‘The Daily Mail mistook me for Charles II': five celebrities on their famous lookalikes

Bridget Christie, Frank Skinner, Ben Miller, Rylan Clark-Neal and Jade Thirlwall channel the famous people they get mistaken for

Bridget Christie as Charles II

As a child I was really into old things: vintage clothing, antique furniture, ruins, listed buildings. At weekends, mum and dad would take us kids out in our Bedford van (there were nine of us) to visit stately homes and castles. I can’t recall where it was exactly, but on one of these trips I saw a portrait of Charles II and I remember thinking: that bloke looks like me. Did he have certain qualities that I aspired to? Yes – being king!

Then, in 2007, I dressed up as him for my Edinburgh show The Court Of King Charles II. The conceit was that I’d travelled forward in time to the present day to see how life had changed. My opening line was something like: “Welcome to the Court of King Charles II! Come with me now, back through the years. Imagine, if you can, a time very different from today… a time when a good education was a privilege of the rich, when horrendous acts of terrorism were carried out in the name of religion, when we polluted our cities and drank to oblivion. The 17th century. A time, as I say, very different from your own!”

Head shot of standup comedian, actor and writer Bridget Christie
Is it Bridget… Photograph: Graeme Robertson/The Guardian
Portrait of King Charles II of England, 1653
…or is it Charles? Photograph: Getty Photograph: Heritage Images/Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images

After the show, the Daily Mail mistook a photograph of me dressed as Charles II for the actual Charles II. They were running a story about a house for sale that he’d once visited and they used me in costume to illustrate it. Hopefully, that will happen a lot more after this article comes out. My dream is to do Who Do You Think You Are? and find out that we’re related. I also get told I look like Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, Russell Brand and a young Alex Salmond.

I was thrilled to dress up as Charles again; the costume I’d made for myself was rubbish. When I arrived at the shoot and saw the armour, I nearly wet myself with excitement – although holding that position while the (excellent) photographer got the right shot did my back in and I had to see a chiropractor the following week.

As a teenager, I was very self-conscious about my looks. I hated my front teeth, which were crooked, but then I got mugged in Brixton when I was 23 and had them knocked in, so they’re straight now. Looks-wise, I think my best years were 15 to 21, then 33 to 36. I exercise a lot, primarily for my early osteoarthritis, but a nice side-effect is all the endorphins and chemicals it releases into your brain; I think that’s had a really positive effect on how I see myself.

I’m ageing slightly better than Charles II did, but that’s probably because his job (king) was more stressful than mine (clown). When I was 18, I looked like he did at 18; now that I’m 48, I look like he did at 32. He should’ve done some jump squats.

Frank Skinner as Stan Laurel

Frank Skinner dressed as Stan Laurel
Frank Skinner: ‘I was only 11 when my mum pointed out the resemblance.’ Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

I grew up on Laurel and Hardy. I’m aware from my own experience that comedy has got quite a fierce sell-by date, but that doesn’t seem to apply to them; they made films I can remember laughing at when I was five that I’d still happily watch today. Scarily, I was only about 11 or 12 when my mum pointed out my resemblance to Stan Laurel. I know he’s the ultimate loser, but I was happy to hear it. I think when anyone says you look like a famous person you fiercely deny it, and then go around hoping other people will say it, too.

Head shot of comedian Frank Skinner
Is it Frank… Photograph: BBC Photograph: BBC/AVALON/avalon
Head shot of comedian Stan Laurel
…or is it Stan? Photograph: Getty Photograph: MGM Studios/Getty Images

The other person I often get mistaken for is Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. There’s one particular portrait of her in a formal blue gown that I have to admit does look quite a lot like me. I think she’s grown into me, more than I’ve grown into her. She was quite attractive as a young woman, and – in the kindest possible way – has crumbled into me.

I don’t get many compliments on my looks. I used to care about my appearance, but now I don’t. Some people have a period when they actually look quite good, and then it goes. Remember there was a year and a half when Prince William looked really hot? That’s the cruellest – to give and then take away. I think I was always a 62-year-old man in waiting. Even as a child, I looked right in a cardigan. These days, I’ve adopted the “Bolivian peasant woman on the cover of National Geographic” look – really lived-in and lined. There’s a Laurel and Hardy film called Atoll K where Laurel looks terrible, older and quite ill. When David Baddiel and I did photoshoots we used to say, “We look a bit Atoll K”, so it’s become a byword for ageing.

I always had the sort of physique that meant I couldn’t take my T-shirt off on the beach, but I think that’s a virtue in comedy. You have to be an everyman, which is hard if you look like Johnny Depp. Henry Normal told me I had a face for comedy, because I look like I’ve been kicked about. I’m never sure if really good-looking people can be profoundly funny.

Frank Skinner’s Showbiz is at London’s Garrick Theatre from 13 January to 15 February, nimaxtheatres.com.

Ben Miller as Anton du Beke

Actor and comedian Ben Miller dressed as dancer Anton du Beke
Ben Miller: ‘I get mistaken for him all the time, particularly when Strictly is on.’ Photograph: Jay Brooks/The Guardian

If looks were gears, I’d be in neutral. I’ve always had a face that people think belongs to someone else. When I was growing up in Nantwich I had a doppelganger I never met, and I would often bump into people who were convinced I was him.

Once upon a time, I used to get told I looked like Daniel Day-Lewis. Unbelievably, I used to find that quite annoying, because I desperately wanted to make my own mark on the world. Daniel Day-Lewis quickly morphed into Griff Rhys Jones and now I quite enjoy looking like other people. My averageness is my greatest weapon as an actor.

Actor and comedian Ben Miller
Is it Ben… Photograph: WireImage Photograph: Karwai Tang/WireImage
Head shot of Strictly Come Dancing dancer Anton du Beke
…or is it Anton? Photograph: Getty Photograph: Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

Rob Brydon and I get mistaken for each other a lot, and he sends me texts to update me on his encounters (“Middle-class man, ginger hair, loved Death In Paradise”). When it happens to me, I sometimes just take credit for his work. I could never see the resemblance until we both appeared on QI and they dressed us identically and sat us next to each other. Then I had to admit it.

I get Anton du Beke all the time, particularly when Strictly is on. I was once stopped outside a coffee shop by a woman who said, “Anton, it’s so great to see you, wasn’t that an amazing wedding?” I told her I hadn’t been at any wedding, but Anton is a bit of a card, so I think she thought I – or he – was having her on. Then she got cross, and decided Anton had got a bit big for his boots. When I left, she was still convinced he had been incredibly rude.

In my 20s, I thought about my appearance a lot. I lived in fear that I would start to lose my hair – it was the worst thing I could possibly imagine. The weird thing is, when I did start to lose it, I wasn’t bothered. The neurosis must have been about something else. As an actor, you’re constantly being given opinions about your appearance, and it actually makes you less self-conscious. You become inoculated against any sense that your body belongs to you.

I’m a lot less concerned with how I look these days. When you’re growing up, there’s still a chance you might manifest your dream appearance. Once you stop changing so much, you realise that’s not going to happen. When you’re 16, you might end up looking like George Clooney – who knows? But when you’re 53, you know you look like Anton du Beke.

Ben Miller’s book The Boy Who Made The World Disappear is out now.

Rylan Clark-Neal as Olivier Giroud

TV star Rylan Clark-Neal dressed as footballer Olivier Giroud
Rylan Clark-Neal: ‘I know Chelsea’s match schedule just from looking at my Twitter mentions.’ Photograph: Jay Brooks/The Guardian

I used to get about a thousand tweets every time Arsenal played, saying, “Rylan’s up front.” I had no idea what everyone was on about. Then, a year or two ago I was watching football and a friend pointed at Olivier Giroud and said, “I thought that was you.” That’s when the penny dropped. Now, I know Chelsea’s match schedule just from looking at my Twitter mentions. I feel sorry for Olivier if he’s getting “Rylan!” shouted at him when he’s playing. He’s probably thinking: who is Rylan? And when he finds out, he’ll think: is that what I look like?

I’m extremely flattered by the comparison: he’s a good-looking bloke – but I don’t think I look anything like him. I wish I did. Maybe when my face is painted on there’s a slight resemblance. I also get told I look like a young version of [TV presenter and former soldier] Ant Middleton, and Freddie Mercury, because of my teeth. A few people have said I look like Jesus. One woman stopped me in a petrol station and called me the Messiah, but maybe she wasn’t on the best form that day.

Head shot of TV star Rylan Clark-Neal
Is it Rylan… Photograph: Stuart Wilson/Getty Images
Head shot of footballer Olivier Giroud
…or is it Olivier? Photographs: Getty Photograph: Shaun Botterill - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

When I was growing up, I was chubby, ginger and gay – I only needed glasses to have the set. That’s stayed with me. Everyone thinks I’m ultra-confident, but I’d rather look like anyone but myself. I’ve changed my face so much over the last 10 years: the structure, the colour. I’ve had Botox and fillers, as well as a few other procedures, and I dye my hair and beard black. I’ve also had my share of things that have gone wrong: my lip burst open and fell on the floor because I’d had too much filler. I wish more people were open about what they’ve had done. A friend of a friend asked a well-known woman where she’d had her facelift done, because they wanted a recommendation, and she was really offended. Let’s be fair: that hasn’t happened using Nivea, has it?

There was nothing wrong with my teeth, but I wanted veneers, and now they’re more famous than me: I get told I look as if I could eat an apple through a letterbox. I want a six-pack, but who doesn’t? Unfortunately, the only time I go into my home gym is to grab a Lucozade. I keep joking I’ll get double-A implants to look like pecs, but I never would.

Fame has made me even less comfortable with myself, because I’m always being looked at and judged. People say so many things to me and I think: I’m rich, I don’t care. But the one thing that gets to me is when people say I’m arrogant. In reality, I’m my own biggest troll. I wish those people could see the real me.

Jade Thirlwall as Diana Ross

Little Mix singer Jade Thirlwall dressed as Diana Ross, against a sky-painted backdrop
Jade Thirlwall: ‘Every week at school I sent a tape of myself performing Chain Reaction to Stars In Their Eyes.’ Photograph: Pål Hansen/The Guardian

When I was a kid, I thought my mam was Diana Ross. Everybody said she was the absolute double of her, and when she’d go to the bingo, she’d say, “I’m going out now, to do a concert.” We always had Diana Ross playing in the house, and I was obsessed. At school discos, everyone would be in cool clothes, and I’d be there in a homemade fishtail gown with my hair brushed out, doing all her dance moves and mannerisms. Every week I sent a tape of myself performing Chain Reaction to Stars In Their Eyes – until my mam realised it’s actually quite a rude song.

I’m Arab, and when I was growing up there weren’t many famous people who looked like me. Maybe that’s another reason why I latched on to Diana – she was the closest I could get to seeing myself represented. At school, I was bullied a lot about my colour. I became incredibly insecure, and was anorexic from 13 to 18. Going on the X Factor and being put into Little Mix helped me to recover. I knew I’d never be able to be a singer and live my dream if I stayed the way I was; having that goal was my light at the end of the tunnel.

Head shot of Jade Thirlwall of Little Mix
Is it Jade… Photograph: Samir Hussein/Getty Images
American soul singer and actor Diana Ross on the set of Mahogany
…or is it Diana? Photographs: Getty Photograph: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

People think that girl band members are competitive, but my saving grace was being put in a group where we supported each other and gave each other confidence boosts. We were so young when we won, and very naive. Early on, the record company called us in for a meeting and told us that we had to stop walking around in onesies and Ugg boots because we were making them look bad. We just laughed.

Other scrutiny was harder. On one of our first photoshoots, the magazine Photoshopped my nose, which gave me such a complex. Suddenly I thought: is that how I’m supposed to look? For years afterwards, I wanted a nose job, and then a boob job. I still have days where I have a breakout and I feel like shit, but I get over it. Now I’m happy with my “fashion” tits; I’m happy with my face. I look in the mirror and I see someone I love.

On stage, I tend to dress either like a boy or a drag queen – there’s no in between. I’ve loved drag ever since we used to go on family holidays to Benidorm and watch the shows there. Like me, a lot of drag queens are inspired by Diana: she’s the ultimate diva, polished, glamorous and larger than life. When I used to sing in old people’s homes or clubs and bars in the north-east, I’d always try to embody her. Even now, when Little Mix sing ballads, I channel Diana Ross. Superstars like her don’t exist any more.

• If you would like your comment on this piece to be considered for Weekend magazine’s letters page, please email weekend@theguardian.com, including your name and address (not for publication).


Joe Stone

The GuardianTramp

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