Dead Ringers (film)

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Dead Ringers
Dead ringers poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDavid Cronenberg
Written byDavid Cronenberg
Norman Snider
Based onTwins
by Bari Wood
Jack Geasland
Produced byMarc Boyman
David Cronenberg
CinematographyPeter Suschitzky
Edited byRonald Sanders
Music byHoward Shore
Distributed by
Release dates
  • September 8, 1988 (1988-09-08) (TIFF)
  • September 23, 1988 (1988-09-23) (United States)
Running time
115 minutes[2]
  • Canada
  • United States
Budget$13 million[3]
Box office$14 million

Dead Ringers is a 1988 psychological thriller film starring Jeremy Irons in a dual role as identical twin gynecologists. David Cronenberg directed and co-wrote the screenplay with Norman Snider. Their script was based on the lives of Stewart and Cyril Marcus and on the novel Twins by Bari Wood and Jack Geasland, a "highly fictionalized" version of the Marcuses' story.[4]

The film won numerous honors, including for Irons' performance, and 10 Genie Awards, notably Best Motion Picture. Toronto International Film Festival critics have ranked it among the Top 10 Canadian Films of All Time.


Twins Elliot and Beverly Mantle are gynecologists who jointly operate a highly successful clinical practice in Toronto that specializes in treating fertility problems. Elliot, the more confident and cynical of the two, seduces women who come to the Mantle Clinic. When he tires of them, the women are passed on to the shy and passive Beverly while the women remain unaware of the substitution.

Actress Claire Niveau comes to the clinic for her infertility where it turns out that she has a "trifurcated cervix", meaning she probably will be unable to have children. Elliot seduces Claire and then urges Beverly to sleep with her. Beverly becomes emotionally attached to Claire, and this upsets the equilibrium between the twins. Beverly also begins sharing Claire's abuse of prescription drugs which he abets through his doctor's authority. When Claire learns that Elliot has been taking sexual advantage of her by impersonating Beverly, she is angry and confronts them both in a restaurant but later decides to continue a relationship with Beverly exclusively.

Eventually, Claire leaves town to work on another film, sending Beverly into clinical depression, more prescription drug abuse and paranoid delusions about "mutant women" with abnormal genitalia. Beverly seeks out metallurgical artist Anders Wolleck and commissions a set of bizarre "gynecological instruments" for operating on these mutant women. Beverly prepares to operate on a patient during surgery with one of Wolleck's tools, while his shocked surgical team exchanges horrified glances. Before he can proceed, the drug-addled doctor drops one of the tools on the ground and then collapses atop the patient, and begins to inhale from her gas mask. Both brothers are immediately suspended from practice and put on administrative leave by the hospital board.

With their medical careers now ruined, Elliot locks Beverly inside the clinic and tries to clean him up, taking pills himself in order to "synchronize" with Beverly. When Claire returns, Beverly leaves the clinic to be with her. After recovering his sobriety, he returns to the clinic which he finds in shambles and Elliot despondent and intoxicated. Their positions have become reversed as Beverly cares for Elliot. Drugged and despairing, they celebrate their mock birthday and Elliot volunteers to be killed so as to “separate the Siamese twins" and allow Beverly to live his own life. Beverly disembowels Elliot on an examination table with the same claw-like instrument of Wolleck's that he planned to use on his patient in the operating room.

The next morning, Beverly awakens and sees that he killed Elliot during their drug-induced delirium. Devastated, he pulls himself together, leaves the clinic and calls Claire on a pay phone. When she asks "Who is this?", Beverly silently leaves the phone, walks back into the clinic and dies (implicitly from drug withdrawal) in Elliot's dead arms.



Jeremy Irons played the two roles of Bev and Elliot Mantle.

Although Dead Ringers closely follows the case of Stewart and Cyril Marcus, director Peter Greenaway notes that Cronenberg queried him about his film A Zed & Two Noughts for two hours before going on to make Dead Ringers eight months later.[5]

In his DVD commentary, Irons claims that Robert De Niro declined playing the Mantles due to his unease with the subject matter and portraying gynecologists, while William Hurt decided to reject the parts because "it is hard enough to play one role".[6] This movie marked the screen debut of actress Jill Hennessy and her twin sister Jacqueline, who play call girls in one scene of the film.

Irons was given two different dressing rooms with two sets of costumes for playing his two characters. However, given the fact that he said "the whole point of the story is you should sometimes be confused as to which is which", he chose to use only one of the rooms and combine different costume items intended for different characters. Irons also developed an "internal way" to portray each character, employing the Alexander technique for "different energy points", giving each character his own appearance.[6]

A second dream scene was also shot which featured a parasitic twin emerging from Beverly's stomach but this sequence was not used in the final cut.[7]

Adaptation as television series[edit]

On August 18, 2020, Amazon Prime Video gave production a straight-to-series order and Rachel Weisz is set to star in the series.[8] On July 22, 2021, Michael Chernus joined the starring cast.[9] On August 2, 2021, Poppy Liu was cast in a main role.[10]


On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 83% based on 42 reviews, and an average rating of 7.60/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Dead Ringers serves up a double dose of Jeremy Irons in service of a devilishly unsettling concept and commandingly creepy work from director David Cronenberg."[11] Roger Ebert gave the film two and a half stars, writing "it's like a collaboration between med school and a supermarket tabloid", and said it was challenging but interesting for his female friends to view. Ebert also credited Irons for making each twin unique.[12] Variety said Irons portrayed his characters with skill.[13] In The Washington Post, Desson Howe assessed it as "unnerving but also enthralling".[14] For the same paper, Rita Kempley called it "every woman's nightmare turned into a creepy thriller", adding it was "like slowing down to look at a traffic accident, afraid you might see something. It's really sordid stuff that becomes ridiculous, painful, unbelievable and tedious".[15]

It is the favorite Cronenberg film of Korean director Chan-wook Park[16] and was voted for in the 2002 Sight & Sound poll by Lalitha Gopalan.[17] In 1999, Rolling Stone listed Dead Ringers as 95th on their list of "100 Maverick Movies".[18] Total Film placed Dead Ringers 35th on their list of the "50 Greatest Horror Movies of All Time"[19] while Entertainment Weekly placed it 20th on their list of "The 25 scariest movies of all time".[20] It was named one of "The Top 10 'True-Story' Horror Movies of All-time!" by Bloody Disgusting.[21]

In 1993, the Toronto International Film Festival Group compiled a Top 10 Canadian Films of All Time list, with festival director Piers Handling writing a lack of Cronenberg films was significant, and that Dead Ringers and Videodrome divided voters, causing neither to win a place on the list.[22] Dead Ringers afterwards ranked sixth in the 2004 update,[23] and seventh in 2015.[24]

Box office[edit]

The film grossed $8 million in the United States and Canada.[25] Internationally it grossed $6 million[26] for a worldwide total of $14 million.


Irons won critics groups' Best Actor awards for Dead Ringers, and when he won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1991 for Reversal of Fortune, he thanked Cronenberg in his acceptance speech.[27]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Chicago Film Critics Association 1989 Best Actor Jeremy Irons Won [28]
Genie Awards 22 March 1989 Best Motion Picture David Cronenberg and Marc Boyman Won [29][30]
Best Direction David Cronenberg Won
Best Adapted Screenplay David Cronenberg and Norman Snider Won
Best Actor Jeremy Irons Won
Best Actress Geneviève Bujold Nominated
Best Editing Ronald Sanders Won
Best Art Direction Carol Spier Won
Best Cinematography Peter Suschitzky Won
Best Costume Design Denise Cronenberg Nominated
Best Score Howard Shore Won
Best Sound Bryan Day, Andy Nelson and Don White Won
Best Sound Editing Terry Burke, Richard Cadger, Wayne Griffin, David Evans and David Giammarco Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association 24 January 1989 Best Director David Cronenberg Won [31]
Best Supporting Actress Geneviève Bujold Won
National Society of Film Critics 9 January 1989 Best Screenplay David Cronenberg 2nd Place [32]
New York Film Critics Circle 15 January 1989 Best Film 3rd Place [33]
Best Actor Jeremy Irons Won

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Dead Ringers (1988)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved December 17, 2021.
  2. ^ "Dead Ringers (18)". British Board of Film Classification. September 26, 1988. Archived from the original on November 10, 2014. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  3. ^ Melnyk, George (2004). One Hundred Years of Canadian Cinema. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-3568-X.
  4. ^ Maslin, Janet (October 2, 1988). ""Ringers": the Eerier, the Better". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 14, 2018. Retrieved July 29, 2018.
  5. ^ "October 2004 - Online Q&A with director Peter Greenaway". The Plasma Pool. Archived from the original on December 27, 2016. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  6. ^ a b Mcgue, Kevin (October 7, 2010). "Dead Ringers Review". A Life At The Movies. Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  7. ^ Browning, Mark (2007). David Cronenberg: Author or Filmmaker?. Intellect. p. 99. ISBN 9781841501734.
  8. ^ Ausiello, Michael (August 18, 2020). "Gender Swapped Dead Ringers Reboot Set at Amazon; Rachel Weisz to Star". TVLine. Archived from the original on August 18, 2020. Retrieved August 18, 2020.
  9. ^ Petski, Denise (July 22, 2021). "Michael Chernus Joins Rachel Weisz In 'Dead Ringers' Amazon Series". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on July 24, 2021. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  10. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (August 3, 2021). "Poppy Liu Joins Rachel Weisz Amazon Series 'Dead Ringers'". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on August 3, 2021. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  11. ^ "Dead Ringers (1988)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved April 28, 2021.
  12. ^ Ebert, Roger (September 23, 1988). "Dead Ringers". Archived from the original on March 22, 2020. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  13. ^ "Review: 'Dead Ringers'". Variety. December 31, 1987. Archived from the original on May 23, 2017. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  14. ^ Howe, Desson (September 23, 1988). "Dead Ringers". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  15. ^ Kempley, Rita (September 23, 1988). "Dead Ringers". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  16. ^ Neil Young's Film Lounge (August 22, 2004). "Park Life". Archived from the original on February 19, 2006. Retrieved April 2, 2006.
  17. ^ "BFI | Sight & Sound | Top Ten Poll 2002 - How the directors and critics voted". Archived from the original on December 15, 2007. Retrieved November 20, 2007.
  18. ^ Travers, Peter (December 30, 1999). "100 Years, 100 Maverick Movies". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on September 9, 2017. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  19. ^ "Shock Horror!". October 10, 2005. Archived from the original on May 3, 2009. Retrieved February 23, 2011.
  20. ^ "The 25 scariest movies of all time". Entertainment Weekly. February 19, 2011. Archived from the original on September 18, 2018. Retrieved February 23, 2011.
  21. ^ "BD Horror News - The Top 10 'True-Story' Horror Movies of All-time!". June 7, 2008. Archived from the original on November 15, 2019. Retrieved February 23, 2011.
  22. ^ Handling, Piers (Fall 1994). "Canada's ten best". Take One. p. 23.
  23. ^ Gravestock, Steve (June 26, 2015). "Essay". Toronto International Film Festival. Archived from the original on July 4, 2016. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  24. ^ "Atanarjuat voted No. 1 Canadian film of all time". CBC News. April 24, 2015. Archived from the original on April 11, 2017. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  25. ^ "Dead Ringers (1988) - Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on November 15, 2017. Retrieved March 18, 2010.
  26. ^ "Morgan Creek Prods. Box Office". Variety. February 15, 1993. p. 46.
  27. ^ "100 Essential Male Film Performances - The Dark Side". PopMatters. July 28, 2009. Archived from the original on November 8, 2012. Retrieved November 15, 2019.
  28. ^ "Chicago Film Critics Awards – 1988–97". Chicago Film Critics Association. Archived from the original on December 17, 2012. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
  29. ^ "Genie Award Nominees 1989". Cinema Canada. February–March 1989. pp. 27–35.
  30. ^ "Dead Ringers". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on April 13, 2017. Retrieved April 11, 2017.
  31. ^ "14th Annual Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards". Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Archived from the original on June 25, 2016. Retrieved April 11, 2017.
  32. ^ Carr, Jay (January 9, 1989). "National Critics Choose 'Lightness'". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on March 9, 2016. Retrieved April 11, 2017.
  33. ^ Maslin, Janet (December 16, 1988). "'Accidental Tourist' Wins Film Critics' Circle Award". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 23, 2018. Retrieved April 11, 2017.

External links[edit]