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HISTORY

The film was originally titled after Bari Wood and Jack Geasland’s 1977 novel, Twins, upon which it is based; however, after a legal battle between Universal Pictures and Morgan Creek Productions, the title Twins was designated for Universal’s competing project from director Ivan Reitman (1988, see entry), according to a 26 Aug 1988 LAHExam news brief.
       While the novel Twins is set in New York City, the setting for Dead Ringers was changed to Toronto, Canada. According to a 20 Sep 1988 Newsday article, Cronenberg abandoned “most of the material” in the novel, including a homosexual relationship between brothers “Beverly” and “Elliot Mantle.”
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, producer-director-co-writer David Cronenberg first began developing the project in 1980, when he and producers Joe Roth and Carol Baum optioned film rights to the novel, Twins, which was inspired by the true story of Stewart and Cyril Marcus, twin gynecologists who died from either barbiturate overdose or withdrawal within four days of each other in their shared New York City apartment, as noted in the 20 Sep 1988 Newsday.
       A 28 Dec 1981 HR article announced that the first draft had recently been completed, and executive producer Sylvio Tabet’s Leisure Investment Co. would finance the $7 million budget. However, Dino De Laurentiis’s production company, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (DEG), was later named as the financier, and production notes stated that DEG green-lit the project in Dec 1986. In summer 1987, eight weeks into pre-production, the film was dropped from DEG’s slate due to cutbacks, as noted in a 12 ... More Less

The film was originally titled after Bari Wood and Jack Geasland’s 1977 novel, Twins, upon which it is based; however, after a legal battle between Universal Pictures and Morgan Creek Productions, the title Twins was designated for Universal’s competing project from director Ivan Reitman (1988, see entry), according to a 26 Aug 1988 LAHExam news brief.
       While the novel Twins is set in New York City, the setting for Dead Ringers was changed to Toronto, Canada. According to a 20 Sep 1988 Newsday article, Cronenberg abandoned “most of the material” in the novel, including a homosexual relationship between brothers “Beverly” and “Elliot Mantle.”
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, producer-director-co-writer David Cronenberg first began developing the project in 1980, when he and producers Joe Roth and Carol Baum optioned film rights to the novel, Twins, which was inspired by the true story of Stewart and Cyril Marcus, twin gynecologists who died from either barbiturate overdose or withdrawal within four days of each other in their shared New York City apartment, as noted in the 20 Sep 1988 Newsday.
       A 28 Dec 1981 HR article announced that the first draft had recently been completed, and executive producer Sylvio Tabet’s Leisure Investment Co. would finance the $7 million budget. However, Dino De Laurentiis’s production company, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (DEG), was later named as the financier, and production notes stated that DEG green-lit the project in Dec 1986. In summer 1987, eight weeks into pre-production, the film was dropped from DEG’s slate due to cutbacks, as noted in a 12 Mar 1988 Screen International article. Production designer Carol Spier’s nearly completed sets were preserved in the converted factory where they had been built while filmmakers secured a loan from Telefilm Canada and advances from several companies: Twentieth Century Fox for U.S. distribution rights, Media Home Entertainment for home video rights, and Astral Films for Canadian distribution rights. Astral paid more than $1 million, marking “the highest amount ever paid for distribution rights in Canada,” according to a 12 Feb 1988 LAT brief. Screen International estimated that the production ultimately cost between $10 and $11 million, with $2.3 million of the financing coming from Canada.
       Principal photography began 1 Feb 1988 in Toronto, Canada, with an eleven-week shooting schedule. Toronto locations included the University of Toronto, Dexterity art gallery, the Casa Loma castle, Trinity Square, and Mississauga Civic Centre, which stood in for Washington, D. C. Sets were built for the Mantle Clinic and the twins’ apartment. The end of principal photography was announced in a 3 May 1988 HR news item.
       Split-screen technology allowed actor Jeremy Irons to play the Mantle twins. In the Dec 1988 issue of American Cinematographer, optical effects supervisor Lee Wilson stated that every shot was done on set, without a blue screen. Split screens were set up on a video feed so that the lighting and framing of shots could be matched between takes. For the fourteen shots that showed the twins in the same frame, “invisible traveling soft split-screens” were used in place of strong, verticle elements, the more traditional approach to hiding split screens. Wilson noted that none of the scenes were storyboarded, as Cronenberg did not want to limit Irons in the blocking of his performances. While the majority of shots depicting both twins were accomplished with a “locked-off” camera, moving shots were achieved with a motion-controlled dolly that allowed for “precisely repeatable” movements; the dolly was developed specifically for the picture by Randy Balsmeyer and Mimi Everett and built by Joe Lewis at General Lift in Los Angeles, California.
       Critical reception was positive, with consistent praise going to Jeremy Irons’s dual lead performances. The 14 Sep 1988 HR review deemed the characters “two of [Irons’s] best roles to date.” The film was described as “intense, multi-layered and expertly done” by the 7 Sep 1989 DV review, while the 23 Sep 1988 NYT lauded its “sleek, icy elegance,” and the 22 Sep 1988 LAT called it “profligately beautiful.”
       As announced in a 13 Dec 1988 Toronto Star news item, David Cronenberg was named Best Director by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, which also awarded Geneviève Bujold Best Supporting Actress for her performances in Dead Ringers and The Moderns (1988, see entry). The New York Film Critics Circle named Jeremy Irons Best Actor, as announced in a 16 Dec 1988 LAT brief; and, according to a 24 Mar 1989 LAT news item, the film won ten Canadian Genie Awards, including Best Picture, Actor (Jeremy Irons), Director, Screenplay (Adapted), Cinematography, Sound, Sound Editing, Film Editing, Musical Score, and Art Direction.
       End credits include the following acknowledgements: “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, courtesy of Television Program Enterprises”; and “Special Thanks to: Corporation of the City of Mississauga; Toronto Film Liaison Office; Hubbard Casting, London, England; Christopher & Suzanne Wood, Panache Design, Toronto; Scot Laughton, Portico Design + Development, Toronto; R. Laborie and Associates; Dr. Harvey Pasternak; 4 – Office Automation Ltd.; Sigmacon Medical Products, Ltd.; Fabrice Jewellry; Mitel Corporation; Weck, Division of Squibb Canada Inc.; Giannino’s Restaurant, Toronto; Arthur Winkler, Chubb Insurance Company of Canada; Donato Baldasarra, A.C.F.C.; Lynn Kelly, C.A.M.E.R.A., Local 81; Celia Hamilton, ACTRA; Don Percifield, Directors Guild of Canada, Inc.; Corey and Grant, Ferguson Audio Engineering.”


The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Lynn Bateson, an independent scholar.
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Dec 1988
pp. 39-40.
Box Office
Dec 1988.
---
Esquire
Mar 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Dec 1981
p. 1, 8.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Aug 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 May 1988.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Sep 1988
p. 4, 22.
LAHExam
26 Aug 1988.
---
Los Angeles Review of Books
28 Jan 2012.
---
Los Angeles Times
22 Sep 1988
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
12 Feb 1988.
---
Los Angeles Times
16 Dec 1988
p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
24 Mar 1989
Section F, p. 2.
New York Times
1 May 1988.
---
New York Times
23 Sep 1988
p. 10.
Newsday
20 Sep 1988
p. 7.
NYT Magazine
18 Sep 2005.
---
Screen International
12 Mar 1988.
---
Shock Xpress
Winter 1988/89, Vol.2
---
Spin Magazine
Nov 1988.
---
Toronto Star
13 Dec 1988
Section B, p. 2.
Variety
7 Sep 1988
p. 27.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A David Cronenberg Film
Produced in assoc with Morgan Creek Productions, Inc.
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
3d asst dir
Trainee asst dir
PRODUCERS
Pres
Exec prod
Exec prod
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Cam trainee
Steadicam op
Gaffer
Best boy - elec
Generator op
Generator op
Key grip
Best boy - grip
Grip
Video supv
Video asst
Stills photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Supv art dir
Art dir
1st asst art dir
1st asst art dir
1st asst art dir
2d asst art dir
Art dept trainee
Art dept trainee
Art dept trainee
FILM EDITORS
Assoc ed
1st asst ed
2d asst ed
2d asst ed
Trainee asst ed
Ed prod asst
Negative cutting
SET DECORATORS
Asst set dec
Asst set dec
Set dresser
Set dresser
Asst set dresser
Trainee set dec
Prop master
Lead props
Prop buyer
Const mgr
Co-head carpenter
Co-head carpenter
Asst head carpenter
Asst head carpenter
Asst head carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Key scenic artist
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Scenic artist asst
Scenic artist asst
Wolleck's studio sculptures
COSTUMES
Ward mistress
Ward asst
Ward asst
Seamstress
Seamstress
MUSIC
Mus ed
Mus rec at
Electronic mus preparation
Mus re-rec eng
Mus cond
London co-ord
Addl source mus courtesy of
New York
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
A.D.R. rec at
Rec by
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Sd transfers
VISUAL EFFECTS
Opt eff supv
Spec eff des
Lab supv
Mechanical des
Artist
Lab asst
Lab asst
Motion control system
Motion control programmer
Motion control asst
Opticals
Toronto
Opt dir, Film Effects
Opt dir, Film Effects
Opt printer, Film Effects
Opt printer, Film Effects
Opt line-up, Film Effects
Opt line-up, Film Effects
Rotoscope artist, Film Effects
Rotoscope artist, Film Effects
Animation stand, Film Effects
Main title des
MAKEUP
Make-up artist
Asst make-up artist
Hair des
Asst hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Post-prod supv
Unit loc mgr
Loc asst
Loc asst
Scr supv
Prod co-ord
Prod secy
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod auditor
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Financier's representative
Accounting clerk
Asst to Mr. Cronenberg
Asst to Mr. Boyman
Asst to Mr. Roth
Asst to Mr. Robinson
Post-prod accounting
Post-prod accounting
Post-prod asst
Post-prod asst
Office clerk
Transportation co-ord
Driver capt
Head driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Unit pub
Unit mgr
Radical surgical instruments
Radical surgical instruments
T.V. soap opera
Dir/prod, Touché Productions
Asst dir, Touché Productions
Cam, Touché Productions
Asst cam, Touché Productions
Sd rec, Touché Productions
Make-up/hair, Touché Productions
Extras casting
Extras casting
Craft services
Catering
Completion bond
STAND INS
Performance double
Picture double
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Twins by Bari Wood and Jack Geasland (New York, 1977).
SONGS
"In the Still of the Night (I'll Remember)," performed by The Five Saints, under license from Arista Records, Inc., copyrighted by Llee Corp., composed by Fred Parris.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Twins
Release Date:
23 September 1988
Premiere Information:
Toronto Film Festival screening: 1 September 1988
Los Angeles and New York openings: 23 September 1988
Production Date:
1 February--late April 1988 in Toronto, Canada
Copyright Claimant:
The Mantle Clinic II, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
1 August 1989
Copyright Number:
PA420917
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Cameras and lenses Panavision (Canada) Ltd.
Duration(in mins):
115
MPAA Rating:
R
Countries:
Canada, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Identical twins Elliot and Beverly Mantle share a deep, symbiotic bond. They affectionately call each other “Elly” and “Bev,” as Elliot, the more socially confident brother, takes the lead. Growing up in Toronto, Canada, the boys are fascinated by female reproductive organs. One day, they ask a little girl to have sex with them in the bathtub “as an experiment,” but she refuses. Later, using mini surgical instruments, they play doctor, working side by side on an anatomical model of a woman. In 1967 Cambridge, Massachusetts, the twins invent an instrument called the “Mantle retractor” as undergraduates and, although their professor initially dismisses their concept, the instrument wins a prize and goes on to become an industry standard. In 1988 Toronto, Beverly and Elliot have established their own fertility clinic and live together in an apartment. When famous actress Claire Niveau visits the clinic, Beverly finds that she has a rare condition, in which her womb is trifurcated, with three entrances to the uterus instead of one. Beverly urges Elliot to examine Claire, but he only agrees once he recognizes the actress’s name. As Elliot impersonates Beverly in the examination room, Beverly attends a fundraising dinner in his brother's place. That night, Claire has sex with Elliot, believing he is Beverly. When Elliot returns home, he tells Beverly, the more sensitive and intellectual twin, to take his place at a lunch date with Claire the next day, promising that she is a great lover. At Claire’s apartment, Beverly breaks the news that she will not be able to conceive. She makes sexual overtures to Beverly, unaware that he is not the man she made love to the night ... +


Identical twins Elliot and Beverly Mantle share a deep, symbiotic bond. They affectionately call each other “Elly” and “Bev,” as Elliot, the more socially confident brother, takes the lead. Growing up in Toronto, Canada, the boys are fascinated by female reproductive organs. One day, they ask a little girl to have sex with them in the bathtub “as an experiment,” but she refuses. Later, using mini surgical instruments, they play doctor, working side by side on an anatomical model of a woman. In 1967 Cambridge, Massachusetts, the twins invent an instrument called the “Mantle retractor” as undergraduates and, although their professor initially dismisses their concept, the instrument wins a prize and goes on to become an industry standard. In 1988 Toronto, Beverly and Elliot have established their own fertility clinic and live together in an apartment. When famous actress Claire Niveau visits the clinic, Beverly finds that she has a rare condition, in which her womb is trifurcated, with three entrances to the uterus instead of one. Beverly urges Elliot to examine Claire, but he only agrees once he recognizes the actress’s name. As Elliot impersonates Beverly in the examination room, Beverly attends a fundraising dinner in his brother's place. That night, Claire has sex with Elliot, believing he is Beverly. When Elliot returns home, he tells Beverly, the more sensitive and intellectual twin, to take his place at a lunch date with Claire the next day, promising that she is a great lover. At Claire’s apartment, Beverly breaks the news that she will not be able to conceive. She makes sexual overtures to Beverly, unaware that he is not the man she made love to the night before. Alarmed by Claire’s masochistic sexual requests, Beverly is reluctant to continue seeing her, but Elliot persuades him to do so. One day, Beverly binds Claire with medical tubing and surgical clamps, and, after their passionate lovemaking session, he promises to keep their sex life a secret. Returning home, Beverly refuses to tell Elliot what happened, but Elliot argues that Beverly’s experiences are not complete until he shares them with his twin. Posing as Beverly again, Elliot goes to Claire’s apartment, where she admits to taking drugs. Elliot agrees to procure them for her but later tells Claire that she is hustling him for drugs. Although Elliot suggests that Beverly should stop seeing her, Beverly refuses. One day, Beverly helps Claire learn her lines, and she remarks that he is a self-conscious reader. She asks if he has ever done any impersonations, and he accidentally replies that he has only ever impersonated his brother. Surprised to learn he has a sibling, Claire prods for more information, but Beverly loses his temper. Bewildered, Claire says she sometimes likes Beverly very much, but other times he is no more than an amusing lover. Beverly takes one of Claire’s pills to calm his nerves. Soon after, a friend inadvertently reveals to Claire that Beverly has a twin brother. Claire confronts Elliot, believing he is Beverly, and asks to see the twins together. Sitting down with the two of them at a restaurant, Claire accuses them of deceiving her and throws water at Beverly. After she storms out, Elliot chuckles while Beverly weeps. Heartbroken, Beverly makes a drunken scene at an award ceremony honoring his brother. Elliot accepts an associate professorship, forcing Beverly to take on more work at the clinic. After a chance encounter, Beverly apologizes to Claire and they reunite. Sleeping in her bed, Beverly has a nightmare that he and Elliot are Siamese twins conjoined at the stomach, and Claire is gnawing at the flesh between them. One day, Claire invites Elliot to her movie set to tell him about Beverly’s growing drug addiction. Announcing that she must go away on a movie shoot, she asks him to look after his twin. Elliot suggests that Claire presents a distracting element to the “Mantle brothers’ saga,” and proposes that he and his brother share her. Claire rejects the offer, insisting that Beverly is very different from Elliot. While Claire is away, Beverly phones her hotel and assumes she is having an affair when her male secretary answers. Elliot comforts Beverly and insists that his relationship with Claire cannot be love if it makes him feel so bad. At home, Elliot tries to interest Beverly in a ménage à trois with his casual girl friend, Cary, but Beverly rejects the idea before collapsing onto the ground. After a trip to the hospital, Elliot supervises Beverly’s detoxification by himself, hoping to avoid a scandal. Beverly secretly continues his drug use and becomes insensitive, delusional, and sadistic toward his patients. While giving a woman an internal examination, he uses the Mantle retractor, which is only intended for surgical use. He later commissions prototypes of disturbing-looking instruments from a metal artist. Dressed in a scarlet surgical gown, Beverly unveils the new instruments during a surgery, but stops short to inhale his patient’s anesthetic, prompting the attending doctors to tear him away from the operating table. At the hospital inquiry, Elliot impersonates Beverly, claiming to be overworked. Elliot learns that Beverly’s instruments have been confiscated by hospital authorities, and later, asks his brother why he used them. Beverly claims that his patients’ insides are deformed and therefore require special instruments. Taking his brother under his care once again, Elliot asks Beverly to recall the story of the original Siamese twins, Chang and Eng. Beverly remembers that Chang was the sickly twin who drank too much, and when Eng realized that Chang had died in bed, Eng died of fright. Cary recommends that Elliot distance himself from Beverly, but Elliot says they must become synchronized. Claire calls Beverly when she is back in town, and convinces him that she was not having an affair. On his way to her apartment, Beverly sees copies of his gynecological instruments in an art gallery window and steals them from the display. With Claire, Beverly returns to partial sobriety. He worries that he has not heard from Elliot in almost a week. She asks about the surgical instruments, and Beverly says they are for separating Siamese twins. Beverly goes to the clinic where Elliot has descended into a drug-fueled chaos, and the roles are reversed as Beverly cares for Elliot. They plan a last weekend of excess and celebrate with cake and soda. Later, as Elliot sits on a gynecological procedure chair, Beverly carries in his instruments and announces that he will perform a separation surgery, addressing his brother as “Chang.” Elliot requests drugs, and Beverly gives him an injection before making an incision into his abdomen. Beverly cries and says that separation can be a terrifying thing, but Elliot assures him they will always be together. As Elliot lapses into unconsciousness, Beverly continues with the operation. He later awakes near Elliot’s dead body and calls out to his brother, saying he had a terrible dream. Beverly leaves the clinic to call Claire from a payphone; however, he hangs up after she answers and walks back inside. Sometime later, Beverly lies lifeless on the floor, his dead body curled over Elliot’s. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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