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Actors You Didn't Realize Played The Same Character Twice

November 16, 2020 474 votes 87 voters 6.6k views13 items

List RulesVote up the most hilariously specific roles an actor played more than once.

In the era of the megafranchise, actors who have played the same role twice - or three times, or more - is not at all uncommon. Samuel L. Jackson, for instance, has appeared in about as many films as Nick Fury as he has in every other role combined. Instances in which actors played the exact same role in multiple films while technically portraying different characters are rarer, and require a little more critical thinking to pick out from the crowd.

In Hollywood, actors are frequently typecast - pigeonholed into certain sorts of roles and then never allowed to explore their range beyond that. It’s one thing, however, to be typecast as a “tough guy” or a “smarmy socialite” and another to be pigeonholed as a “nice person with no discernable flaws whatsoever, but who still ends up losing their love interest to a superpowered interloper.” And yet, it happens.

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  • Braveheart (1995): Mel Gibson plays William Wallace, a 13th-century Scottish warrior who really did exist, but who has been heavily mythologized by Gibson’s portrayal. Though he is born to Scottish nobility, Wallace is exiled to a humble peonage and then returns to lead his people in rebellion against the invading English and King Edward I. Wallace wages guerilla warfare against a seemingly unbeatable empire in the name of “Freedom!” and suffers the loss of his wife, until it all culminates in the overly glorified Battle of Falkirk, where he suffers grievous wounds - and impales a horse - before being captured and ultimately executed. Wallace doesn’t play a role in the film’s final battle, because he’s been slain, but his posthumous inspiration helps wins the day anyway. 

    The Patriot (2000): Mel Gibson plays Benjamin Martin, a composite character based on four real figures from the American Revolution and then heavily mythologized by Gibson’s portrayal. Though he comes from humble beginnings, Martin’s actions after forming a colonial militia soon bring him to a place of prominence in the revolution against English rule and King George III. Martin wages guerilla warfare against a seemingly unbeatable empire in the name of liberty, and suffers the loss of his sons, until it all culminates in the overly glorified Battle of Cowpens, where he suffers grievous wounds - and impales a horse - before being saved at the last minute from a lethal strike. Martin doesn’t play a major role in the film’s final battle, but his inspiration helps win the day anyway.

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  • Bloodsport (1988): Jean-Claude Van Damme plays Frank Dux, a captain in the US Army who just so happens to have been born in Belgium, thus explaining his thick accent. Dux’s true talents lie in the martial arts, and specifically ninjutsu. He’s drawn into an underground tournament and a vengeful fight against Chong Li, the man who injured his close friend. He, of course, wins, despite his opponent’s attempts to cheat.

    Kickboxer (1989): Jean-Claude Van Damme plays Kurt Sloane, an American who just so happens to have been to be born in Belgium, thus explaining his thick accent (despite the fact that his older brother, Eric, has no such accent). The Sloane brothers’ true talents lie in the martial arts, and specifically kickboxing. Kurt is drawn into a vengeful fight against Tong Po, the man who paralyzed his brother. He, of course, wins, despite his opponent’s attempts to cheat.

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  • Goodfellas (1990): Joe Pesci plays Tommy DeVito, a mob enforcer based on real-life mobster Thomas DeSimone. After he gets a little too comfortable taking out his enemies, the rest of the organized crime outfit grows tired of Tommy and lures him to a meeting under the pretense of becoming a “made man,” only to brutally whack him instead.

    Casino (1995): Joe Pesci plays Nicky Santoro, a mob enforcer based on real-life mobster Tony Spilotro. After he gets a little too comfortable taking out his enemies, the rest of the organized crime outfit grows tired of Nicky and lures him to a meeting - in the actual case of Spilotro, it was a ceremony to make him a “capo” - only to brutally whack him instead.

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  • Johnny Mnemonic (1995): It is the future, and virtual reality has overtaken society, controlling humanity through the use of artificial intelligence. Keanu Reeves plays Johnny Mnemonic, a mnemonic courier with a data storage device inside his head into which information can be transferred via an enormous wired hook-up. Through divorcing himself from the machine, Mnemonic regains his real memories and begins to fight back against Pharmakom, the corporation that took them from him. 

    The Matrix (1999): It is the future, and artificial intelligence has overtaken society, placating humanity through the use of virtual reality. Keanu Reeves plays Thomas “Neo” Anderson, a computer programmer who learns that he exists within a false digital world fed into his mind via an enormous wired hook-up (along with the rest of the world’s populace). Through divorcing himself from the machine, Neo experiences the real world and begins to fight back against the AI empire that put him into the Matrix.

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