Anything Left-Handed > Famous > Do left-handed actors have to change hands?

Do left-handed actors have to change hands?

We received this in an email from Valerie in Indiana, USA recently and it got us thinking…

Here’s an interesting thought I recently had while watching the 2008 version of ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’: Keanu Reeves who plays the alien ‘Klaatu’ is left-handed but appears to be right-handed in the movie especially when he’s writing on the chalk board. I know I can write right-handed on a chalk board but not on paper.   I wonder if ‘Klaatu’ being right-handed was intentional or just something Keanu adapted to for the part because of camera angles and things of that nature.

Do actors have difficulty learning stunts with weapons?   Do they sometimes have to use their right hand because of the angles or what the director wants?     There’s many questions about left-handed actors and actresses that I’ve recently thought about.   Jeremy Renner from ‘The Avengers’ is also left-handed but uses both hands in the movie especially in the final fight sequences.

Does anyone else know of instances where left-handed actors or actresses have played a part right-handed, either because the director wanted to make them look like the majority or for other more practical reasons?

And are there any instances of a left-handed real person being played in a film by an actor doing it right-handed?

If you know of any, please add them as comments below.

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73 comments on “Do left-handed actors have to change hands?
  1. Elise Beraru says:

    When Howard Da Silva played Ben Franklin in 1776 he signed the Declaration of Independence with his left hand, but I believe Mr Da Silva is naturally right handed or was taught to write right handed in real life.

  2. Van Messner says:

    The original Beatle Paul McCartney, in his own words, was an incorrigible lefty. He played the bass guitar left handed with great skill and dexterity. He had a poised, specific body language onstage.He rarely glanced at his guitar
    After 1966, strange things were observed in what was definitely a different man calling himself Paul McCartney.
    He looked different, sounded different, had different body language, and played the bass left handedly. However, his skill set was greatly diminished. He constantly had his eyes on his hands, a sure sign that he was not the original, confident, naturally left handed Paul McCartney.
    He did no live performances until 1969, when he and his band did a concert on a London rooftop.
    It was evident that he was talker and bigger boned than the first Paul.
    He looked inelegant and crude by comparison.
    Paul McCartney was replaced. The Paul is Dead so-called conspiracy has endured since 1967.
    Doppelgangers have been in place since then.

  3. Lynne says:

    Just noticed Hugh Jackman at the beginning of The Greatest Showman is writing left- handedly… which he apparently is in real life. Yet, as the movie progresses, he is shown, more than once, with a dominant RIGHT hand. ‍♀️

  4. Leslie Stern says:

    Yes, there are so many. Start with Cary Grant. He had a hand-double when he acted because he was a lefty and couldn’t write right-handed. Nicole Kidman is a true lefty but in The Hours she played a real person who was right-handed. From early films I can only site Judy Garland who was a lefty and every movie she made, she was a lefty. Charlie Chaplin, another lefty, was quite ambidextrous. Julia Roberts had to pretend to be right-handed for Erin Brokovich because Erin is right-handed. But if you look when Julia eats soup, she does it left-handed. I’m assuming she told the director that she would spill it all over if she was forced to do it righty. There’s even a line in Oceans 12 when Julia plays Tess who plays Julia and she meets Bruce Willis (lefty- even at golf) and he catches Tess because he says Julia is a lefty. Tom Cruise has been said is a lefty but is not. He shot pool lefty, so the assumption was there. Marilyn is also listed as lefty but was not. Yes, Keanu is a lefty. When he eats or writes but with all the fight scenes he’s done, he’s become quite ambidextrous. Obviously I’m a lefty and I know just about everyone who is.

  5. Paul Dryden says:

    John Vernon was left handed
    In the final scene of The Outlaw Josey Wales
    Fletcher is on the street with Wales
    His left hand is on his pistol
    To a left handed person

  6. liv :3 says:

    hey i know this was posted almost 8 years ago but i have an example of this! someone already mentioned brent spiner but they only talked about the way he holsters his phaser. while brent, and by extension his main character Data, is left-handed, he also plays Lore, Data’s evil twin, who was purposefully portrayed as right-handed, because since Lore is essentially the mirror image of Data it would make sense that they use opposite hands 🙂

  7. Laura says:

    As a left-handed actor, there are definitely some factors to look into when determining what hand to use for a role. I used to be very self-conscious about using my left hand while acting. But most of time, it doesn’t matter what hand you use. People rarely notice if you do something ‘weird’ on TV because it looks natural to them. Little things, like pointing at something or turning on a lamp.

    Making something feel natural is a key part of acting – if it doesn’t feel natural, it feels weird, and if it feels weird, then it looks weird, and people notice. And even if they do notice, who cares? It’s just a fact.

    If there’s nothing in a script or book that says the character is right-handed, there’s no reason to not be a lefty.

    Ex. Tamara Taylor is left-handed. Therefore Camille Saroyan on “Bones” is left handed. I didn’t even notice this fact until she punched someone – 7 seasons after being introduced.

    It kind of makes it seem a little more real in a way. There are left-handed people in the world. They’re rare. But they pop up, and when you notice, it’s a little “huh” moment. All inclusive, and not discriminating.

    When playing someone based on real life, it’s important to note whether they’re right or left-handed. Examples would be Erin Brockovich, Presidents, etc. If it’s written in the script or you’re replacing a previous actor in the same role, then you have to follow that too, to make it as authentic as possible. It works the other way around too. Thomas Brody-Sangster learned to play the guitar left-handed for his role as Paul McCartney in “Nowhere Boy”.

    It’s the same thing as dialects and accents. There is a difference between Canadian and American dialects. The majority of shows are located in the USA. Most shows shot in Vancouver take place in Seattle. Like iZombie. Rose McIver is from New Zealand, but plays Liv Moore, from the US. Most of the other characters in the show are Canadian locals, but they all walk in the audition room with American dialects, because the casting director won’t look at you twice otherwise.

    As for fighting and stunts? Personally, I work on both left and right-handed techniques. I tend to learn everything left-handed first to make sure I know what I’m doing and have proper form. Then I mirror it. Most of the time, I can get away with doing it all left handed. People don’t even notice. But I find this makes it easier when given direction or choreographing stunts. It’s versatile. Sometimes you need to fall a direction that isn’t exactly natural. Or move an object to your other side so the camera can see your face.

    However, unless you’re in a room that doesn’t have much space, the camera revolves around the actors. You figure out choreography beforehand. Then you block the scene. The crew watches the actors do their thing, then determine where to place the camera, lighting, sound, etc in order to see everything that’s going on in the scene. They’ll shoot the scene more than once in different angles and edit it together later. So it’s not too big a deal.

    Hope this helps, and is interesting. 🙂

  8. Scott Monahan says:

    Tom cruise throws right handed in war of the world’s but he’s left handed. If you watch carefully you can see that he throws like a girl. Maybe they didn’t have a left handed glove. Lol

  9. Jim says:

    Small point-it is noted several times in Marvel comics and novels that Hawkeye is ambidextrous, and using both of his hands is part of his fighting style.

  10. katie says:

    I know that Dakota fanning and Kristen stewart are right handed but played lefties in the runaways

  11. Matt says:

    Hugh Jackman! In a scene in the Wolverine, he picks up his chopsticks with his left hand, so I guess the makers had no problems with that.

  12. Writer2122 says:

    I can think of hundreds of examples of left-handed actors being forced to look right-handed on screen. Charlie Chaplin was the start and it kept going. Rex Harrison (in old movies. in My Fair Lady he was finally permitted to be the lefty he was). Keanu in several movies. Cary Grant was never allowed to be a lefty on screen. Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich (except when she eats soup in the kitchen – she couldn’t pull that off without burning herself). Bruce Willis is pretty strict with his directors about being a lefty (he even golfs left-handed in Armageddon) yet in The Sixth Sense he was forced to look like he was writing right-handed. I was hoping someone could tell me WHY. Especially in the 30’s and 40’s no one was allowed to be left-handed on screen. Today it’s more tolerated but back then – no way!

    • Diwo says:

      Bruce Willis had to do it, so it wouldnt be so obvious, that he doesnt wear a wedding ring most of the movie, so the viewers wouldn’t guess he’s dead. (The ending explains everything)

    • Stephane says:

      Cary Grant and Charlie Chaplin wrote right handed in their day to day lives too, not just onscreen.
      there are many pics online of both signing autographs right handed.
      Rod Steiger, Anthony Perkins, Kim Novak and Peter Graves all wrote left handed onscreen in the 1950’s so I’m failing to see any severe bias you describe

  13. Gillian Bergh says:

    I was disappointed with a comedy time-travel ‘Fun with Bob and Ted’, which featured some well-known Lefties including Napoleon and Joan of Arc, both played by right-handed actors. It’s not as if there is a shortage of left handed actors.

  14. Tiffany Antopolski says:

    Julia Roberts is left-handed. In Pretty Woman, she was seen writing with her left hand. When playing Erin Brockovich, there is a scene where she is seen writing with her right hand (Erin is right handed).

    • ant cap says:

      Oceans twelve she plays Tess that is trying to play Julia and she writes with her right hand and gets called out on not being Julia because Julia is left handed.

  15. Don Skanes says:

    I’m ambidextrous. Although I write left-handed, I complete most other tasks with my right hand. Therefore, people are usually surprised when I write with my left hand. Anyway, Greg Kinnear writes with his left hand. However, when he played John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States, he wrote with his right hand to make it appear as accurately as possible. So, to answer your question: yes, this happens.

    • Dan Larson says:

      You’re not ambidextrous your what’s called mixed handed. You do some things right handed some things left handed. Ambidextrous people can do everything equally as well with both hands.

  16. cathy says:

    I don’t know if this counts or not but in John Wick, Keanu Reeves writes left handed but shoots right handed.

    • Max Persian says:

      I don’t know about Mr. Reeves, but I’m left handed and shoot a pistol right handed. My right eye has always been my dominant eye, and I made the choice to shoot right handed to have better aim. I fire a rifle right handed for the same reason, but I shoot a bow left handed as it feels too odd right handed.

    • Dan Larson says:

      It’s very common for left-handed people to write left-handed and shoot right-handed.. they’re actually mixed handed rather than right or left handed. How do I know this? Because I’m one of them.

  17. Sophie says:

    I’m really really sorry but he’s the 11th Doctor, the 12th is Peter Capaldi

    • Kit says:

      From a technical standpoint, Matt (worst Doctor ever) Smith is the 12th Doctor. John Hurt (the War Doctor) is actually number 9, Eccleston is 10, Tennant is 11…

      Smith works right-handed in DW, because the Doctor is right-handed.

      Although… there are pictures of Paul McGann, for the Big Finish audios, that have him pointing the sonic screwdriver with his left.

  18. Terry Miller says:

    When I was in college (35 years ago) I remember watching an episode of General Hospital (I think). One of the
    main female characters was murdered. The murderer staged it to look like she killed herself by stretching her right hand on the floor beside her body and making it look like the victim left a suicide note in her own blood. I noticed months before that the victim was left handed. When it showed her body lying with her bloody right finger next to the
    message it was proof she’d been murdered. However, no one brought up that evidence, it was never referred to as a reason to believe she hadn’t killed herself. Neither the actors, directors, editors or even the actress herself
    noticed that the bloody message had been written with the wrong hand. Of course, there was no internet or
    easy way to to send a message to the network so I’ve kept my testimony to myself all these years. I feel so much better now….

    • M. Patricia Starr says:

      Aahhhhh. Don’t you feel better now that you’ve gotten that off your chest! And to think, if only you had been able to get through, they may have cinched the Emmy that year. C’est la vie!

  19. Marcia Everett says:

    OKAY tot he question. I think it only matters if you are portraying someone, that is known for their handedness. SO if it’s a writer people might KNOW which hand that person writes with, or a musician, or somebody REALLY famous like the President. SO when VIncent D’Onofrio LH played Abbie Hoffman who knows?

  20. Marcia Everett says:

    I’m right handed but I love everytihing left handed ever since i heard about Paul McCartney when I was 8. (I’m 52 now) ALll my favorite actors are left handed, I’ve tried to learn to do things left handed and I think I’m going to learn the bass left handed before I die. What this has to do with the question? Nothing. First time I saw a posting place about left handedness, guess I don’t spend as much time at it as I thought.

  21. Kerri says:

    It isn’t a movie, but Matt Smith, the 12th incarnation if Doctor Who is left handed but almost always used his right hand in his episodes. Not sure why.

  22. Amanda says:

    On the ’90’s tv show Step by Step, 3 of the actors were left handed. Brandon Call-JT Lambert, Christine Lakin-Al Lambert, and Sasha Mitchell-cousin Cody Lambert are all left handed and they weren’t forced to change. The only right handed Lambert sibling was the boy who played Brendan. So apparently, left handedness runs in the Lambert family. And oddly enough, I didn’t realize this until earlier this year when one of the networks started re-running the show and I watched it again.

  23. Mike Griger says:

    I’ve noticed this in movies my whole life because I am also a south paw and so was my old man. Not only did Keanu act right handed as Klaatu, but I know Bruce Willis (another south paw) pretended to be right handed in the sixth sence, I figured actors did this just to challenge themselves more for roles.

  24. Jess says:

    Jennifer Lawrence is left handed and she doesn’t change for the role, making Katniss left-handed in the movie adaptation of the books.

  25. Mani Thangadurai says:

    Nicole Kidman had to switch her hands for a film she did…it was ‘The Hours’ where she had to play the right-handed Virginia Woolf, I think.

    Also. the left-handed R. Kelly had to sign an autograph right-handed for a music video which he made for the soundtrack of ‘Ali’, starring Will Smith.

    • Writer2122 says:

      That was an amazing year. Four out of the five women nominated for Best Actress were lefties! What are the odds?

  26. AladdinSane says:

    Rex Harrison and Cary Grant were two lefties who managed quite well working their right hands in movie afer movie. The exceptions? Harrison in “My Fair Lady” and Grant in “None but the Lonely Heart”…