In the new movie "Looper," Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the younger version of a character named Joe, while Bruce Willis portrays the same man in his later years. Thanks to time travel, the two inevitably meet. In order to sell the audience on these two actors being the same character in different periods of his life, Gordon-Levitt went through several hours of makeup work each day to better resemble the "Die Hard" star. The younger actor also studied the older actor’s other films to get his characteristics down perfectly. The result: Gordon-Levitt is being talked about as a better Bruce Willis than Bruce Willis.
Where this impersonation rates among the best of young-to-old casting will be determined when "Looper" hits theaters this Friday. For now, let’s take a look at the 15 greatest performances by actors who've played the same character.
15. Zachary Quinto and Leonard Nimoy as Spock in ‘Star Trek’ (2009)
This wasn’t too hard to cast. They just had to find another actor with pointy ears, right? Actually, once it was announced Quinto would play a young version of the role Nimoy had iconically portrayed for more than forty years, it seemed so logical it’s as though Quinto was only born into this world to play the Starship Enterprise’s first officer. To get him right, though, he also had decades of material to copy. Still, as the only new incarnation of a character whose original actor would also appear in the film, Quinto must have been under a lot of pressure. He did an admirable job, considering, and we look forward to seeing him again as Spock in the sequel.
14. Mayim Bialik and Bette Midler as C.C. Bloom in ‘Beaches’ (1988)
All they needed was an 11-year-old with a red wig, but hired a star in the making to play a mini Bette Midler. Of course they did: If you’re going to cast someone as a younger version of Bette Midler in the role of a big star, you can’t just find any precocious child with a loud voice and a knack for tap. She has to be Divine with a capital D, and the future Blossom and ultimate doctor of neuroscience displays both the spunk and the drama we associate with the elder actress. Is it too corny to say she was the wind beneath Midler’s wings?
13. Tarek Sharif and Omar Sharif as Yuri in ‘Doctor Zhivago’ (1965)
It’s probably cheating to cast the star’s son. David Lean isn’t the kind of director to take the easy route, though, and Omar Sharif’s little boy, as little screen time as he may have, probably would have been the best choice even if he didn’t have the familial resemblance.
12. Christa B. Allen and Jennifer Garner as Jenna Rink in ‘13 Going on 30’ (2004)
The resemblance is not too remarkable, but Allen was convincing enough as a younger version of Garner here that she got to do it again five years later, when she played the actress’s earlier self in "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past."
11. Toby Stephens and Clint Eastwood as Frank Corvin in ‘Space Cowboys’ (2000)
Doesn’t Stephens sound exactly like Eastwood? Okay, so all the vocals for the flashback scenes were dubbed by the main actors, but just having Clint Eastwood’s gruff voice wouldn’t be enough to convincingly play the legendary actor. In fact, it would probably make it worse for you. But Stephens gets all the little facial ticks right and looks so much like the real young Eastwood that he could probably reboot the Dirty Harry franchise with no problem, save for maybe that his real voice comes with a British accent.
10. Gina Gillespie and Joan Crawford as Blanche Hudson in ‘What Ever Happened to Baby Jane’ (1962)
Nothing against Bette Davis, but Julie Allred was a bit too precious to be her younger self, even if the point was for Baby Jane to be a little cutie. Now, Gina Gillespie, on the other hand, is the spitting image of what we might imagine Joan Crawford looked like as a kid if she had always let her eyebrows flourish and had early on been expressing that melodramatic glower that’s especially associated with her performance as Blanche.
9. Benjamin Walker and Liam Neeson as Alfred Kinsey in ‘Kinsey’ (2004)
Daniel Day Lewis may look amazing in the title role of Steven Spielberg’s upcoming ‘Lincoln,’ but it would have been more interesting had the originally cast Liam Neeson gone through with the biopic. If only because Benjamin Walker portrayed the president this year in "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," and as we previously saw in "Kinsey," he’s a spot-on younger version of Neeson. At least we know who to cast if there’s ever a "Taken" prequel.
8. Mila Kunis and Angelina Jolie as Gia Carangi in ‘Gia’ (1998)
Would you cast Kunis and Jolie as sisters today? Maybe. Both women may be beautiful but they don’t exactly look like twins or anything. In her youth, though, before joining either "That ‘70s Show" or "Family Guy," Kunis bore a more than satisfactory resemblance. At the time it was probably the lips, which don’t appear as plump now that the younger actress has aged 15 years.
7. Jesse Plemons and Matt Damon as John Grady Cole in ‘All the Pretty Horses’ (2000)
With Plemons becoming more noteworthy as an actor, in films like "The Master" and TV series like "Friday Night Lights" and "Breaking Bad," the guy definitely has a switched-at-birth sort of thing going on with Damon, who is nearly two decades his senior. Plemons has mentioned in interviews that he gets mistaken for the actor all the time. The thing is, he might not actually be in the final cut of "All the Pretty Horses" (we skimmed through and couldn’t find any flashbacks), but regardless, the fact that he was apparently cast as a preteen version of Damon is enough for it to be recognized.
6. Kate Winslet and Dame Judi Dench as Iris Murdoch in ‘Iris’ (2001)
Both actresses were nominated for the Academy Award, and both deserved to win. While it’s not a big deal to have two of today’s greatest actresses playing a famous novelist at different stages in her life, the back and forth between the portrayals in time here is notable because they are sound so phenomenally interchangeable. It’s fun to listen to just the audio of the film and pay attention to how perfectly attuned Winslet and Dench are in terms of their vocal performances, making them nearly indistinguishable from each other.
5. Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K in ‘Men in Black 3’ (2012)
W should recognize that Brolin’s impersonation of Jones was pretty much the only reason to see this unnecessary and fairly forgettable sequel. The younger actor was so perfect for the part that we could easily dismiss that he wasn’t age appropriate, even if they hadn’t made little jokes about this issue in the movie itself.
4. Isobel Meikle-Small and Carey Mulligan as Katy in ‘Never Let Me Go’ (2010)
Meikle-Small, who now professionally goes as “Izzy,” is early enough in her career that she's mainly played “Young ____” roles. More recently, that included her appearance as the teenage version of Charlize Theron’s villainess Queen in "Snow White and the Huntsman." In this Kazuo Ishiguro adaptation, she not only passes physically as a little Carey Mulligan, but also does a terrific job of expressively matching personality characteristics with the older, Oscar-nominated ingenue.
3. Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney as Ed Bloom in ‘Big Fish’ (2003)
If McGregor beefed himself up a bit, he’d bear an astonishing resemblance to Finney in "Tom Jones," so it’s certainly believable that the younger actor could grow into an older version of the actor (and the inspired casting is all the more special when you hear that Tim Burton initially planned to cast Jack Nicholson as both young and old versions of Bloom and employ CGI to the former).
2. Alison Lohman and Jessica Lange as Sandra Bloom in ‘Big Fish’ (2003)
As perfect as McGregor and Finney are as young-to-old matches, Lohman and Lange blow them away. If it turned out that the former was a clone or that the latter had traveled back in time, we would believe it. Actually, where has Lohman been lately? Maybe in 1976 acting opposite a giant ape? No, she’s just been taking time off to raise her son, but whenever she wants to come back and play younger versions of Lange’s characters, we’ll be perfectly fine with that career choice.
1. Buddy Swan and Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane in ‘Citizen Kane’ (1941)
Another throne for "Citizen Kane"? Yes. As much of a perfectionist as Welles was, you’d think he’d try to play his eight- year-old self on his own. And maybe today, with modern special effects, he really would have. For the time, he was able to do the next best thing and find a little boy who so closely resembles the elder actor/filmmaker that if you suddenly heard there was early composite work going on you’d believe it. And Swan’s stone- faced portrayal is that of a kid with an old soul, much like the kind Welles had. Another reason the film is arguably the most accomplished of all time.