I like films where actors play dual roles of twins. Think Jeremy Irons sharing one personality as twin gynecologists in Dead Ringers (1988). Or, Bette Davis as a murderous twin in Dead Ringer (1964). Or, Bette Davis as a twin who assumes her sister’s life where the latter drowns in A Stolen Life (1946). Don’t even get me started on The Patty Duke Show (1963-1966): “…where Cathy adores the minuet, the Ballet Russe and crêpes Suzette, our Patty loves to rock ‘n’ roll, a hot dog makes her lose control….”
Usually the typical way to shoot a single actor playing twins is to cheat the camera. Have another actor seen from behind the shoulder but groomed to look like the main actor with the main actor turned to the lens, both in the same shot. You can also do a trick with a similar set-up looking into a mirror; only the mirror is not a mirror but a frame looking into another set.
For Dead Ringers director David Cronenberg used then new technology utilizing a computer. Cronenberg would shoot a scene with Irons #1 and then rewind the film and using the computer to control the movement of the camera insert and shoot Irons #2 resulting in twins interacting in the same shot.
Flash forward to the present day and computer graphics imagery as well as old school techniques blend together and allow Tom Hardy to play the notorious Kray Brothers in writer/director Brian Helgeland’s Legend. The Kray brothers were identical twins, one slightly crazier than the other who ruled organized crime in London during the late-50s and early-60s.
The Kray’s wave of corruption was so far reaching that prosecutors dropped charges during one major trial rather than allow the Krays to proceed with blackmail photos of a high-ranking government official taken at a homosexual orgy, an orgy incidentally hosted by Ronnie Kray. The Mafia approached the Krays to help run casinos and launder bearer bonds. The Krays literally got away with murder until their crimes were so obvious that they couldn’t be ignored.
Legend covers the period of time when Ronnie and Reggie Kray ruled the London underworld like gods. Reggie was more mannered and straight whereas Ronnie was gay and a full-blown sociopath. Some of the story is narrated by Reggie’s wife (Emily Browning). Chazz Palminteri, David Thewlis, Christopher Eccleston, Taron Egerton, and Paul Bettany co-star.
Helgeland’s direction offers a brilliant evocation of the era. The movie while infused with classic pre-Beatle rock songs also indicates a society that was closer to the post-War mentality than the swinging ‘60s. Hardy makes it easy to distinguish the twins with his style of speech and the fact that Ronnie wears glasses.
Hardy’s take on the twins creates movie magic especially when he’s acting against himself in the same frame. Legend is currently unwinding at the iPic Theater and the downtown Sundance Cinemas.
— Michael Bergeron