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I've seen it many times. Very young identical twins cast for the same role. Off the top of my head:

  • Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen in Full House.

  • Dylan Thomas Sprouse and Cole Mitchell Sprouse in Big Daddy and Friends.

  • The Saunders triplets in Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone.

Why is that? Is it to comply with child labor laws?

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If one dies they have a backup. ;) – ThinkingMedia May 23 '13 at 20:00
up vote 19 down vote accepted

The most important reason is that the number of hours a child actor can work is strictly limited by law. Movie shoots often have long days, longer than a single child actor is legally allowed to be on the set.

According to this site for would-be stage parents, children aged 2 to 5 are only allowed to work three hours per day in California.

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As an extra for several Hollywood movies, the days were unbelievably long. Usually 06:00 arrival on set for wardrobe, makeup, and hair; during any spare time, grab some breakfast. Shooting commenced by 07:30. Wrap would usually occur 20:00 or 22:00. The real actors worked the same hours, though they had clear opportunities (and better digs) to rest during setups and set changes. These days were back to back Monday through Friday for 5 solid weeks, with the cast/crew flying out of town on the weekend, presumably to go home. This in Portland, Oregon for a Los Angeles based cast and crew. – wallyk May 23 '13 at 19:23
There is also the added bonus of if one child is in a bad mood or is uncooperative, the other might not be in the same mood, so there is a better chance of getting a scene shot. I believe the employ this same idea with animals which look similar (and no, I'm not trying to say children should be treated like animals while making movies ... it's just a parallel). – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Feb 11 '15 at 14:34

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