Body doubles are professionals who take the place of performers during the filming of a scene for a television or motion picture production. The body double normally bears enough physical resemblance to the performer that is it impossible to detect the difference when the distance, angle, and lighting are situated in the proper manner. Doubles may be used when the scene calls for action that could be dangerous for a headlining performer, or when the appearance of the performer is only incidental to the scene.
For the most part, a body double does not have to bear a striking facial resemblance to the performer. However, the overall skin tone, body type, height, and color of hair are often considered essential in order to achieve the proper effect. Often, the double is filmed from the back or at a distance, making it virtually impossible for the viewing audience to determine if the scene contains the performer or the double.
In the early days of television, a body double was especially helpful in scenes where the performer would be carrying on a conversation with a twin or other character who was supposed to be identical in appearance. A common arrangement during the golden age of television was for the performer to face the camera while the double was viewed only from the back. This arrangement would allow one actor to provide the voice over for both characters, which could be dubbed in after the scenes were filmed and cut.
One of the most common types of body double is known as the stunt double. This type of movie double is called upon to act in scenes that require a great deal of physical exertion and may be somewhat dangerous. Since many headliner performers are paid well for their services, having to hold up production when a major actor or actress is injured on the set can be extremely expensive. To minimize the potential of injury to the star, the stunt double takes over when the scripting calls for car chases, an escape from a burning building, or any similar physical action. In order to protect themselves, stunt doubles are usually highly trained in how to perform various actions with a minimal chance of injury.
As with actors and actresses, the Hollywood body double typically belongs to a union and is paid at least a minimum daily wage that is referred to as scale. Television productions may choose to employ a body double for the run of the series, or on as needed basis.