Dead Ringers (1988)

As a leading UK script consultant and scriptwriter for hire I’m kicking off 2021 by looking back at one of the most interesting and unusual films in David Cronenberg’s back catalogue – Dead Ringers from 1988.

Cronenberg is a funny fish, he’s a great genre filmmaker – ‘Scanners’ is one of my all time favourite films, and he’s hung around the horror genre from many years, (‘The Dead Zone’ is the best Stephen King film) but latterly has branched out as a more seriously minded filmmaker.

Sometimes, he can take himself a bit too seriously, although from his later work, the two Viggo Mortensen films – ‘A History of Violence’ and ‘Eastern Promises’ are both excellent.

‘Dead Ringers’ is a story of identical twins, both played by Jeremy Irons.  Both work as gynaecologists and both, have an odd relationship to the opposite sex.

Remember Cronenberg is the director of ‘The Fly’ and ‘The Brood’ and ‘Shivers’ so this plot promises lots of blood and gore. But there isn’t any.  Instead, it’s a psychological study of the twins.

The remarkable thing about ‘Dead Ringers’ is Jeremy Irons, his dual performance should be shown in acting schools. It’s a master class.

The film is disturbed and disturbing, but mostly this is down to Irons, there are some clever camera affects to make both twins live in the same frame, but gradually these are not needed, as it becomes very clear that the twins really are very different, but equally disturbed people. Irons is amazing throughout, often in both roles in the same scene at once. It really does show what a good actor can do.

The film builds a very good tense atmosphere and alongside Iron’s Geneviève Bujold, is very good as the woman that both twins are obsessed with, her character being, the key to their downfall.

‘Dead Ringers’ is a film worth watching for writers, and aspiring directors too. Sometimes you can let an actor run with a performance and all you have to do is standback, and make sure that you as director don’t actually get in their way.

Matthew Cooper has been a scriptwriter for hire, UK Script editor  and UK script consultant for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award-winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. His UK script coverage service, Script reading service and script development service are highly sought after.

You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb.

His directorial debut, the rubber reality horror thriller Markham was released in 2020. You can find out more about Matthew’s work as a director here.

You can contact Matthew directly to purchase his ebook The UK Soap Opera Script Writers Handbook.