Hannah McGill: The progression of on-screen twins

Tom Hardy plays both Kray brothers in hit movie Legend. Picture: Contributed
Tom Hardy plays both Kray brothers in hit movie Legend. Picture: Contributed
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DESPITE there being about a million books, films and articles about Ronnie and Reggie Kray already in existence, the latest exploration of their unpleasant family business has proved a runaway hit.

The box office success of the new film Legend, directed by Brian Helgeland, is a double endorsement of Tom Hardy as a bankable lead actor, since he plays both brothers himself.

Obviously, twins are an intriguing phenomenon. You know this if you’re a parent of twins, because people stop you in the street and ask you things like “Does it run in your family?” and “Do you get enough sleep?” and “Do they have their own language?” (The answers to those questions in my household, incidentally, are “No,” “Dear God no” and “Aboodga-wack-wack”.)

So perhaps it’s hardly surprising that the challenge of their effective portrayal has long attracted ingenious filmmakers. Body doubles and split screens enabled Boris Karloff to confront himself as identical twins in the 1935 Gothic horror The Black Room; 1945’s Wonder Man saw Danny Kaye in a dual role as a man haunted by his dead identical twin; and Olivia de Havilland played nice and nasty twins in the 1946 psychological thriller The Dark Mirror. Perhaps the most famous split-screen twins remain the double Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap; and the most unsettling the disturbed gynaecologists played by Jeremy Irons in Dead Ringers.

The technology used in Legend isn’t far different from these previous efforts, although more sophisticated means now exist of covering the joins. David Fincher pushed things rather further – aided by a somewhat larger budget – with the representation of Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss in The Social Network, for which Armie Hammer’s face was mapped on to the head and body of another actor, with startlingly persuasive results.

Amidst all this impressive fakery, one might ask, where are the real twin actors? Identical pairs have shared screen time, among them silent Hollywood stars Charles and Raymond De Briac; Mary and Madeleine Collinson, who led the 1971 Hammer Horror film Twins Of Evil (and rather ickily posed for Playboy together); Lisa and Louise Burns, better known as the nightmare vision from The Shining; and British actors Luke and Harry Treadaway, who played conjoined twins in Brothers Of The Head. A more frequent use of real twins onscreen is in infancy, when they come in handy doubling up as one baby. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen started out splitting the screen time of baby Michelle in the US sitcom Full House.

The Olsens are fraternal, not identical twins – generally a less dramatic spectacle to portray onscreen, with the honourable exception of Danny Devito and Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1988’s Twins. Still, there are famous examples, with the most prominent being Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa of Star Wars. The separation of this pair causes a degree of intergalactic and emotional fallout that should serve to remind all twin parents of a basic truth, perhaps applicable to the Krays as well: if you want to minimise trouble, you really do have to keep both of them where you can see them at all times.

Good practice for Nicola’s double

THE claim made in Joe Pike’s upcoming book Project Fear that Ed Miliband practised for the pre-general election debates by getting Kezia Dugdale to play-act being Nicola Sturgeon raises so many questions. Was it her femaleness or her Scottishness that qualified Dugdale for the role? Might he have got on better if he’d found himself an actual Scottish nationalist to spar with, rather than someone who really agreed with him about stuff? Did he also draft in a nice Welsh lady to play Leanne Wood and a plank of (sustainable) wood to play Natalie Bennett (above), or was only Sturgeon deemed enough of a credible threat? One also has to wonder how commonplace this practice is. The whole braying circus of Westminster and Holyrood showmanship becomes less off-putting and more endearing once you picture them all getting their friends and family to help them out by pretending to be their worst foes for test runs the night before. Finally, if Dugdale honed her Sturgeon act so that – according to an onlooker – she “almost developed Stockholm syndrome and was starting to think like the SNP leader”, does she now prep for First Minister’s Questions by interrogating herself in the bathroom mirror? Shame to let all that practice go to waste…

Shore thing for a lie-in

‘IT’S the sea air,” my parents used to say to me when I enjoyed uncharacteristic lie-ins whilst visiting them in Orkney. I never knew if there was scientific rigour to this theory, or if I was just relaxed due to temporarily escaping my usual life. If you’ve ever felt that you do sleep better near the sea, however, new research from the National Trust backs you up: people who spend time by the sea sleep longer and better than the landlocked. No-one knows why, except that we associate the sea with escape and relaxation. Comfort, perhaps, for coastal dwellers as the nights grow longer and stormier; and for inland folk, there’s always the Shipping Forecast. «