If the actor doesn’t have a beard, can someone with a short beard stand in?

I understand that height, hair color, etc., are all important, but I’m unsure if facial hair matters or not.

— Ali in New Orleans

Response from Ben Hauck

Hi Ali! Thanks for emailing Stand-In Central!

With respect to having facial hair, I would say it depends on what the director of photography (DP) wants. Whether the actor is bearded, scruffy, or clean-shaven, facial hair may or may not matter to the DP on a stand-in.

For example, I recently stood in for an actor on a film. I was clean-shaven, and while I don’t particularly resemble the actor, I understand I got the gig because my skin tone matched his. The actor was very bearded. I asked a PA if the DP wanted me to grow a beard, who in turn asked the DP. The DP, seeming to think this a good idea but not wanting to be demanding, replied shyly, “Yes, would you?” My sense was that I could have gone clean-shaven for the gig but that it was slightly helpful for this DP for me to have a beard.

Obviously, I didn’t have an instantaneous beard so it took some time to grow my beard to any length. Over the seven-week job it never reached the actor’s beard size, and I trimmed it a few times, so my sense was that it mattered a little for this DP but not that much.

If you are day-playing as a stand-in, a little stubble or scruff probably won’t matter. If you’re on a long-term gig, it may matter. If you need to make a decision either way, check with production and let them get back to you before you do anything dramatic to your look.

Also, if you think it matters, when you submit for stand-in work or are called by casting, address any differences in your appearance from your photo. If your headshot is clean-shaven but you’re bearded now, you should probably mention it. If you have a little bit of stubble that you’re rocking as your image rather than being clean-shaven, that may or may not matter unless it very much darkens your face. If you’re bearded and you know your actor is clean-shaven, express your interest (or disinterest) in shaving it for the job.

Just because one DP is relaxed about whether your facial hair matches the actor does not mean the next DP will be as relaxed about your facial hair. Some DPs are very particular, others are not. In general, if your facial hair is very different from your actor and it looks as if you’ll be standing in for this actor for the long term, check with production on whether you should change it.

Have you had to match your actor’s facial hair? Have you had a job where your facial hair was dramatically different than your actor’s? Share your experiences below!