A filmmaker’s job is akin to that of a magician. Many films are just cleverly crafted fantasies devised to make us forget the miserable and mundane for two hours and transport us to a far away place. Movies are an illusion that audiences can’t get enough of. So what happens when the veil is lifted, and we get to take a peek behind the curtain? We found out earlier this week when we spotted this video on io9 centering on fantasy cult film Labyrinth. In the 1986 movie, David Bowie’s Goblin King can twirl a trio of crystal balls like no other, but the English musician can’t take full credit for his magic skills. His talent double did all the behind-the-scenes work.
Thanks to a group of invisible performers who posses the skills and expertise in the fields of fine art, dance, and more, Hollywood stars get to look like believable pros on the big screen. See how some of films’ most famous had a little help from their talent doubles, below.
Although we’d like to believe that the Thin White Duke is capable of just about anything, including magic, David Bowie’s scenes in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth were assisted by genius juggler Michael Moschen. He literally became Bowie’s right-hand man. The King of the Goblins, Jareth, is pictured throughout the film twirling a trio of crystal balls in his hand — to try to distract us from that epic codpiece, perhaps! — but Bowie never actually performed those tricks. We can credit his talent double Moschen who actually stood behind Bowie during filming, unable to see the objects he was juggling. This video shows just how many takes the actors endured to get it right. We’d suffer through it, too, if it meant being close to the Goblin King.
The scene in the 1997 tearjerker where a nude Kate Winslet (wearing the Heart of the Ocean diamond) is drawn by a nervous Leonardo DiCaprio had an artistic assist from director James Cameron. The filmmaker has an art background, and worked as an art director and production designer on several films before becoming a bazillionaire. The hands you see scribbling away at the sketch in Titanic are actually his, but because Cameron is left-handed, the sketchbook footage had to be reversed during post-production to appear as though the right-handed Jack had crafted them.
Several stars attempt to make the transition from silent films to talkies in Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen’s Singin’ in the Rain, but ironically, the scenes that featured actors voices being dubbed were also given voiceovers behind the scenes. Jean Hagen plays silent starlet Lina whose voice grates on the ears. Debbie Reynolds stars as the talented singer Kathy, who dubs all of Lina’s performances. Hilariously, Reynold’s voice was being dubbed behind the scenes by none other than Jean Hagen, who actually had a melodious singing voice. Another singer, Betty Noyes (uncredited), was brought in for the song “Would You” and “Lucky Star.” We’ve shared what Reynold’s singing voice actually sounded like in “Would You,” below. The above video features Reynold’s dubbed singing voice as performed by Noyes. Whew. Get all that?
Paul Newman dazzled us with his dreamy blue eyes, but the actor did not perform the famous card tricks in The Sting. Skilled magician John Scarne was considered one of the greatest playing card manipulators of all time, which is why he was hired as the 1973 film’s technical advisor. He even doubled for Newman’s hands during the scenes featuring deck swapping and other trickery. The above video shows Scarne doing what he did best.
Natalie Portman’s Best Actress Academy Award for her performance as disturbed ballerina Nina Sayers in Black Swan didn’t sit well with American Ballet Theatre soloist Sarah Lane. As she told Entertainment Weekly, “Of the full body shots, I would say 5 percent are Natalie… All the other shots are me.” Lane was upset that her performance was never given proper credit, which she feels led most people to believe that Portman had performed all of her own dancing — and many of them did. “I had read a lot of articles that Natalie had done where she said she did 90 percent of the dancing. And never mentioned my name once. Nobody ever mentioned my name hardly ever,” Lane stated. The above video shows the breakdown of how the shots were captured and Lane’s face was swapped with Portman’s. In case you missed it, there’s a full report from Lane on the controversy over here.
There are a few things that audiences identify with British secret agent James Bond: deadly villains, hot cars, beautiful women, and guns. The prospect of aiming a firearm didn’t thrill Bond number three, Roger Moore. The actor has a reported phobia of guns, and hasn’t been shy about sharing his hatred for weapons. “I do not regret the Bond days, I regret that sadly heroes in general are depicted with guns in their hands, and to tell the truth I have always hated guns and what they represent,” he has said. While holding a gun may not seem like a difficult thing to do, using it properly — exuding skill and confidence — was integral for the fictional gentleman spy’s success, so talent double and stuntman Martin Grace stood in for Moore’s scenes. “I never liked guns, I hate them, I always blink before they go off,” Moore has also stated. Bond’s prowess with a pistol just wouldn’t feel the same with a cringing Moore behind the barrel.
Flashdance starred former teen model and Yale University student Jennifer Beals who won audiences’ hearts with her portrayal of a steel mill worker with big dance dreams. The film studio didn’t want audiences to know that their attractive starlet had two left feet, so they hid multiple dance doubles from press to keep the illusion going. French dancer Marine Jahan took over for Beals during multiple scenes and appeared in the music video for “Maniac.” Gymnast Sharon Shapiro performed the famed leap through the air during the audition scene, and a man was used during the break-dancing cut as well. You can catch a glimpse of dancer Crazy Legs during the three-minute mark of this video spinning on the floor. Holy crazy wig!
Image credit: KiwiHugger
Viggo Mortensen has a fondness for horses and performed all his own stunts as Aragorn in Peter Jackson’s epic adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. Eventually, the actor took ownership of two horses in the film — including the steed his ladylove Arwen (Liv Tyler) rode in the movie, Asfaloth. The jockey was actually Tyler’s stunt double Jane Abbott. Jackson’s level of dedication in fleshing out the film’s details and Mortensen and Orlando Bloom’s natural horsemanship led some people to believe Tyler also performed her own stunts. However, she found it hard to control the grey Andalusian stallion (whose real name is Florian) during every scene. “Me and horses don’t go so well together. I think that horses are the most beautiful creatures and I love to touch them and kiss them on the nose and hang out with them and all that stuff; I just don’t like to be on them,” she admitted in an interview. “There’s something about being on top of an animal that is four times the size of you and has four legs and can run is kind of scary. But I did it.” Abbott eventually took ownership of Florian, and is pictured above training him.
There’s a scene in Sam Raimi’s 2002 modern reboot of Marvel’s Spider-Man when Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker is sketching his superhero costume. Those aren’t the young actor’s hands, however. Marvel brought in well-known comic book artist Phil Jimenez for the drawing scene. Jimenez was famous for his work on the Wonder Woman series. Later, the artist reunited with the agile Spidey when he signed on for a major deal with Marvel to work on The Amazing Spider-Man comic. Just a few months ago, Jimenez tweeted this lighthearted comment during the reboot of the franchise, now starring Andrew Garfield in the title role.
Rob Reiner’s beloved cult classic The Princess Bride just celebrated its 25th birthday on Tuesday. One memorable scene in the romantic comedy centers on a chatty sword fight between Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin. It’s widely known by fans that both men performed all their own stunts after months of fencing training (with their left and right hands). It’s often mistakenly believed, however, that the acrobatic flips and leaps the men perform were their own too. In fact, those are the only scenes where an acrobatic talent double was called in (overseen by coordinator Peter Diamond) — and you can tell because the landing frames don’t quite match up with the previous shot.