) is not known to be violent; he played the dad in Home Alone, starred alongside Tom Hanks in Big, and done many television stints ("The Sopranos, Jack and Bobby, Prison Break" and "Entourage").


But you should never confuse him with our beloved and brilliant John Hurt:

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Hurt may first have caught your attention as The Elephant Man or in Alien; perhaps you know him from Nineteen Eighty-Four or "An Englishman in New York, Merlin," Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Harry Potter or Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; V for Vendetta, Crime and Punishment or Dogville; soon he'll appear on "Doctor Who." Simply remember him as the best.

8. The Other Three Baldwin Brothers

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So you all know the one on the far left, that's Alec, of course. We recognize him by the twinkle in his eye and the anger on his Twitter feed. But what about the rest of the boys? The other three have decidedly less twinkle and star power--I'm pretty sure we know them more for their personal antics than the stuff they've filmed.

Since there are so many, I've decided to borrow from Snow White's pals, those pesky dwarfs.

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Stephen (left) = Squinty/Sneezy (You just try sneezing without squinting)

Billy (right) = Happy (He's always smiling)


And finally...

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Daniel = Dopey (for obvious reasons)


Cindy Davis, (Twitter) has no double.







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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • shoegaze

    Pamela Adlon and Constance Zimmer. Eerie.

    http://notesfromahack.blogspot...

  • Don't forget that Keith David voiced Goliath in Disney's Gargoyles series.

  • mudywaters

    Tom Hardy and Logan Marshall-Green. One is a great actor and one is dating Marisa Tomei. It's a tough choice...

  • SottoVoce

    Dylan McDermott/Eric McCormack, Helen Hunt/Holly Hunter, and one immortalized in song, Bruce Springsteen/Rick Springfield.

  • KC

    OK I'm just pissed you forgot to include Dermot McDermott.

  • Mitchell Hundred

    Aaron Eckhart and Denis Leary. Even though I saw the trailer a few times, I didn't realize that Denis Leary was in The Amazing Spiderman until he went on The Daily Show to plug it.

  • MissAmynae

    Pullman was Prince Lone Star, Paxton was Chet in Weird Science.

    Keith David will always be Goliath from "Gargoyles" for me. Just a stunningly beautiful voice.

  • John W

    Other similarities of Russell and Bridges both are extremely versatile actors.

    Both have starred in comedies, sci-fi, westerns, and straight up dramas.

    It's why I like them so much.

    One difference: Jeff did his own singing in Crazy Heart. Kurt had to resort to lip synching for Elvis.

  • John W

    The caption for the Baldwin photo: "Which one of these is not like the others."

  • e jerry powell

    I don't know how, but never in my life have I ever managed to mistake a Russell for a Bridges. Maybe because Kurt Russell is a former child star and the Bridges boys are Hollywood Legacies. Nor have I ever mistaken any Bridges boys for Douglases. Not Michael for Beau or Jeff, not Lloyd for Kirk.

    I never had a problem with the Baldwins, either, although they all have the same anger issues. Alec has always been the fuckable one, Billy has always been option #2, Stephen is the batshit crazy one (and that's saying something, considering), and Daniel is the world's dumbest one who resents Billy's (relatively) more successful Hollywood Legacy wife. I mean, the man plays a character named Moe Kitchener. Who does that?

  • Bedewcrock

    I was convinced Tom Hardy was in Prometheus and told many, many people until I realized it was Logan Marshall-Green. Also, Marshall-Green has an identical twin brother. Jeezus.

  • cicatricella

    whoa, that's uncanny

  • Lynnxx

    What about Dylan McDermott vs Dermot Mulroney? Gah

  • Lillimae

    Haha...my mom and I always just used to call both of them "Dermot McDermott".

  • lowercase_ryan

    You know what good ol Jack Burton says at a time like this?

    Buy a Kia.

  • Samantha Klein

    You forgot to mention the most distinguishing feature in the Bardem vs. Morgan discussion, which is that Bardem is seriously talented, whereas Morgan is stretching his 15 minutes out a bit by getting confused with Bardem (and sometimes Gerard Butler? I don't see it.)

    Also, Bardem is way hotter. :)

  • Stephen Baltz

    always have problems with josh duhamel and timothy olyphant

  • amy

    Can anyone explain Christopher Meloni vs Elias Koteas?

    https://i.chzbgr.com/maxW500/3...

  • Bedewcrock

    Elias Koteas is usually skinnier and eviler? Plus Koteas was the deadbeat brother of Kirstie Alley in Look Who's Talking Too. Wily, skinny....etc.

    Christopher Meloni is way more muscly and has lots of tattoos depicting Catholic icons.

  • Lauren_Lauren

    One of them is sexy and one of them is Canadian.

  • TenaciousJP

    How did you get through this whole column without comparing Dylan McDermot and Dermot Mulroney? Didn't SNL teach you anything?

  • kirbyjay

    Yes! Dylan Mulroney and Dermot McDermott. Isn't one of them on Grey's Anatomy playing McDreamySteamy?

  • BWeaves

    Yes, I always get those two confused.

    And anyone named Skarsgard or Saarsgard or Scotchguard.

  • shg

    THe one that always gets me, and even they have made comments about it, are Tom Sizemore and Michael Madsen! They were in "Pauly Shore is Dead" (his "come back" movie from around 2003) and did a bit about not being able to tell which one was which.

  • kirbyjay

    YES!! Me too. And may I say that I love Tom Sizemore despite his fuckedupedness.

  • Neon

    How about Minka Kelly (from Friday Night Lights) and Leighton Meester (from Gossip Girl)?

  • psykins

    I am constantly mixing up Rob Lowe and John Stamos. Especially when it comes to remembering that John Stamos exists...

  • Gigi Agius

    Gary Busey/Nick Nolte should definitely be on this list!

  • DeltaJuliet

    Now, I'm not even sure if I KNEW that William Hurt and John Heard are two different people, or if I had been thinking they were the same person all this time......

  • kirbyjay

    Not only is there a William Hurt and a John Hurt but somewhere there was an actressing ex-wife of one of them named Marybeth Hurt

  • barlowjk

    Bardem and Morgan may be distinguished by the bridge of the nose. Bardem's is positively leonine.

  • Mrs. Julien

    When I think of Jeffrey Dean Morgan, I remember that line from Friends "the one who looks like a non-threatening Ray Liotta?". It's like Morgan is the PG13 version of Bardem.

  • Kballs

    The Pullman/Paxton confusion is also due to the two-syllable last names that start with a P and end with an N. I've stopped trying to separate their names and just say, "It has Bill Paxton . . . or Pullman, whichever one played (1. Chet in Weird Science; 2. the president in Independence Day). Then I make the other person figure it out for me because I like watching their confused face mirroring mine.

  • toblerone

    Kristanna Loken / Olivia Wilde / Laura Ramsey

    Laura Ramsey is the hottest of the 3.

  • lowercase_ryan

    This is bunk, as discussed previously you are anti-Olivia.

  • toblerone

    Also Kristen Bell and Caroline Dhavernas? Sisters at least no?

  • Do not do this!

  • Kballs

    I forgot Kristanna Loken existed and have no idea who Laura Ramsey is, so I dodged that bullet.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Jason Robards/James Coburn/Lee Marvin

    Now they're all dead, they look even more alike!

  • SottoVoce

    Good to know, although the implied grave molesting is a tad disturbing.

  • denesteak

    But, more importantly, from Save the Last Dance!! How could you forget that???

    Also, The Amy Adams/Isla Fisher one is easy. God bless Isla with perfect tits; it's only right that people should know that.

  • barlowjk

    That Fisher was in Bachelorette, and Adams in Leap Year, somewhat confuses the distinction made above.

  • I could not finish watching Leap Year. It was so dreadful and the characters such awful people...

  • $27019454

    I'll never not associate John Hurt with Midnight Express.

    Also, Kurt Russell and Jeff Bridges were both pants-droppingly hot in their day (it's still their day, IMO) and (until recently with Academy Award) were criminally under-rated and usually the best thing in any movie they were in.

  • prairiegirl

    I used to get Zooey Deschanel, Emily Blunt, and Katy Perry completely and utterly mixed up. I can mostly distinguish them now but seriously - check them out side by side and tell me they couldn't be sisters.

  • MissAmynae

    Throw Alison Brie in that pile. And then jump in it.

  • toblerone

    I totally get Zooey / Katy (Katy being the cheap plastic blow-up doll version of Zooey) but Emily Blunt is a Goddess and has no equal.

  • Bedewcrock

    Plus Emily Blunt rarely has bangs and has a British accent. She's the loveliest.

    Here's the only pic of Zooey/Katy together:

  • BWeaves

    Bardem and Morgan need to have their DNA checked. If they aren't related somewhere back in time, I'll eat my hat. (Note: I don't wear hats.)

    Possible movie title: Conjoined Cohones

    Plot: Siamese twins are raised by different parents. One is raised by a rich American family and the other is raised by their illegal immigrant maid. (OK, that would explain the accent.) Hijinks ensue when one twin gets accepted into Harvard and the other is deported to Elbonia.

  • Lauren Frank

    Nora. I agree that Francisco`s rep0rt is something... yesterday I got a brand new Toyota after having made $5410 this past 4 weeks and would you believe, ten k lass-month. without a doubt it is the coolest job I've ever done. I began this seven months/ago and straight away got minimum $79.. per-hour. I use this website, Big31.com

  • BWeaves

    AND YOU STILL DIDN'T LABEL HALF THE PHOTOS, SO I'M STILL CONFUSED.

    See also: Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel.
    Gary Oldman and John Hurt.
    Maggie Smith and Geraldine McEwan
    Seth Rogen and Daniel Carlson

    See also: Every woman in California with cat eyes, fake hair, fake tits and a fake tan.

  • BendinIntheWind

    I have never in my life confused Kurt Russell and Jeff Bridges, but the order of the photos and their attributed names nearly caused me to have a stroke. Same with David Keith/Keith David. Lots of staring and questioning my sanity.

    Please spare my brain and put the photos and their corresponding names in the same order! Now I just keep thinking "David Keith Keith David David Keith..." over and over and over... It's like when you type a word one too many times and it doesn't seem like a real word anymore. Now I'm not even convinced they're real people.

  • kirbyjay

    Keith David was the best part of Platoon

  • I rest my case. And I swapped them around for you a little. Drink, and try again!

  • BendinIntheWind

    Hooray, alcohol! The cause and solution to all of life's problems!

  • Strand

    I've always tried to remember the Baldwins as
    -Alec: The one that enjoys regular employment.
    -Billy: The dude from Virus and Gossip Girl. Probably the most physically differentiated of the brood.
    -Stephen: Usual Suspects, the washed-up one who went Kirk Cameron.

    Wait... there's ANOTHER one?

  • Bert_McGurt

    And surprisingly, NONE of them are actually bald.

  • DataAngel

    Danny Baldwin, the one I almost hit with my car when they were filming Homicide (life on the streets) because I was busy going "Holy shit, Danny Baldwin! I wonder if Richard Belzer is around here somewhere?!"

    To be fair, Baldwin was jaywalking.

  • BWeaves

    Adam, the non-Baldwin Baldwin.

  • DataAngel

    I'm just glad that I'm not the only one who gets Bill Pullman and Bill Paxton confused.

  • Two thoughts (obviously connected in my twisted brain):

    1. The rest of the day I'm thinking Amy Adams and Isla Fisher menage...just saying.
    2. While Alec has often shown himself to have douche-y proclivities, it's the self-satisfied smirks that make me instinctively want to punch the other Baldwins. Those smirks have always been there, but set beside each other become so obvious.

  • kirbyjay

    That pic of the Brothers Baldwin makes me think that Steven, Daniel, Billy ( in that order) were prototypes until the mad scientist finally got Alec right

  • Erica O.

    I tell Paxton/Pullman apart based on the level of crazy hidden within them there eyes. You wouldn't catch Bill Pullman eviscerating a dude in a seedy bar and then asking, "Lemme tap dance on him, won't ya?" And if Near Dark didn't exist, Paxton's game over in Aliens about sums it up.

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