The older, more jaded generations have always complained that modern pop culture is too homogenous: All your starlets look the same, all your music sounds alike, all your movies share the same plots. For the most part, that's bullshit, but every once in a while some intriguing evidence surfaces that indicates there actually might be a celebrity factory out there somewhere, just stamping Zooey Deschanel's face onto a porn star's body and giving us soulless clone armies of Katy Perrys. I'm not saying the following people all look perfectly alike; I'm saying that there's a strange, indefinable aura of familiarity surrounding everything they do. There's a weird kind of sameness about each of these people that leads you to believe they really might be just some cheap palette-swapped version of another celebrity. For instance:
#12 - #10. Tobey Maguire and Elijah Wood and Topher Grace
They all occupy the "loveable nerd who inexplicably pulls hot women" slot on the actorboard. Sure, they share a look in common -- slight, kind of pasty, big doe eyes that implore you to preserve the sanctity of their innocence even as those pouty lips beg you to take it away from them -- but it's more than looks. There's something to the way they stand and the way they move that just screams "I have way too much lunch money and love punches; why won't somebody help me?"
That's not fair, of course: Tobey Maguire bulked way the hell up for Spider-Man, and any attempt to wedgie him now would end with the assailants finding out what their own teeth taste like. And Elijah Wood played that creepy dude in Sin City a little too well to be pure acting; you know that guy probably carries around a claw hammer everywhere he goes and just waits for some meathead to scratch his murder-itch.
But even though you know it's objectively silly to sense any kind of nerdly weakness in them, it's still there, isn't it? They each have this vague, victimized-and-now-I'm-totally-unstable-because-of-it aura. The interchangeability is even acknowledged in their own movie roles: In the Spider-Man comics, Eddie Brock -- the man behind Venom - looks like this:
He's huge, square-jawed and jockish; he's the opposite of everything Peter Parker. But when it came time to cast him in the movie, the producers went with this:
And you know it's because somebody sat down and said: "OK, we're casting Venom. He's like the anti-Spider-Man, so we need the antithesis of Tobey Maguire. You know: Somebody like him, but evil."
And somebody else raised their hand and timidly put forth: "What about that kid from That '70s Show?"
"You mean Elijah Wood?"
"No, that's the hobbit. The skinny kid, with the hair!"
"Like the one from Pleasantville?"
"That's fucking Tobey Maguire!"
#9 - #8. Patrick Swayze and Kurt Russell
Aw, bullshit. Nobody honestly gets these two confused. Patrick Swayze was Point Break. He was Ghost. He was badass, but also kind of sensitive. Kurt Russell exclusively played characters whose middle name was Motherfuckin'. He was Snake Motherfuckin' Plissken. He was Jack Motherfuckin' Burton. They each carved out their own niche in the cultural zeitgeist, and it's downright disrespectful to confuse them, right? Right. But you have to admit, that niche is pretty similar -- they both habitually played stoic, stone-jawed badasses who'd pull your throat out just as soon as look at you:
Or else they played long-haired rebels who defied authority at all costs, even if it screwed them in the process:
But even still, there's no mistaking Russell and Swayze in their iconic roles. When you start venturing out of those bounds, however, the mullet waters get a little bit muddy. What about the movie where Steven Seagal fights a plane? Was Russell in that one? Executive something?
Now, what about the one with the trucker versus the evil ... other truckers? I think it had Meatloaf in it. That sounds like a Russell deal for how silly it is, but the working-class overtones could put it firmly in Swayze territory.
What about that terrible remake with the upside-down boat? That had to be Swayze. Swayze did water stuff; he was Bodhi. He had spirituality firing out of both assholes. Swayze was a dude you just know was at home with the sea. If there's a boat, Swayze's on it.
It's like our brains come hard-wired with enough room for one guy who looks good in a mullet and a tank top, and that's it. If there's ever more than one to keep track of, our frontal lobes just shunt them off into the Mulletsphere and their individual identities are lost forever.
#7 - #6. Nick Nolte and Gary Busey
This one was only valid up until about 10 years ago, before all of Gary Busey's screen time became devoted solely to documentaries about how crazy he was, and all of Nick Nolte's went to, I don't know, whatever actors do when they stop getting film roles. Commercials for local furniture stores? Amateur porn? Guinea pigs for science?
But back in the mid-'80s to mid-'90s, it seemed like every other movie had a spot reserved for "unstable middle-aged blond guy," and the two men fought tooth and nail for every gig. They even got their breaks in a strangely similar fashion: Nolte made his fame in 48 Hours, a buddy-cop movie with Eddie Murphy, while Busey broke out as a villain in Lethal Weapon, THE buddy-cop movie, with a similarly proto-psycho Gibson. Man, that's a pretty epic crazy curse for one film. Did the whole cast get drunk and make fun of a mentally disabled gypsy or something?
But their typecasting wasn't quite the same: Nolte played frazzled middle-aged cops, Busey played psychotic ex-vets with terrifying horse-teeth.
So you should be able to guess the man by the role, right? Let's try it: Point Break -- frazzled middle-aged cop just trying to break the big case. Nolte or Busey? Nolte, right? His face just screams "too old for this shit." Sorry! It was Busey in Point Break. What about the crazy old Vietnam vet in Tropic Thunder? Busey? Nope, that was Nolte, busting the typecasting.
Those were easy. Let's step up the difficulty a little: Which one played the crazy abusive father in The Hulk? Could go either way -- the paternal overtones say Nolte; the crazy says Busey. Who was the straight-laced, overzealous FBI agent in Predator 2? "Straight-laced" says Nolte, while "overzealous" is practically tattooed on Busey's forehead. Of course, the game all falls apart after Busey had his motorcycle accident and suffered severe swelling of the acronym lobe. Then it becomes way too easy to spot the differences: Busey is the drugged-out psycho who looks like he lives under the boardwalk and snatches stray children like a bridge troll.
While Nolte is-