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I am looking for a correct and common phrase to describe that people were actors in the same movie(s):

An example is:

"Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon acted together in The Odd Couple and Grumpy Old Men."

seems to be better than " ... played together ..." as the latter may have a sexual connotation.

Which one should I choose? Is there a better third alternative?

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    If you don't like acted (which is fine), what's wrong with a simple worked? – Prof Yaffle May 24 '16 at 15:23
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    In that specific example, you could use 'co-starred', since the pair of them were the stars of those movies. – Gus May 24 '16 at 15:25
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“Acted together” in the sense of “they were in the same movie” would be the least ambiguous choice, not merely because of the possible sexual connotation you mention, but “playing together in’ could also be describing their characters’ interaction in the film or particular scenes of it (“they played [poker] together in the film” or “Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins played [baseball] together in Bull Durham”).
Of course, if the movie contained “a play/movie within a play/movie” then even “acted together” could suffer from the same ambiguity, in which rare case perhaps “appeared together in” would be better.

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There is nothing grammatically or linguisticly wrong with 'played together'.

One of the established meanings if 'play' is to make a dramatic performance, and there is nothing wrong with using it in this sense. Most people would not take it as having any sexual connotation.

'Acted' is a more precise word than 'played', which might also refer to playing as musicians, playing as children, etc. You might prefer it for that reason.

  • With all respect, "played together", while perhaps comprehensible in this sense to people familiar with the drama world, is certainly not as universally understood, at least in American English, in this sense, and would look wrong or at least confusing to an average reader. – ben May 24 '16 at 16:07

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