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Article – Seeing Double: Memorable On-Screen Twins

 

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Posted August 3, 2015 by

 
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Memorable On-Screen Twins

I don’t know about you, but I am counting down the days until the release of Legend, in which the incomparable Tom Hardy undertakes the roles of both Ronnie and Reggie Kray. Judging by the trailer, Hardy’s intensity and his mastery of physical nuances are key to his portrayal of the notorious London gangsters. No stranger to playing real life criminals after his stunning turn as Charles Bronson, Hardy looks set to deliver not one, but two electrifying performances as the genetically identical brothers with quite different personalities and predilections.

In anticipation of the next month’s release, let’s look at some other memorable twins on film.

The Winklevoss Brothers – The Social Network (2008)

the social network

Armie Hammer’s dual role as the Olympic rowers and internet entrepreneurs Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss in David Fincher’s film about the inception of Facebook, is probably best remembered for scene-stealing lines such as, “I’m 6’5”, 220, and there’s two of me.” But actually, although Hammer is the face and voice of both twins, Josh Pence also played them from the neck down. Pence and Hammer went through an intensive period of training to mimic one another’s physicality perfectly, and Hammer’s face was grafted onto Pence’s body using the same techniques Fincher applied to Brad Pitt’s character in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

The Grady Twins – The Shining (1980)

the shining 1980

The ghostly girls in the matching blue dresses who haunt the Overlook Hotel in Kubrick’s horror classic epitomise the idea of identical twins as something inherently disquieting and uncanny. Played by real life siblings Lisa and Louise Burns, the Grady Twins will be forever ingrained in the minds and nightmares of film fans for the immortal line, “Come and play with us, Danny, forever and ever and ever.” Although the sisters never acted again, their iconic debut is one of the most famous and enduring images in cinematic history.

Theo and Isabelle – The Dreamers (2003)

The Dreamers (2003)

While fraternal twins Luke and Leia didn’t know they were related when they engaged in a spot of brother/sister lip-locking in The Empire Strikes Back, Bernardo Bertolucci’s twins have no such excuse. Set during a period of civil unrest in 1968 Paris, The Dreamers charts the complex relationship between cinephile French twins, Theo and Isabelle (Louis Garrel and Eva Green), and an American student, Matthew (Michael Pitt). Lured by Isabelle’s beauty and shared ideals, Matthew finds himself drawn into the twins’ insular world of fantasy and childish role-play, but the dynamic shifts when he sees them sleeping naked together and he is coerced into taking Isabelle’s virginity under Theo’s watchful gaze. The ménage à trois that ensues is short-lived, however, and Matthew finds himself left behind when the twins run off to join the rioters. The incestuous and homoerotic themes and copious nudity may have earnt The Dreamers an NC-17 rating on its release in the US, but Theo and Isabelle’s erotic co-dependence embodies a deep-rooted fascination with and fetishisation of people who once shared a womb.

Terry and Ruth Collins – The Dark Mirror (1946)

The Dark Mirror (1946)

Long before the technology was developed to graft one actor’s face onto another’s body, Hollywood was making movies about twins with stars in a double role. Whilst many will remember Bette Davis’ stellar turn as twins Edith and Margaret in The Dead Ringer (1964), perhaps fewer know she had already played identical sisters almost two decades previously in the 1946 movie, A Stolen Life. In that same year, Olivia de Havilland portrayed twins Terry and Ruth Collins in murder mystery, The Dark Mirror. As with both of the Davis pictures, The Dark Mirror explores themes of duality, jealousy, and rivalry, and poses questions about genetic sameness versus individuality. The character of Doctor Elliott represents a medical interest in the physiognomy and psychology of twins, and the anxiety surrounding the inability to scientifically differentiate between two people. Psychoanalytical methods reveal that one of the sisters is insane, but which one is it? How can two people with the same visage harbour such wildly diverse traits? Given that it’s only been in the last few years that DNA testing has advanced enough to be tell monozygotic siblings apart, it’s little wonder that they are rich pickings as subject matter for this type of thriller.

Tom and Barry Howe – Brothers of the Head (2005)

Brothers of the Head (2005)

Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe’s ‘mock-rockumentary’ features the sublime Harry and Luke Treadaway as conjoined siblings with a relationship that makes Theo and Isabelle from The Dreamers look well-adjusted! Purchased by a sleazy talent manager at eighteen years of age, the brothers are essentially locked away in a crumbling country house and groomed for punk stardom as frontmen of a band called The Bang Bang. As the boys adjust to life in the limelight and all its clichéd trappings, a music journalist called Laura falls for Tom after ingratiating herself with the twins under the pretext of writing an article about exploitation of the physically impaired. Forced to be complicit in their affair, Barry’s self-destructive behaviour spirals as jealousy and bitterness take hold. Brothers of the Head is fascinating on many levels. Directed by the men behind Lost in La Mancha, it’s based on a novel by Brian Aldiss, who originally had a cameo in the movie, and is based on a dream he had one night. It also features Ken Russell as himself, the premise being that the documentary crew are capturing him making a film about Tom and Barry entitled Two Way Romeo after one of The Bang Bang’s songs. Meta enough for you? Examining issues of privacy and surveillance, and drawing parallels between modern celebrity and the freak shows of old, Brothers of the Head blurs the line between reality and mythmaking. Real life identical twins, Harry and Luke Treadaway, recorded all the music for the film, and spent an inordinate amount of time strapped together by harness to learn how to move, sleep, eat, and use the bathroom as one entity. They even share a lingering kiss as Barry and Tom at one point, something which, by their own admission, may not have been in the script. Perhaps the most extreme example in the history of twins on film, Tom and Barry Howe demonstrate the ultimate bond, that of two souls inexorably entwined, and how that closeness can be both a blessing and a curse. They reflect our desire to pick apart the mysterious, the unknowable, and the magnetism of twins for us as eternal outsiders.

 

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Katie Young
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