Dead Ringers (film)

Dead Ringers

American Theatrical release poster
Directed by David Cronenberg
Produced by Marc Boyman
David Cronenberg
Carol Baum
Sylvio Tabet
James G. Robinson (uncredited)
Joe Roth (uncredited)
Written by Novel:
Bari Wood
Jack Geasland
David Cronenberg
Norman Snider
Starring Jeremy Irons
Geneviève Bujold
Music by Howard Shore
Cinematography Peter Suschitzky
Editing by Ronald Sanders
Studio Morgan Creek Productions
Telefilm Canada
Mantle Clinic II
Distributed by 20th Century Fox (USA)
The Rank Organisation (UK)
Anchor Bay Entertainment (DVD)
Warner Bros. Pictures (current distributor)
Release date(s) September 8, 1988 (1988-09-08) (TIFF)
01988-09-23 September 23, 1988 (United States)
Running time 116 minutes
Country Canada
United States
Language English
Box office $8,038,508[1]

Dead Ringers is a 1988 psychological horror film starring Jeremy Irons in a dual role as identical twin gynecologists. Director David Cronenberg co-wrote the screenplay with Norman Snider; their script was based on the novel Twins by Bari Wood and Jack Geasland. The film is very loosely based on the lives of Stewart and Cyril Marcus.[2]



Elliot and Beverly Mantle are identical twins and highly successful gynecologists. Elliot, the more aggressive and confident 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.

When Beverly becomes attached to the troubled actress Claire Niveau (Geneviève Bujold), it upsets the equilibrium between the twins. It turns out that Niveau is a "trifurcate;" she has an abnormal reproductive system. Beverly describes her internal arrangement as having "three doorways," which means she probably will not be able to have children. Beverly tells Niveau that her condition is "fabulously rare."

Beverly mistakes Claire's male assistant for her lover and comes to believe that she's cheating on him. This sends him into clinical depression, prescription drug abuse and delusions about "mutant women" with abnormal genitalia. Beverly seeks out metallurgist Anders Wolleck and he constructs a set of bizarre gynecological instruments for working on these mutant women, even using them once on a real person. Beverly is then put on administrative leave by the hospital board after collapsing on a patient. The board holds the surgical tools as evidence of a disturbed mind, Beverly's decline affects Elliot and they perform a surgical procedure in which to 'separate' themselves.


  • Jeremy Irons — Beverly Mantle / Elliot Mantle
  • Geneviève Bujold — Claire Niveau (as Genevieve Bujold)
  • Heidi von Palleske — Cary (as Heidi Von Palleske)
  • Barbara Gordon — Danuta
  • Shirley Douglas — Laura
  • Stephen Lack — Anders Wolleck
  • Nick Nichols — Leo
  • Lynne Cormack — Arlene
  • Damir Andrei — Birchall
  • Miriam Newhouse — Mrs. Bookman
  • Jill Hennessy — Mimsy (as Jillian Hennessy)
  • Jacqueline Hennessy — Coral
    • (Jill and Jacqueline Hennessy, themselves identical twins, made their film debut in this movie as twin prostitutes)
  • Jonathan and Nicholas Haley - young Beverly Mantle / Elliot Mantle


In his commentary on the DVD, Jeremy Irons mentions that Robert De Niro passed on the role because he was not comfortable with the idea of playing gynecologists and William Hurt turned it down because “it is hard enough to play one role” and the script eventually landed on his desk.[3]

Initially, Irons had two separate dressing rooms and two separate wardrobes which he would use depending on which character he was playing at the time. Soon he realized that “the whole point of the story is you should sometimes be confused as to which is which,” after which he moved to a single dressing room and mixed the wardrobes together, and found an “internal way” to play each character differently, using the Alexander technique to give them “different energy points,” which gave them slightly different appearances.[3]


Dead Ringers won the Genie Award for Best Canadian Film of 1988.

Jeremy Irons' performance was highly acclaimed and won Best Actor awards from the Chicago Film Critics Association and the New York Film Critics Circle. When Irons won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1991 for Reversal of Fortune, he thanked Cronenberg in his acceptance speech.[4]

It is the favorite Cronenberg film of Korean director Chan-wook Park[5] and was voted for in the 2002 Sight and Sound Poll by Lalitha Gopalan.[6] In 1999, Rolling Stone listed Dead Ringers as 95th on their list of 100 Maverick Movies.[7] Total Film placed Dead Ringers 35th on their list of the "50 Greatest Horror Movies Of All Time"[8] while Entertainment Weekly placed it 20th on their list of The 25 scariest movies of all time.[9] In 2004, the Toronto International Film Festival Group named Dead Ringers the 6th best Canadian Film ever made.[10] It was named one of "The Top 10 'True-Story' Horror Movies of All-time!" by Bloody Disgusting.[11]

Although Dead Ringers closely follows the case of Stewart and Cyril Marcus, director Peter Greenaway claims himself and his film A Zed and Two Noughts as the source for Dead Ringers.[12]

See also


  1. ^ "Dead Ringers (1988) - Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2010-03-18. 
  2. ^ Maslin, Janet (1988-10-02). ""Ringers": the Eerier, the Better". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ a b "Dead Ringers Review". A Life At The Movies. October 7, 2010. 
  4. ^ "100 Essential Male Film Performances - The Dark Side". 2009-07-28. 
  5. ^ Neil Young's Film Lounge (2004-08-22). "Park Life". 
  6. ^ BFI | Sight & Sound | Top Ten Poll 2002 - How the directors and critics voted
  7. ^ "100 Maverick Movies in 100 Years from Rolling Stone". Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  8. ^ "Shock Horror!". 2005-10-10. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  9. ^ "The 25 scariest movies of all time". Entertainment Weekly. 2011-02-19.,,272478_5,00.html. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  10. ^ "Movies - TIFF List of Canada's Top Ten Films of All Time". 1998-06-01.'s_Top_Ten_Films_of_All_Time.html. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  11. ^ "BD Horror News - The Top 10 'True-Story' Horror Movies of All-time!". 2008-06-07. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  12. ^ Greenaway, Peter. "Greenaway On A Zed and Two Noughts". BFI: The Early Works of Peter Greenaway. 

External links

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