Films featuring identical twins often rely on special effects to make the audience see double.
IN films, identical twins have given (multiple) birth to stories of comedy, mystery, fantasy and horror. With a few exceptions, such as the Harry Potter series with the wonderful Weasley duo (actors James and Oliver Phelps), film twins are the result of technology rather than biology.
In other words, twin characters are rarely played by actors who are twins in real life or even two separate people in real life.
Here are a few films that convinced their stars to do two roles for the price of one. Big Business (1988)
Gotta love this film in which a rich New York couple gets lost in the backwaters of Hicksville.
The pregnant wife goes into labour and they have no choice but to take her to the tiny rural clinic where a local resident is also giving birth. Both women deliver twin girls and in the mad fuss, the pairs get mixed up. As adults, the four sisters are played, two-apiece by Lily Tomlin and Bette Midler, two actresses who, though larger than life, there can never be too much of.
Despite their different environments, the stranded Midler hates the country and wants the excitement of the big city. Misplaced Tomlin, on the other hand, has always felt like a fish out of water in New York and longs for a simpler life.
The big city twins run a huge corporation (Tomlin reluctantly, Midler bloodthirstily) which threatens to close down a factory in the country twins’ little town. So country twins decide to do something to fight (Tomlin furiously and Midler reluctantly) the big corporation. The Parent Trap (1998)
This is one of those scarce times in which an old classic gets remade and produces a new one.
Disney’s The Parent Trap is the story of twin girls who are separated at birth when their parents get divorced.
Each parent gets custody of one daughter then they part and never speak to each other again.
Many years later, the girls accidentally meet at summer camp and become arch enemies before figuring out the secret of their past (different hair styles on identical twins has the same identity muddling effect as glasses on Superman).
Each wants to meet the parent she never knew so the girls decide to trade places.
The modern version starred the then unknown Lindsay Lohan who shone playing sisters Annie and Hallie, even more remarkable because Annie grew up in England and Hallie in the United States. So Lohan had to switch accents.
In the original version, made 37 years earlier, the twins’ names were Susan and Sharon.
The change of one of the names to Hallie was to honour the talented child actress who first played the girls, Disney darling Hayley Mills. The Man In The Iron Mask (1998)
Here, Leonardo DiCaprio plays the ruler of France, King Louis XIV, as well as twin brother Philippe, who has been imprisoned for years so no one will learn of his existence and therefore of his threat to the throne. The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)
As brilliantly as 10-year-old Lohan mastered an English accent in The Parent Trap, English child actor Freddie Highmore adopted an American one to play twins Jared and Simon Grace in the family fantasy film, The Spiderwick Chronicles.
It was nice seeing twins as two brothers rather than as a plot device. Movieland can’t take the credit for this because the movie was based on a best-selling series of children’s books. Adaptation (2002)
Having read and loved The Orchid Thief, and having watched and loved Being John Malkovich, I had no choice but to watch Adaptation, even though it did offer a double dose of Nicolas Cage as twins Charlie and Donald Kaufman.
Charlie is an agonised professional screenwriter who wants to stay true to his craft while Donald simply decides to give screenwriting a go and the utterly unoriginal rubbish he writes ends up making millions at the box office.
It won oodles of awards, but I still would have preferred it if they had kept Cage to a minimum and instead given us twice as much of his co-star, Meryl Streep. One day we may get a very good pair of twin actors to be in a very good film about twins. Until then, special effects will have to suffice.
Faking it: English child actor Freddie Highmore adopted an American accent to play twins Jared and Simon Grace in TheSpiderwick Chronicles.