What I know is we use opposite word for the actor or actress. I mean the main hero or heroine of the film.

Let's talk about The Matrix. Here, Keanu Reeves is in the lead role. Carrie-Anne Moss is opposite to him.

I understand that opposite does not literally mean an opponent or fighting Neo. That said, she is with Neo and will be helping him not fighting.

But then, now I want to use the word opposite in a literal sense. I want to say that Hugo Weaving as an Agent Smith is cast opposite to Keanu i.e. Neo. Here, he'll utterly opposing Neo and will fight with him.

So, the question is when we use opposite for the star casting, is it only for the opposite sex or opposite in deeds (in the movie, of course!)?

Is there any scope of using 'against'?

  • 3
    In theater and film, I believe this is called the antagonist.
    – J.R.
    Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 9:58
  • I'm not very sure, but at least saying "an actor is cast opposite to another actor" sounds a bit unfamiliar to me. It could be a common phrase for insiders, I don't know. (The phrase evokes a different sense of cast for me.) I think I might phrase it as "an actor is cast to play opposite to another actor", or perhaps something else entirely. Just my opinion, though. Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 10:38
  • If you think of "opposite" as meaning "facing one another with a little distance between" then all of these uses of the word start to make sense. Enemies may stand opposite one another to fight, be it with legal arguments or with swords. A man and a woman falling in love may sit opposite one another at a cafe table to talk. The word "opposite" refers to their positions (real or figurative), not to their reasons for taking those places.
    – David42
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 14:51

2 Answers 2


Opposite means “on the other side of”.

Someone who is cast opposite another actor is going to play many scenes on the opposite side of the action or dialogue, relative to that actor. But that does not mean they have to be antagonists (the correct word for the character that acts against the other actor's character).

In the case of casting, opposite does often refer to an antagonist, mainly because mainly story lines have a protagonist and an antagonist as the main characters. If you have two protagonists in the lead, you can still use opposite if the acting physically seems to place actors opposite from one-another.

I can think of an example where one character is another character's psychiatrist, and doctor and patient are surely not antagonists in the story. Since their cooperation happens from both sides of the doctor-patient relationship we can still imagine them as being cast opposite each other.

In case two characters fully cooperate in the story, you will usually say that actor X was cast alongside actor Y.


Yes, as you say, when discussing movies and plays the phrase "plays opposite" has a somewhat technical meaning, pretty much simply meaning "is in the same play/movie with", as in, "Sally plays opposite Bob in this movie" means essentially the same thing as "Sally is in this movie with Bob."

I don't know why they use this phrase, but a theory that occurs to me is that we routinely say that an actor "plays in" a movie, but if we said, "Sally plays with Bob in this movie", that sounds like we are saying that Sally treats Bob as a plaything, which depending on how your mind runs could either mean that she uses tricks or force to manipulate him or that they perform obscene acts together.

In normal conversation, the way to express the idea you're driving at is to identify one character as the "hero" or "protagonist" and the other as the "villain" or "antagonist". For example, "Keanu Reeves plays the hero and Hugo Weaving is the villain in this movie."

I can't think of a word that would fit in "Weaving plays _ Reeves" that expresses that idea and that would be generally understood and idiomatic. You have to recast the sentence.

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