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).
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. Inspired by Thomas' writings, Dutch author At Voorhorst published his own conclusions concerning Hess’ identity at Spandau in 2011.
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.
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".
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'.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
The 1932 musical film The Phantom President depicts a man who is eminently qualified to be President of the United States but who is unlikely to be elected because he is dull and lacks charisma. Fortunately, he has an exact double: a patent-medicine salesman and vaudeville hoofer who is a charismatic campaigner but has no actual political qualifications. The film cynically suggests that most American voters would prefer the latter to the former. Both roles are played by legendary song-and-dance man George M. Cohan.
The 1940 comedy The Great Dictator was Charlie Chaplin's first talkie and his most commercially successful film. Chaplin plays both "Adenoid Hynkel" (a satirizedAdolf Hitler) and a Jewish barber who is Hynkel's spitting image. The barber eventually replaces Hynkel, who has been arrested after having been mistaken for the barber. On nation-wide radio the barber, impersonating the dictator, declares an end to anti-semitism and a return to democracy.
In The Square Peg (1958) Norman Wisdom plays road repairer Norman Pitkin, who is called up for the army and sent to Nazi-occupied France, and Pitkin's exact double General Schreiber.
In The Scapegoat (1959), Alec Guinness plays both a French aristocrat and the English schoolteacher who is maneuvered into taking his place so the Frenchman can have an alibi for a murder.
In the James Bond film Thunderball (1965), French NATO pilot François Derval is murdered by Angelo, a SPECTRE henchman who has been surgically altered to match Derval's appearance. Angelo then takes Derval's place aboard, and seizes, a NATO plane loaded with two atom bombs.
In Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha (1980), the warlord Takeda Shingen (1521–73) is sometimes impersonated by his brother Nobukado. Nobukado saves a thief who is to be executed, because the man bears an astonishing resemblance to Shingen. The thief becomes a kagemusha (shadow warrior) and learns the role of Daimyo Shingen, who is subsequently killed by an enemy sniper. The false identity of the kagemusha is revealed when he is unable to ride Lord Shingen's favorite horse; but in the final battle at Nagashino the kagemusha accepts his role and fights as the last man holding the banner of the Takeda clan.
In a feature-length episode of the British sitcom, Only Fools and Horses, entitled "Miami Twice," Derek is mistaken for a Mafia don who is his spitting image, and he is used by the Mafia in an attempt to fake the don's assassination (though several tries fail). The likeness is so uncanny that even Derek's brother Rodney is tricked. Both Derek and the don are played by David Jason.
In Ringo Lam's Maximum Risk (1996), Jean-Claude Van Damme is a French policeman who discovers that a man who has been killed by the Russian Mafia was his look-alike twin brother that he never knew he had. Tracing the dead brother's footsteps, the protagonist inadvertently "inherits" the brother's predicaments and girlfriend.
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 advisor to the game's protagonist Solid SnakeMcDonnell 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 ColonelRoy 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 cabin.
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.