April 27, 2010

Twins in movies and reality

From my new Taki's Magazine column:
Due to Polish president Lech Kaczyński’s death in the tragic April 10 plane crash, his identical twin brother Jarosław, Poland’s brooding former prime minister, announced on April 26 that he is running to replace his more affable twin.

This kind of heartwarming/unsettling vibe is common with stories about twins. In a civilization that celebrates individualism, identical twins have played a slightly subversive role ever since Castor and Pollux.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the spotlight first shone on the Kaczyński twins when they starred in a 1962 hit kids’ movie. Being an identical twin provides an easy entry into acting in front of the camera. Both child labor laws limiting the number of hours allowed on the set and the tantrum-proneness of small children encourage producers to hire spares.

And young audiences, quite reasonably, are fascinated by identical twins. (The real question is why adults aren’t.) Identical twins make up no more than 1/250th of the population. (In contrast, due to late marriages and fertility treatments, fraternal twins are up to around 1/33rd.) Yet, many grown-ups can remember vividly a pair with whom they attended school.

Despite their advantage at getting a foot in the film industry door, identical twin child actors, such as the Kaczyńskis, seldom stay stars as adults.

One reason is that real-life twins almost never get to play twins in movies. In plays and movies, twins often bear a heavy load of symbolism and plot mechanics.

Read the rest there and comment upon it below.


John Cunningham said...

He is not a twin, but Jeremy Irons played identical twins, MDs, in "Dear Ringers," a truly creepy film by David Cronenbourg. highly effective performance by Irons.

Jim O said...

Three words: The Parent Trap.

This week's obsession, twins, is more fun than the last obsession, education.

Anonymous said...

My favorite movie about twins would probably be "Double Impact" where Jean Claude Van Damme finally meets his match - himself.

Leonardo Dicaprio is only the latest twin to place his brother in a Iron Mask.

More recently "The Prestige" had both of leading stars play twins.

That's real reason why there are so few adult twin actors. Who needs them? Twin stories are popular but creating a twin of an actor is a trivial special effect.

But let's not forget the "Barbarian Brothers" - real twins if not perhaps real actors.

Kylie said...

John Cunningham said: "He is not a twin, but Jeremy Irons played identical twins, MDs, in...a truly creepy film..."

The real-life twins, Cyril and Stewart Marcus, whose lives inspired the book on which the movie is based, declined and died together in a truly creepy way.

What's even more interesting is that there is some evidence they were not identical twins, as is widely presumed, but fraternal twins who enjoyed passing as identicals. Here's a pic of a book with them on the cover, one is in the middle of the top row, the other in the middle of the bottom row. To me, they do indeed look more like fraternal than identical twins.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what this adds to the discussion but Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen both look like hookers.

Anonymous said...

Why bother with hard to find twins, when everyone knows that in America, everyone is born with equal brain power but not physical power!

SGOTI said...

Sort of appropriate to this thread: What about conjoined twins, and the endlessly fascinating Bunker twins?

The most famous pair of conjoined twins was Chang and Eng Bunker, Thai brothers born in Siam, now Thailand. They traveled with P.T. Barnum's circus for many years and were billed as the Siamese Twins, and their fame lent the name to the condition. They married, raised families of 10 and 11 children respectively, established separate households (spending alternating nights at each home- hey now), sent multiple sons to fight in the Civil War for the Confederacy (!) and died within three hours of each other. In modern times, they could have been easily separated.

The facts are mind boggling to me.

fafafadfa said...

What's up with all this twin stuff? I'm beginning to suspect Steve has an identitical twin, and they are taking turns posting all these articles on twinnies.

fasfdasdf said...

I wonder how the world would be if most people were born as identitical twins as the norm while only a small number were born alone.

afadfasdfasdf said...

The third episode of THREE EXTREMES(I)is a pretty good creepy stuff on siamese twins--all the more suprising since it was made by Takashi Miiki, one of the foulest directors around. The first two episodes of the movie is to missed however. They sucketh big time.

dfasdfsadfs said...

Persona, an intersting movie on a kind of psychological twin-ism, when two psyches merge into one.

afasdfasdf said...

Double Life of Veronique, a movie about a kind of coincidental twinism.

adfasfsdfa said...

Were Cain and Abel identitical or fraternal twins?

Anonymous said...

Were there famous cases of twins brought up as communist vs fascist? Or one speaking French and the other speaking Chinese? One grown up as Jew, another as Muslim?
I wonder... suppose Hitler had an identitical twin and had been raised as a Jew. Would he have been a crazy hateful Jew?