In honour of Richard Ayoade’s new movie The Double, Ian Roebuck lists cinema’s great split personalities


Jesse Eisenberg’s body language in The Double is a visceral celluloid assault. He’s effortlessly Simon James and James Simon, the takeover dramatic and all consuming… but he’s not the first. When it comes to the movies, the dual-personality is a manipulative tool that’s been used to wicked effect. Here’s our top ten mind benders.

10. Psycho’s Norman Bates
Robert Bloch’s 1959 novel riffs with our perception of self; it’s certainly one of the earlier examples in popular culture of a character split into two. Our Norman internalises his dead mother and climbs the stairs in a dress to put the willies into us all. Alfred Hitchcock was instantly captivated and much of his output followed suit by exploring the troubled psyche.

9. Lord of the Rings’ Gollum
Haunted by a dissociative identity disorder, Gollum’s both frantic and fragmented. In the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings his Machiavellian behaviour dictates the plot and dominates the screen. A career defining showstopper from Andy Serkis.

8. A Scanner Darkly’s Bob Arctor
We’re all familiar with Keanu Reeves’ inexpressive face; it’s what stands him out from the crowd. Well in Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly blankness is a virtue. As a result of too much substance D, the illicit drug that’s the focus of the film, his two brain hemispheres become separate and competing entities. Is he still the narc, determined to stamp out this dangerous drug, or the stoned addict sat on his sofa?

7. Me, Myself & Irene’s Charley Baileygates & Hank Evans
Off the back of the astounding Man on the Moon, Jim Carey returned to default with the Farrelly brothers giddy Me, Myself and Irene. With the unsubtle tagline ‘from gentle to mental’ the brothers grim gave Carey carte blanche to be as silly as possible, and the result is Hank. It’s why Renee Zellweger spends 116 minutes looking perpetually scared.

6. Secret Window’s Mort Rainey
Based on a Stephen King novel, this David Koepp film fell flat on its arse in 2004. A shame as it was swimming with potential and starred two of the best John’s around in Depp and Turturro. After a breakdown in his marriage, Depp’s writer Mort Rainey retreats to the forest and has an existential breakdown punctuated by plenty of knocks on the door from Turturro’s Shooter. We all saw the ending coming though, didn’t we?

5. Raising Cain’s Carter/Cain/Dr Nix/Josh/Margo
We love John Lithgow and we love Brian De Palma so this gloriously over the top thriller holds dear memories. It’s camp, heavily signposted fun and Lithgow clearly had a blast playing such manic and wildly scattershot roles.

4. Fight Club’s Tyler Durden
Tyler’s perhaps one of modern cultures most referenced dual-personalities. Created by the narrator of Fight Club’s insomnia induced insanity, it’s a love interest that triggers his appearance. Of course it is, romance so often the vehicle through which characters fracture, and Tyler doesn’t pull any punches. Ha!

3. Shutter Island’s Teddy Daniels
Boston 1954 is the backdrop for Scorsese’s mind melting Shutter Island. Ever the craftsman, the Director gradually deconstructs Leonardo DiCaprio’s Teddy. Are we hallucinating as he fluctuates from an institutionalised mental patient who murdered his wife, to a US Marshal investigating a mental institution?

2. Black Swan’s Nina Sayers
The delicate Princess Odette, a pure white swan against the dangerous Odile, a venomous black one. That’s the crux of Darren Aronofsky’s delicious Black Swan, 2010’s runaway standout and a fantastical exploration of schizophrenia. Natalie Portman flutters from dark to light as the tension between her and Mila Kunis crackles.

1.  Lost Highway’s Fred Madison
Lynch manages to divide opinion like nobody else and in the Lost Highway he divides the film itself. The 1997 film marked the point of no return for the imaginative Director – why explain the unexplainable? We spend the opening hour with Bill Pullman’s Fred Madison and the closing hour with Balthazar Getty’s Pete Dayton. A disjointed triumph that’s stolen by Lynch’s terrifying Mystery Man played by Robert

Read Ian’s review of The Double in Loud And Quiet 56, Out Now

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