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Over the decades, Hollywood has delighted in making films showcasing one actor in multiple roles. Five of them resulted in Oscar nominations: Aside from Sellers, there were Charlie Chaplin, “The Great Dictator”; Lee Marvin in “Cat Ballou” (who won the Academy Award); Meryl Streep, “The French Lieutenant’s Woman”; and Nicolas Cage, “Adaptation.”
That lofty group could be joined this year by Lupita Nyong’o, who plays both Adelaide and Red in Universal’s Jordan Peele-directed “Us.”
Technology - Actor
The technology has gotten much more sophisticated, but ultimately it comes down to the actor.
To get into a character, Nyong’o tells Variety, “I always have rituals, and for this it was vital to do that. I created precise rules for each of them, of physical movement as well as mental and emotional ones, to switch from one to the other. It was a mix of things. I did specific physical exercises and vocal warmups for each role. I also had visual and musical cues that helped me with each.”
There were subtle challenges, she adds.
“When you’re playing one character, you are the advocate for one perspective. You throw the ball to the other character and are challenged and inspired by the ball thrown back at you. With this film, I was both thrower of the ball and receiver. I had to work hard to understand each person’s perspective, and to imagine what the response would be. The toughest thing was to be both myself and the other person.”
Considerations - Days - Character
There were also practical considerations: “I had very few days off!” she laughs. “When one character was resting, the other was working.”
When the film opened in March, the actress got rave reviews. She also got some grief over the revelation that part of Red’s speech pattern was inspired by spasmodic dysphonia, a condition of involuntary movements...
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