Dual role

A dual role (also known as a double role) refers to one actor playing two roles in a single production. Dual roles (or a larger number of roles for an actor) may be deliberately written into a script, or may instead be a choice made during production, often due to a low budget. In film and television, dual roles are often used for comic effect, or to depict identical twins. In a theatrical production where more than one actor plays multiple characters, it is sometimes referred to as an "Ironman" cast.


In theatre, the use of multiple roles may be budget-related, may be intended to give an accomplished actor more stage time or a greater challenge, or may be of thematic significance to the story. The combination of factors leading to such a decision may often remain unknown. For example, debate exists over the significance of William Shakespeare's use of dual roles, with a notable example being whether the characters of Cordelia and the Fool in King Lear were intended to be one and the same.

More recent examples include:

  • In stage productions of Peter Pan, it is a tradition for Mr. Darling and Captain Hook to be played by the same actor, a tradition often continued in film adaptations with the actors playing dual roles.
  • In the works of absurdists such as Tom Stoppard, characters played by the same actor are often of thematic significance.
  • In Tony Kushner's Angels in America, a cast of eight actors are each assigned multiple roles for reasons that may include encouraging the audience to consider the elasticity of gender and sexual identities.
  • In the musical Hamilton, four actors/actresses are cast in dual roles, each a major supporting character, with a change of roles between the first and second acts. The actors who play John Laurens/Philip Hamilton, Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson, and Hercules Mulligan/James Madison wear identical white costumes in the opening song, "Alexander Hamilton", and were given lines with intentional double meanings that would fit either of their dual roles.[1] The actress who plays Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds is also double cast.



The Prisoner of Zenda, based on a book about a lookalike who assumes the identity of a king, includes a dual role that has been played by Lewis Stone (1922 version), Ronald Colman (1937 version), Stewart Granger (1952 version), and Peter Sellers (1979 version).

An early and unusual example of double casting was the 1925 silent film Lady of the Night, in which two women were portrayed by Norma Shearer to spotlight their very different social classes, and nobody took any notice of their identical appearance.

In The Wizard of Oz (1939), the actors who played the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow also played farmhands in scenes set in Kansas. Margaret Hamilton played both the roles of Miss Gulch and the Wicked Witch of the West, and Frank Morgan played multiple characters in addition to the title role of the Wizard.

Lee Marvin won an Academy Award for Best Actor for a dual role in Cat Ballou (1965), and Nicolas Cage was nominated for Best Actor for a dual role in Adaptation (2002).

Jean-Claude Van Damme played a dual role in several movies : Double Impact in 1991, Double Team in 1997, Replicant in 2001.

Hayley Mills played a dual role in The Parent Trap, as did Lindsay Lohan in the 1998 remake.

In some low-budget films, actors have been cast in more than one role to save money. For example, in one of Peter Jackson's early films, Bad Taste, Jackson played two characters; in one scene, one of them tortures the other.

Multiple casting has been used for comic effect in film, with notable examples that include:

Particularly in comedies, multiple casting has often included the casting of an actor as multiple members of the same family. For example:

India and Bollywood

Prior to Bollywood, the first double role in Indian cinema was played by Ashok Kumar in his film Kismet in 1943. Later on several veterans like Dev Anand played double role in film Hum Dono 1961, Dharmendra in Izzat (1968),Yakeen(1969), Rajesh Khanna in film Sachha Jhutha (1970). Tamil film actor M. N. Nambiar played eleven parts in the early 1950s film Digambara Samiyar, as a sage using nine disguises to defeat an evil lawyer.

Telugu actor N.T.Rama Rao portrayed multiple characters in many of his films which also includes Mythlogical films from the 60s, He's known for playing Karna , Duryodhana and krishna in the famous film Daana veera soora karna, And his performance as identical twins in the film Ramudu Bheemudu(1964).

Starting in the 1970s, having a living double in a Bollywood film became "almost a genre in itself," according to filmmaker Govind Nihalani.[2] The first double role in Bollywood, played by Amitabh Bachchan, was in the film Bandhe Haath in 1973. Angoor (1982) featured two pairs of identical twins, played by Sanjeev Kumar and Deven Verma.

Kamal Hassan had ten roles in the 2008 film Dasavathaaram (The Ten Avatars). Sivaji Ganesan played nine roles in the Tamil film Navarathiri. Priyanka Chopra played the roles of twelve eligible girls in the movie What's Your Raashee?, and Mehmood Ali portrayed three generations of the Kapoor family (Prithviraj, Raj, and Randhir) in the movie Humjoli


In television, soap operas have commonly used the technique to either portray twins (or even similar looking relatives), or to bring an actor back whose character has been killed. In primetime television, since at least the 1960s, dual roles have been the basis or a key element in several comedies and dramas:

Dual casting has also been used as a stunt or gimmick in episodes of ongoing shows, often to create a one-time or recurring "evil twin" character as a counterpart for one or more of the lead characters:


  1. Miranda, Lin-Manuel; McCarter, Jeremy (2016). Hamilton: The Revolution. Grand Central Publishing. pp. 17 n.9. ISBN 978-1-4555-6753-9.
  2. Gulazāra; Nihalani, Govind; Chatterjee, Saibal, eds. (2003). Encyclopaedia of Hindi Cinema. Popular Prakashan. p. 213. ISBN 978-81-7991-066-5.
  3. "23 Years Later, Friends' Russ vs. 'Snaro' Mystery Is Solved". Comedy Central. UK. 2017. Archived from the original on 2017-08-05.
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