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What is a Body Double?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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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.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including Practical Adult Insights, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By OceanSwimmer — On Jan 01, 2011

@dega2010: Tom Cruise does his own stunts, as well. He has worked in almost every genre but he’s made his mark as an action star. For his last two installments of Mission Impossible, Cruise insisted on doing his own stunts. The studio executives were against it, but Cruise won out in the end. He also did his own stunts in his latest movie, Knight and Day.

Also, our beloved governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, performed almost of his own stunts. His most famous movies that displayed his amazing stuntman ability were Commando and the Conan movies.

By googie98 — On Dec 30, 2010

@dega2010: Jackie Chan does all of his own stunts. He has suffered a few broken bones in the process but he is very talented as a stuntman. Even though Chan’s early training was geared toward a career in the Peking opera, he ended up working as a stuntman and actor. He is now known as the world’s top martial-arts film actors.

By dega2010 — On Dec 29, 2010

Are there any actors that do their own stunts without using a body double?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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