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Kjell Elvis (Norway), one of the better-known Elvis look-alikes in Europe
The real Elvis, 1970

A look-alike is a person who closely resembles another person. In popular Western culture, a look-alike is a person who bears a close physical resemblance to a celebrity, politician or member of royalty. Many look-alikes earn a living by making guest appearances at public events or performing on television or film, playing the person they resemble. A large variety of celebrity look-alike images can be found throughout the web, including images placed by professional agencies that offer their services.

Look-alikes have also figured prominently at least since the 19th century in literature, and in the 20th and 21st centuries in film.


  • Mikheil Gelovani, a Georgian actor and Joseph Stalin look-alike, played the Soviet leader in propaganda films of the 1930s and 1940s. In 2008, 88-year-old Felix Dadaev, a former dancer and juggler, disclosed that he had been one of four look-alikes whom Stalin had employed as decoys to mislead enemies and potential assassins (there in fact were attempts on Stalin's life — two at Yalta alone).[1]
  • British author Hugh Thomas claimed (1979) that war criminal Rudolf Hess, who supposedly committed suicide in Spandau Prison, was a look-alike. Thomas suggests that Hess’ plane was shot down during his flight over the North Sea in 1941 and that he was replaced by a double.[2] Inspired by Thomas' writings, Dutch author At Voorhorst published his own conclusions concerning Hess’ identity at Spandau in 2011.[3]
  • In 1944, shortly before D-Day, M. E. Clifton James, who bore a close resemblance to Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, was sent to Gibraltar and North Africa, in order to deceive the Germans about the location of the upcoming invasion. This story was the subject of a book and film, I Was Monty's Double.
  • A notable conspiracy theory that actually is a hoax holds that Paul McCartney died in 1966 and was replaced by a Canadian policeman named William Shears Campbell.
  • In the 1970s, actor-comedian Richard M. Dixon (born James LaRoe), look-alike to then-President Richard Nixon, gained some celebrity, portraying the president in the films, Richard (1972) and The Faking of the President (1976). He also appeared in the unreleased short film Men of Crisis: The Harvey Wallinger Story.
  • Jeannette Charles has, since the early 1970s, worked as a look-alike to Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.
  • Saddam Hussein allegedly employed several look-alikes for political purposes during his Iraq reign. According to a CBS 60 Minutes segment in late January 2008, Saddam Hussein denied to an American interrogator that he had employed doubles.
  • The BBC comedy programme Doubletake made extensive use of look-alikes playing their doubles in apparently embarrassing situations, seen through CCTV cameras and amateur video, using distance shots and shaky camera-work to disguise the true identity of those being filmed. Due to the nature of this programme and conditions of filming, many of the world's most authentic lookalikes boycotted the project leaving the producer to rely on the careful use of soft focus, lighting and carefully positioned camera angles to make the mainly amateur lookalikes resemble the characters they portrayed.
  • Armando Iannucci's Friday Night Armistice (1996–98) featured "the bus of Dianas", a bus full of Princess Diana look-alikes which was dispatched to "care" at the sites of various minor tragedies.
  • Since the year 2001, the UK's most successful lookalike has been Derek Williams ("Svenalike") as Sven-Goran Eriksson's lookalike/soundalike double who was selected by The FA as a stand in for Eriksson at VIP receptions and for Official pre-match Hospitality and has achieved widespread acclaim and the most extensive TV, film and video exposure of any celebrity double in recent history.
  • Steve Sires, a look-alike of Microsoft's Bill Gates, came to attention when he attempted to trademark "Microsortof", and subsequently acted in Microsoft commercials. He became especially famous for his role in the 2002 film, Nothing So Strange, in which his character makes a speech, looks up and is assassinated.
  • UK Big Brother contestant Chantelle Houghton worked briefly and unsuccessfully for a look-alike agency as a Paris Hilton look-alike, earning the nickname "Paris Travelodge". By the time Chantelle Houghton won series 4 of Celebrity Big Brother, the same agency had already signed up a professional model who made a more convincing Paris Hilton look-alike... and who was briefly also offered as a fake "Chantelle".[4]
  • UK Richard and Judy ran a competition for Little Britain Lookalikes in 2005. After the live final broadcast on Friday, 28 January 2005, on Channel Four, two winning contestants, Gavin Pomfret and Stuart Morrison, formed a Little Britain tribute act called "Littler Britain."
  • Elvis Presley is said to have sent out look-alikes before he left his house to distract fans so he could walk in peace.
  • Dolly Parton has stated that she lost a 'Dolly Parton Look-Alike Contest'.[5]
  • In 2008 a friend pointed out to Bronx native Louis Ortiz his striking resemblance to then-presidential-candidate Barack Obama. Ortiz, initially as a money-making venture, sought gigs as an Obama impersonator. Ryan Murdock is making a documentary film about his experiences, The Audacity of Louis Ortiz.[6]
  • Two of the Parti Québécois's candidates: Bertrand St-Arnaud and Bernard Drainville (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/quebec-votes-2014/can-you-tell-bernard-drainville-and-bertrand-st-arnaud-apart-1.2597069).


  • In Edgar Allan Poe's short story "William Wilson" (1839), a man is followed by his double.
  • Alexandre Dumas, père's, The Man in the Iron Mask (1850—the third part of Dumas' novel, The Vicomte de Bragelonne) involves King Louis XIV of France and the King's identical twin.
  • In Charles Dickens' novel A Tale of Two Cities (1859), two characters, Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton, bear an uncanny resemblance to one another. At the close of the novel, Carton sacrifices his life for Darnay—"a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done..."
  • In The Woman in White (1859), by Wilkie Collins, the protagonist meets two women, Anne Catherick and Laura Fairlie, who strongly resemble one another. The villain of the story, Count Fosco, uses this resemblance to steal Laura Fairlie's fortune.
  • In Mark Twain's first historical fiction (1882), the novel The Prince and the Pauper, Prince Edward, son of Henry VIII of England, and his pauper look-alike, Tom Canty, trade places.
  • In Anthony Hope's novel The Prisoner of Zenda (1894), a man impersonates a king he closely resembles, after the king is abducted on the eve of his coronation.
  • Bolesław Prus' historical novel Pharaoh (1895) features several cases of look-alikes. The characters include the Haranian Phut (aka the Chaldean priest Berossus) and his look-alike (chapter 20), and the protagonist Ramses and his look-alike and nemesis, Lykon. Also, chapter 33 makes reference to look-alikes of an earlier pharaoh, Ramses the Great.
  • Georg Kaiser's 1917 play The Coral depicts a powerful industrialist whose male secretary is his exact double. The secretary's duties include impersonating his employer at public functions. Other employees can tell the two men apart only by the fact that the secretary always wears a coral watch-fob.
  • In Robert Heinlein's novel Double Star (1956), actor Lawrence Smith is approached to impersonate prominent politician John Joseph Bonforte, who has been kidnapped, despite his antipathy toward Bonforte's policies. In studying the man to perfect his imposture, Smith eventually comes to admire Bonforte. He continues this performance through an election and, when Bonforte dies, the subsequent tenure in office as "Supreme Minister." This story parallels that of the film Dave, but in this case when the actual politician dies, and Bonforte's staff begins to suggest shifts in policy contrary to Bonforte's beliefs, Smith refuses to submit to their desires, removes them from their positions, and continues in the role for the rest of his life, in honor of Bonforte's legacy.
  • In Jack Higgins's 1975 novel The Eagle Has Landed, Nazi German paratroopers attempt to abduct British Prime Minister Winston Churchill from an English village he is visiting. It subsequently transpires that the actual Churchill had been elsewhere while a political decoy visited the village.
  • "The Leader and the Damned" (1983) by Colin Forbes is a secret history thriller whose plot is based on the assumption that Adolf Hitler was assassinated in 1943, a bomb completely destroying his body. The Nazi hierarchy kept this as a top secret and got a double to impersonate Hitler, and it was this double who led Nazi Germany until its final demise in 1945.
  • In Clive Cussler's 1984 novel Deep Six, a double is used after the U.S. president is kidnapped by Korean and Soviet agents.
  • Christopher Priest's novel The Prestige (1995) features two rival magicians, one of whom uses his twin brother as a double in a disappearing-and-reappearing act.
  • In Neil Gaiman's novel Coraline (2002) the heroine meets up with improved look-alikes of her parents and all her neighbors when she enters the Other Mother's world.



Video Games[edit]

  • In Final Fantasy VIII, SeeD mercenaries and Forest Owls resistance fighters devise a complicated plan to kidnap the president of Galbadia Vinzer Deling, which includes switching the presidential train wagon from its tracks and replacing it with a mockup. Deling foresees the plan and sends a shapeshifter monster to take his place, who attacks the game protagonists. The monster is ultimately killed, but the plan's failure forces the Forest Owls into hiding.
  • In Metal Gear Solid, former drill instructor and adviser to the game's protagonist Solid Snake McDonnell Benedict Miller, better known by his nickname Master Miller is murdered before the game main events and replaced by main antagonist Liquid Snake in disguise. Liquid, as Master Miller, tricks Solid Snake into unknowingly do his bidding. The plot is discovered by Colonel Roy Campbell and his staff, who track Miller's communications and find out they are coming from Shadow Moses Island after the real Master Miller's corpse is found dead in his house.
  • In Call of Duty: Black Ops the first mission consists in assassinating Fidel Castro. The player succeeds, but at the end, it is revealed that the Fidel Castro he killed was actually a body double.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Will Stewart (April 12, 2008). "The Man Who Was Stalin's Body Double Finally Tells His Story". Mail Online. Retrieved 3 September 2010. 
  2. ^ Thomas, Hugh (1979). The Murder of Rudolf Hess. Harper & Row. p. 224. ISBN 0-06-014251-0. 
  3. ^ Voorhorst, At (2011). Dubbelgangers Ontmaskerd. Zwolle. p. 192. ISBN 978-90-815545-1-0. 
  4. ^ Lucy Rock (January 29, 2006). "From Nobody Much to Someone Special". The Observer. Retrieved 3 September 2010. 
  5. ^ "Dolly Parton Explains How She Lost Dolly Parton Look-a-Like Contest (VIDEO)". Aoltv.com. Retrieved 2012-12-28. 
  6. ^ "This American Life from WBEZ, 458: "Play the Part," originally aired 2-17-2012". 
  7. ^ "Svenalike.co.uk". Svenalike.co.uk. 2005-08-25. Retrieved 2012-12-28.