Special Report

Diverse Faces of Iconic Roles: Multiple Actors in the Same Character

Sometimes an actor becomes so associated with a particular role that it’s hard to imagine anyone else ever played the same part. Yet even some of the most iconic roles in Hollywood history were played by someone else before and/or after the role became famous. (Read about actors who turned down iconic roles.)

FTo determine a list of different actors who who have played the same character, 24/7 Tempo drew on information from the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) as well as rankings from other sources and media sites. This does not purport to be a definitive list. TV movies and series as well as Broadway musicals were excluded. Only movies with the same or very similar plot were considered, which is why movies from the James Bond, Star Trek, or X-Men franchises, among others, were excluded. 

Click here to see different actors who have played the same character

It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Anthony Perkins portraying Norman Bates in “Psycho.” However, Vince Vaughn picked up the gauntlet in a reboot 38 years after the original. Rosalind Russell made many memorable film appearances, but the one she might be most famous for is her portrayal of the indomitable libertine socialite “Mame.” TV megastar Lucille Ball tried her hand at the motion-picture role 16 years later in 1974. (These are actors who are always typecast.) 

Charlton Heston was the most famous Judah Ben-Hur in the epic “Ben-Hur,” yet he was the second actor to play that role in a full-length movie after Raymond Novarro in 1925. Heston wouldn’t be the last. as Jack Huston slipped on the sandals for the role in 2016. Humphrey Bogart embodied the cynical, gumshoe Sam Spade in “The Maltese Falcon” in 1941, but Ricardo Cortez played the hardboiled detective on the screen 10 years prior.

Ann Darrow played by Fay Wray
> Movie: King Kong (1933)

Fay Wray, the original scream queen, played Ann Darrow in the first and most famous version of “King Kong.” She was told by the movie’s producers that she would star opposite “the tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood.”


Ann Darrow played by Naomi Watts
> Movie: King Kong (2005)

The British actress reprised the role in 2005 in the remake directed by Peter Jackson. The reboot received a Freshness score of 84% among Rotten Tomatoes critics who hailed “state-of-the-art special effects, terrific performances, and a majestic sense of spectacle.”

Anna played by Jodie Foster
> Movie: Freaky Friday (1976)

Cinema fans may recall that in 1976 Jodie Foster starred as a child prostitute in “Taxi Driver.” That same year, she also appeared in the more family-friendly body-swapping farce “Freaky Friday.”

Anna played by Lindsay Lohan
> Movie: Freaky Friday (2003)

The 2003 version starred Lindsay Lohan as the teen who switches bodies with her mom in Disney’s second remake of the movie. It received a Rotten Tomatoes Freshness score of 88% among critics.

Arthur Bach played by Dudley Moore
> Movie: Arthur (1981)

Dudley Moore delighted critics with his portrayal of a boozy, directionless millionaire who falls hard for a working-class girl from Queens played by Liza Minnelli. Moore’s foil is his tart-tongued butler played by John Gielgud in a role that won him a best supporting Oscar.

Arthur Bach played by Russell Brand
> Movie: Arthur (2011)

Russell Brand recreated the role of Arthur 30 years later in a film critics found charmless, giving it a Rotten Tomatoes Freshness score of 26%. Deborah Ross of The Spectator said “Whereas [Dudley] Moore somehow managed to make his Arthur endearing and lovable, Brand’s Arthur is puerile, infantile and hateful.”

Barbra played by Judith O’Dea
> Movie: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Judith O’Dea was the face of the humans besieged in an abandoned house by flesh-eating zombies in George A. Romero’s classic that was told in a gritty, cinéma vérité style. The movie launched a genre. The film enjoys a 96% Rotten Tomatoes Freshness rating.


Barbra played by Patricia Tallman
> Movie: Night of the Living Dead (1990)

The reboot of “Night of the Living Dead” doesn’t score quite as well as the original among Rotten Tomatoes critics who, nevertheless, gave it kudos for its unsparing gore. The new cast, including Patricia Tallman, got positive reviews from critics.

Charlie Croker played by Michael Caine
> Movie: The Italian Job (1969)

Michael Caine brought his effortless charm to the role of master criminal Charlie Croker in the original “The Italian Job,” famous for its zany car chase through Milan.

Charlie Croker played by Mark Wahlberg
> Movie: The Italian Job (2003)

Michael Caine passed the charisma baton to Mark Wahlberg as Charlie Croker in the reboot of “The Italian Job” that takes place mostly in Los Angeles.

Coach Morris Buttermaker played by Walter Matthau
> Movie: The Bad News Bears (1976)

Walter Matthau made a career out of playing cynical, grumpy, characters with redeeming qualities. He originated the role of Coach Morris Buttermaker, the boozing manager of a team of foul-mouthed and baseball-skill-challenged kids in “The Bad News Bears.” The movie holds a 97% Rotten Tomatoes Freshness score.


Coach Morris Buttermaker played by Billy BobThornton
> Movie: Bad News Bears (2005)

Critics did not think the remake replicated the profane charm of the original, though they thought Billy Bob Thornton was “lovably irascible” as Morris Buttermaker.

Conan the Barbarian played by Arnold Schwarzenegger
> Movie: Conan the Barbarian (1982)

The body-building documentary “Pumping Iron” brought Arnold Schwarzenegger to the American movie-going public in 1977. Five years later, the muscled Austrian starred as Conan the Barbarian, an escaped slave seeking vengeance. Peter Stack of the San Francisco Examiner said Schwarzenegger was “good as Conan, and the film is technically splendid, especially in the long opening sequences.”

Conan the Barbarian played by Jason Momoa
> Movie: Conan the Barbarian (2011)

Critics panned the remake, saying the story and dialogue was buried by 3D effects. Russell Cook of Cinevue cited Jason Momoa’s portrayal of Conan, saying “(A) frenetic rush of energy embodied by the performance of Momoa, whose samurai training and choreographed planning of fight scenes has gone a long way to making his Conan a success.”

Danny Ocean played by Frank Sinatra
> Movie: Ocean’s Eleven (1960)

“Ocean’s Eleven,” starring Frank Sinatra as Danny Ocean, was made during the peak years of Hollywood’s Rat Pack: Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop. They all appeared in this caper flick about ex-Army buddies looking to knock over Las Vegas casinos.

Danny Ocean played by George Clooney
> Movie: Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

George Clooney recreated the role of Danny Ocean in this slickly made reboot of the original heist movie. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw called it “a ridiculously enjoyable caper.” Eye candy included Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, and Andy Garcia.

Dick Harper played by George Segal
> Movie: Fun with Dick and Jane (1977)

George Segal was paired with Jane Fonda as a couple who resort to a life of crime after Segal’s character loses his job. The original was dismissed by critics as little more than sit-com silliness.


Dick Harper played by Jim Carrey
> Movie: Fun With Dick and Jane (2005)

Some critics dismissed the remake of “Fun With Dick and Jane” as muddled and just a vehicle for Jim Carrey to mug for the camera.

Edna Turnblad played by Divine
> Movie: Hairspray (1988)

Divine is cinema’s most celebrated cross-dressing performer, and was in fine form as the original Edna Turnblad in the John Waters-directed comedy about civil rights and teen-dance TV shows in the early 1960s. Pauline Kael of the New Yorker opined that “When Divine’s Edna Turnblad is on-screen in the sleeveless dresses she’s partial to, the movie has something like the lunacy of a W.C. Fields in drag.” The film has a Rotten Tomatoes Freshness score of 98%.

Edna Turnblad played by John Travolta
> Movie: Hairspray (2007)

The movie was rebooted 19 years later and received almost as much acclaim as the original among critics. In an inspired piece of casting, John Travolta (“Grease,” “Saturday Night Fever”) played the mother of the high schooler committed to integrating teen dances in the 1960s.

George Lutz played by James Brolin
> Movie: The Amityville Horror (1979)

Critics appreciated the performance of James Brolin – well-known to television audiences – in the horror film as the father in a family tormented by demons, but little else about the movie.


George Lutz played by Ryan Reynolds
> Movie: The Amityville Horror (2005)

Ryan Reynolds played George Lutz in the reboot of “The Amityville Horror” 26 years after the original. Critics on Rotten Tomatoes were unimpressed by both versions of the movie.

Helen Benson played by Patricia Neal
> Movie: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

Patricia Neal played a single mom who with her son teaches the world about peace and tolerance after an alien lands in Washington, D.C. to warn humanity about the risks of a nuclear arms race. Rotten Tomatoes critics gave the sci-fi thriller a Freshness score of 95%.

Helen Benson played by Jennifer Connelly
> Movie: The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

Jennifer Connelly portrayed a scientist who understands the peril that Earth faces in the remake of the 1951 classic. Critics on Rotten Tomatoes said the remake was “heavy on special effects, but without a coherent story.”

Hercule Poirot played by Albert Finney
> Movie: Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

Albert Finney’s Oscar-nominated performance as Agatha Christie’s mustachioed sleuth was hailed by Matt Brunson of Film Frenzy, who opined: “The real knockout performance comes from Finney, deservedly Oscar-nominated for an eccentric turn that’s unlike anything else he’s ever attempted.”

Hercule Poirot played by Kenneth Branagh
> Movie: Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Kenneth Branagh’s Hercule Poirot sports a mustache splayed over much of his face in contrast to previous iterations. Branagh’s mustache has a backstory. During World War I, shrapnel from a bomb cut up his face, so Poirot grew an extended mustache to cover up the scar. (Among other actors who have played the detective in films are Peter Ustinov and Alfred Molina.)

Jane Harper played by Jane Fonda
> Movie: Fun with Dick and Jane (1977)

Jane Fonda’s Jane Harper is the wife of Dick Harper (George Segal) who is laid off compelling both to resort to a life of crime. Scott Weinberg of DVD Clinic said the film was “just another mid-70’s social comedy that comes enticingly close to actually baring its teeth, but ultimately favors sitcom silliness over smart satire.”


Jane Harper played by Téa Leoni
> Movie: Fun With Dick and Jane (2005)

Téa Leoni reprised the role of Jane Harper in the 2005 reboot, a version that received even less positive critical response from the original, with critic Joshua Starnes dismissing it as an “extended Enron joke.”

Jay Gatsby played by Robert Redford
> Movie: The Great Gatsby (1974)

There have been at least five screen versions of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, and none have been well received by critics. Robert Redford played the rich and mysterious lead character in a film that Rotten Tomatoes critics said that “even a pair of tremendously talented leads aren’t always enough to guarantee a successful adaptation of classic literary source material.”

Jay Gatsby played by Leonardo DiCaprio
> Movie: The Great Gatsby (2013)

Baz Luhrmann directed the latest version of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, with Leonardo DiCaprio portraying Gatsby. Critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave it a Freshness score of 48%, saying the film “emphasizes visual splendor at the expense of its source material’s vibrant heart.”

Jed Eckert played by Patrick Swayze
> Movie: Red Dawn (1984)

Even though the premise of “Red Dawn” – Soviet-led communist troops invading U.S. who fight a rag-tag group of American kids – stretches credulity, the film is carried by the charismatic leadership of Patrick Swayze’s Jed Eckert.


Jed Eckert played by Chris Hemsworth
> Movie: Red Dawn (2012)

The remake is updated with Chris Hemsworth playing an Iraq War veteran who leads the young freedom fighters against North Korean invaders. Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian called it “a boring and badly acted reboot,” which holds a Rotten Tomatoes Freshness score of 14%.


Judah Ben-Hur played by Ramon Novarro
> Movie: Ben-Hur (1925)

There have been three full-length film iterations of the Lew Wallace epic novel about a Jewish man who fights the Roman occupation of ancient Palestine during the time of Jesus Christ. Critics gushed over Ramon Novarro’s Judah Ben-Hur, saying the performance was “fervent and earnest” and it was “his greatest screen triumph.”

Judah Ben-Hur played by Charlton Heston
> Movie: Ben-Hur (1959)

The 1959 version of “Ben-Hur” won a record 11 Oscars and remains one of the greatest movies of all time. A big reason is the towering performance from Charlton Heston as the title character.

Judah Ben-Hur played by Jack Huston
> Movie: Ben-Hur (2016)

The latest iteration of “Ben-Hur,” with Jack Huston in the lead, received a Rotten Tomatoes Freshness score of 25% as critics called the remake “ill-advised” that didn’t bring “anything new to the table.”

Klaatu played by Michael Rennie
> Movie: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

Michael Rennie played Klaatu, an alien in human form who earnestly warns the people of Earth of the dangers of nuclear war.

Klaatu played by Keanu Reeves
> Movie: The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

Keanu Reeves is a more sinister Klaatu in the remake, which was mostly panned by critics, despite the star power of Oscar winners Jennifer Connelly and Kathy Bates.


Mame Dennis played by Rosalind Russell
> Movie: Auntie Mame (1958)

Rosalind Russell played the role of Auntie Mame, a progressive woman who’s tasked with raising her nephew during the 1920s, on stage and on the big screen. Critic Emanuel Levy said the role was a “great, campy and colorful showcase for comedienne Rosalind Russell in her best-known role.”

Mame Dennis played by Lucille Ball
> Movie: Mame (1974)

Lucille Ball seemed like a natural choice for the reboot of “Mame,” but critics did not agree, saying the music of the film failed to overcome Ball’s negatives.

Maxim de Winter played by Laurence Olivier
> Movie: Rebecca (1940)

Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller – his first U.S. film – starred Laurence Olivier as the wealthy but tormented widower who marries Joan Fontaine. The film enjoys a 98% Rotten Tomatoes Freshness rating.

Maxim de Winter played by Armie Hammer
> Movie: Rebecca (2020)

It’s a tall order for any actor to step into the role that Laurence Olivier made famous in the original “Rebecca,” and unfortunately Armie Hammer fell short. Critics found the reboot a “hollow exercise” and “another by-the-numbers remake.”


Mrs. de Winter played by Joan Fontaine
> Movie: Rebecca (1940)

Joan Fontaine was superb as the unnamed wife of Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier) who’s haunted by the shadow of her husband’s first wife. Critic L.B. Powell of the Birmingham Mail said Fontaine “attains a new high level in her career.”

Mrs. de Winter played by Lily James
> Movie: Rebecca (2020)

Lily James (“Downton Abbey”) reprised the role of the tormented first wife of Maxim de Winter in “Rebecca.” The reboot was mostly panned by critics.

Norman Bates played by Anthony Perkins
> Movie: Psycho (1960)

Anthony Perkins’ Norman Bates became the cinema’s archetypical murderous psychopath in the film that basically created the modern horror genre. Critic Samantha Allen said the “pitch-perfect performance of Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates” helped create one of the best films of all time.

Norman Bates played by Vince Vaughn
> Movie: Psycho (1998)

Gus Van Sant’s shot-for-shot remake of “Psycho” wasn’t a hit among critics, although some thought the cast, with Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates, was good.

Paul Crewe played by Burt Reynolds
> Movie: The Longest Yard (1974)

Rotten Tomatoes critics said Burt Reynolds was perfectly cast as the ex-football star turned prison inmate who captains a team of prisoners against guards in a football game.

Paul Crewe played by Adam Sandler
> Movie: The Longest Yard (2005)

“The Longest Yard” reboot featured comedian Adam Sandler as Paul Crewe, the leader of the prisoner team that faces the prison guards in a football game. Critics chided the film for its stereotypes and the lack of the gritty and raw tone that distinguished the original. Critics Richard Propes said the movie “won’t win any awards but it’s another growth film for Sandler.”


Quaid played by Arnold Schwarzenegger
> Movie: Total Recall (1990)

Arnold Schwarzenegger played Douglas Quaid in the futuristic sci-fi thriller “Total Recall.” Desmond Ryan of the Philadelphia Inquirer said “Schwarzenegger is never going to make the De Niros and Hoffmans of this world lose a night’s sleep, but he has acquired a new confidence as an actor.””

Quaid played by Colin Farrell
> Movie: Total Recall (2012)

Colin Farrell’s Douglas Quaid could not save the “Total Recall ” reset. Rotten Tomatoes critics gave it a Freshness rating of 31% and said the film “lacks the intricate plotting, wry humor, and fleshed-out characters that made the original a sci-fi classic.”

RoboCop / Alex Murphy played by Peter Weller
> Movie: RoboCop (1987)

Rotten Tomatoes critics hailed the original “RobCop” as a “surprisingly smart sci-fi flick that uses ultraviolence to disguise its satire of American culture.” Critic Sara Michelle Fetters of MovieFreak.com said “Peter Weller’s work as slain police officer Alex Murphy, and then as unstoppable law enforcement titan RoboCop, is a thing of peerless beauty.”

RoboCop / Alex Murphy played by Joel Kinnaman
> Movie: RoboCop (2014)

Despite A-listers Gary Oldman, Samuel L. Jackson, and Michael Keaton, the reboot did not improve on the original, with Rotten Tomatoes calling it “timid.” Joel Kinnaman played RoboCop / Alex Murphy.


Rooster Cogburn played by John Wayne
> Movie: True Grit (1969)

John Wayne, whose career began during the silent film era, won his only Academy Award portraying a drunken Texas Ranger who helps a teenager track down her father’s murderer.

Rooster Cogburn played by Jeff Bridges
> Movie: True Grit (2010)

The reboot of “True Grit” was marked by a strong performance by Jeff Bridges, who critic Leonard Maltin said ” manages to put his own stamp on the role made famous in 1969 by John Wayne.” The movie holds a 95% Freshness score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Sam Spade played by Ricardo Cortez
> Movie: The Maltese Falcon (1931)

The first version of Dashiell Hammett’s hard-boiled detective story about a much-sought after jewel-covered statuette got high points from critics, who said it was closer to the novel than the iterations that followed. Ricardo Cortez played gumshoe Sam Spade.

Sam Spade played by Humphrey Bogart
> Movie: The Maltese Falcon (1941)

The 1941 reboot of “The Maltese Falcon” is credited with launching the film noir genre and ranks 23rd on American Film Institute’s greatest films of all time. Critic Kate Cameron of the New York Daily News said “Humphrey Bogart’s Sam (Spade) is all that the most rabid (Dashiell) Hammett fan could wish him to be.”

Thomas Crown played by Steve McQueen
> Movie: The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

King of Cool Steve McQueen played an art thief in this stylish 1960s-era film that also starred Faye Dunaway. Critic Mattie Lucas said “Despite its weaknesses, it’s hard to resist McQueen and Dunaway, who elevate the pulpy and somewhat thinly drawn material with their strong performances.”

Thomas Crown played by Pierce Brosnan
> Movie: The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)

Pierce Brosnan took time out during this stint as James Bond to be the phlegmatic art thief in “The Thomas Crown Affair,” a worthy reboot of the original from 1968.


Tony played by Paul Muni
> Movie: Scarface (1932)

The original gangster film “Scarface,” released during the Depression, holds a 98% Rotten Tomatoes Freshness score, based on the performances of a strong cast headed by Paul Muni in the title role.” Alan Page of Sight & Sound said “[Scarface is] a brilliant film thanks mainly to the acting of Paul Muni and Ben Hecht’s script.”

Tony played by Al Pacino
> Movie: Scarface (1983)

More than 50 years after the release of the original “Scarface,” Al Pacino’s ambitious Tony Montana is a Cuban thug who stops at nothing to become king of the drug trade in Miami. Hollywood Reporter critic Duane Byrge found the film gruesome though he said Pacino’s performance was “unflinching, intense and extraordinary.”

Zeus played by Laurence Olivier
> Movie: Clash of the Titans (1981)

In the storied filmography of Laurence Olivier, “Clash of the Titans” does rank among his greatest triumphs. Some Rotten Tomatoes critics found the mythological story boring.

Zeus played by Liam Neeson
> Movie: Clash of the Titans (2010)

The reboot in 2010 was hurt by a poor script, with Liam Neeson as the god Zeus, the role Laurence Olivier played in the original.

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