There are only so many names out there in the world. I myself have a fairly uncommon name, but I’ve met a handful of Brennans in my travels. Hell, a cursory Google search will probably tell you that you share a name with an Olympic figure skater or a PTA president or a Minnesota law student. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that movie characters also have names that overlap with real people. Anybody named Sally Hardesty probably got the thrill of their lives when TEXAS CHAIN SAW came out.
However, there are certain cases where a screenwriter will pick a name for a character, only to have that name be swept up by some incredibly popular public figure a decade or more later, making that character’s appearance seem incredibly bizarre in retrospect. Here are some horror movie name doppelgängers that weird me out every time.
Harry Potter Gets His First Taste of Magic in TROLL
The 1986 John Carl Buechler project TROLL proved that Harry Potter had experience fighting trolls long before his dungeon escapades in THE SORCERER’S STONE. That’s right, one of the lead characters in this Empire film about a San Francisco family fighting a diminutive creature shares a name with the boy wizard who swept the globe eleven years later. In fact, there are two Harry Potters crammed into the film: Harry Potter Jr., whose sister becomes possessed by the troll (don’t ask), and his father, Harry Potter Sr. This coincidence is nothing less than magical.
Viola Davis Meets a Bitter End in BLOODY BIRTHDAY
The Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis is best known for her roles in prestigious flicks like DOUBT, FENCES, and THE HELP, but long before she hit the Hollywood scene, her namesake faced off against a trio of murderous children in 1981’s BLOODY BIRTHDAY. Miss Viola Davis was a young schoolteacher who met a violent end, which actually sounds like a great role to help the current Davis toward her next Oscar.
Hans Gruber Dies Hard in RE-ANIMATOR
Hans Gruber, the dastardly terrorist portrayed by Alan Rickman in 1988’s DIE HARD, is one of action cinema’s most iconic villains. But just three years before, his name could be found adorning the ill-fated professor in Stuart Gordon’s cult classic RE-ANIMATOR. Dr. Hans Gruber is the subject of the first experiment by Herbert West, his medical student at the University of Zurich. After his death, West accidentally overdoses Gruber with re-animating reagent, giving him one of the grossest demises in an already goopy, gory movie. Way better than falling in slow motion out of a high-rise, if you ask me.
Mike Myers Came Home Long Before AUSTIN POWERS
This is by far the biggest name doppelgänger at large, to the point that they make a joke about it in the stunning trailer for Edgar Wright’s BABY DRIVER. Canadian comedian Mike Myers made a name for himself with iconic roles in films like WAYNE’S WORLD and AUSTIN POWERS, but he was building his legacy off that other Michael Myers, the legendary serial slasher from John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN. Mike Myers himself has even poked fun at this connection, inserting himself into the opening scene of SCREAM when he hosted the 1997 MTV Movie Awards. Check out the video!
The best thing about this entry is that Dana Carvey had a bit part in 1981’s HALLOWEEN II, making that his first official film co-starring with Mike Myers.
James Cameron Busted Blocks Four Years Before TERMINATOR
James Cameron was working in Hollywood long before 1984, but he first reached wide public consciousness with his directorial debut THE TERMINATOR in 1984. However, certain audiences would have already heard the name, as it belonged to the hardboiled Inspector James Cameron, John Smihula’s character in the 1980 Z-grade picture THE LONG ISLAND CANNIBAL MASSACRE!
Bonus: The Loomis Variations
I couldn’t resist giving a nod to that other big name doppelgänger from HALLOWEEN, even though this one was definitely on purpose. Donald Pleasence’s manic Dr. Samuel Loomis takes his name from the granddaddy of all slashers: Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO, in which barrel-chested hardware store owner Sam Loomis investigates the disappearance of his lover at the eerie Bates Motel. The namesake would also be picked up again in 1996 when Wes Craven’s SCREAM cast Skeet Ulrich as the skeevy Billy Loomis. That name hasn’t carried over into any 21st century flicks yet, but I can’t wait for the next great horror filmmaker to continue the tradition.