Has Anyone Ever Done This? (Making Movies With Star Lookalikes)?

This has been done in the music world-hire studio musicians to sing /record hit songs by real stars. How about the movies?
Suppose you (movie producer) balk at paying Brad Pitt his demanded $12 million-so your talent scouts find a competent actor who looks like Pitt.
The guy wil work for $200,000.
Obviously, you can save a lot of money-so you give the guy a new stage name-say, Bradley Pitte.
Could you get away with this?

Well, not only could you, people DO get away with it. They’ve been doing this for years, replacing stars with other stars. The latest blonde bombshell replaces the old, the latest gangster movie star replaces the old, and so on.

But as for getting someone, say, EXACTLY like Brad Pitt, no, you couldn’t. For one thing, you’re not going to find someone who looks exactly like Brad Pitt, unless Brad has an identical twin we don’t know about. Brad Pitt is famous for his looks, but it’s not like movie producers have some sort of “looks quotient” they have to fill and then say “Well, for this role we need at least an 85/100, and Brad’s a 90, so he’s good enough.” Lots of actors are as handsome as Brad Pitt, but they aren’t him, don’t have his name and the box office draw he has.

A case in point; Matthew McConaghey. He’s basically just as good looking as Brad Pitt, and he’s not nearly as expensive. So why doesn’t he get all of Brad’s work? Because he isn’t Brad Pitt, so matter how good looking he is.

The other thing is that you can’t just go out and find a “competent actor” who looks like Brad Pitt. For one thing, Pitt is not a competent actor; he’s an excellent actor, and if you replace him with a merely competent actor you’re getting an inferior actor. For another, while I realize acting looks easy, it’s not. It’s a skilled profession and while there’s a lot of actors around, most of them aren’t very good. People with looks AND acting skill are not common. If acting was that easily learned they’d just keep hiring models and throwing them in acting classes - but as a quick glance at the ranks of actors will demonstrate, while models-turned-actresses can sometimes act, quite often they can’t, no matter how much practice they get.

There is a long history in Hollywood of developing stars who resembled an established star in terms of personality and looks. Sal Mineo, for instance, was a knock off of James Dean. Rock Hudson started out as a Cary Grant type, though he developed a presence all his own. Harold Lloyd was originally an imitator of Chaplin (in the sense that he deliberately tried to look exactly the opposite of Chaplin) until he gave that up and created his “glasses character” that made him a star. Joan Bennett was a substitute of Hedy Lamarr. Roman Navarro was promoted as a substitute for Rudolph Valentino. Anna Sten was supposed to rival Greta Garbo.

Unless the actor could develop a persona of his own, it didn’t work. The real thing was usually available and making movies. People who loved the actor wanted that actor (much like people who love Coke will only drink Coke). If the actor was talented, they could develop their own personality and become a star, but not if they were sticking to roles the bigger star could play.

Back in the 1930s, there was a famous Hollywood brothel that used lookalikes for stars. Some were said to have plastic surgery to make the resemblance greater. The movie L. A. Confidential used this, a bit of real history.

The music comparison is just silly. Using soundalikes to reproduce groups on compilation albums is barely over legal fraud. And it doesn’t get done very much any more because people won’t buy them if they know the truth. Riding the fad is better business. There were a hundred Elvis soundalikes in the late 50s and early 60s and a handful had actual hits. You don’t remember any of them though.

People will accept substitutes, but they won’t go for fraud. Your idea is fraud. Substitutes are everywhere.

There is quite a potential cast availablehere.
However, I can see multiple lawsuits if you used, for instance, the Cher look-alike in a film for a major role, especially if it were not parody. If you had that impersonator simply stay in Cher character but play a lawyer or doctor or something, well - the real Cher would be able to sue them.

It is one thing to have a parody of a famous celebrity show up in a film, where it is quite clear that that is not the “real” celebrity - but quite another to make an attempt to pass off a celebrity in a film as the real thing.

They have on occasion replaced a star in a long-running series with a look-alike if the original is dead or otherwise unavailable. It usually isn’t very successful.

I think it was Herschel Bernardi who said that an acting career has five stages:

Stage 1: “Who is Herschel Bernardi?”

Stage 2: “Get me Herschel Bernardi!”

Stage 3: "Get me a Herschel Bernardi!

Stage 4: “Get me a young Herschel Bernardi!”

Stage 5: “Who is Herschel Bernardi?”

Would Final Fantasy: the spirits within count?

You have your Sandra Bullock, your Ben Affleck

There are talent agency’s that provide star look alikes for partys, corporate events, trade shows etc.
I’ve seen some on tv that are very close to the real thing. Legally they can’t claim to be a famous star. But they sure look like them.

The odds of finding a Brad Pitt look alike are very good. Does the look alike have any acting talent? Probably not. Certainly he wouldn’t have the training or experience of a professional like Brad.

The porn industry has done this for years. Seems like a couple of years ago, there was a video called** Nailin’ Palin**, with a lookalike for the VP candidate getting her freak on.

In Bend It Like Beckham there seems to be a brief cameo by David and Victoria Beckham, but these roles are actually played by uncredited professional Posh/Becks doubles. I mention this more as an exception that proves the rule than a contradiction of your basic point, though. The doubles are seen only briefly from the back and don’t speak. While the characters react as if they’ve just seen two celebrities walk by, IIRC no one says “Look, it’s David Beckham!” or anything.

Since this use of celebrity doubles was so minor, and since the real David Beckham presumably approved the use of his name and likeness by the filmmakers (his name is in the title and the heroine has posters of him all over her room), then this is a very different situation from what the OP suggests.

Post-Back to the Future sequels, and the ensuing law suit, SAG in fact made it a rule that you can’t impersonate another performer with the intention of misleading the audience (as in using prosthetics to make it look like Crispin Glover was still playing George McFly).

BrotherCadfael writes:

> Stage 3: "Get me a Herschel Bernardi!

The line is actually “Get me a Herschel Bernardi type!”

That is, I can’t afford Herschel Bernardi, but I need someone like him for this part. Get me another actor who’s less well known but is somewhat similar to him. I should be able to afford such an actor.

Incidentally, I’ve heard these set of lines attributed to many different sources and used in reference to many different actors.

I seem to recall there were a lot of Kung-Fu flicks in the '70s and '80s that starred various Bruce Lee knockoffs - Asian actors who vaguely resembled Lee and were billed as Bruce Li, Bruce Le, Bruce Lei, etc.

And not exactly what the OP is looking for, but Gallagher, the watermelon smashing comic, for awhile had his brother touring in a similar act. I don’t recall the exact details, but at some point his brother broke off their business relationship, went off touring on his own as Gallagher Too, and ended getting sued.

Promptly followed by the gay porn flick, Getting Levi’s Johnston. Which supposedly sold better than Palin’s.

Not this part.
The Screen Actors Guild controls stage names (as used in film credits) and would not allow something so obviously & confusingly similar to an already existing name.

“Get me Steven Spielberg!”
“I’m afraid he’s unavailable.”
“Then get me his non-union Mexican equivalent!”

Slight hijack: Allow me to be the first to mention “Bowfinger” which is about a producer who does something much like this (along with some other amusing fraud).

Not true. The name only has to be one letter different. Case in point, Michael J. Fox added the middle initial to his name because there was already a Michael Fox registered.

Those were 2 people using their real names. SAG is sensible enough to treat that differently than an unknown actor wanting to create a screen name very similar to a well-known, superstar actor.