The trailer for the upcoming Tom Hardy movie, Legend, is out and it has the internet abuzz. Tom Hardy plays Ronald and Reginald Kray, two identical twin criminals who terrorized London in the 1960s. With action, intrigue, and a twin love triangle, the movie looks sure to thrill.
Unfortunately, this is only the latest in a long story of non-twin actors playing twin roles in Hollywood. They use camera tricks and established movie stars to create an illusion, and the actor gets the challenge of playing opposite himself. The twin community has been silent about this issue for far too long, and I refuse to remain silent any longer. Because I am an identical twin.
There are just over one million twins in this country, not counting fraternal twins because they are not real twins anyway, so one might think Hollywood would learn to respect a group that large. But the non-twins who control the media have no interest in answering our constant calls for basic respect. So I’m writing this article not just for all the twins out there who need a voice, but I’m also writing this article for you, Tom Hardy.
I am writing this article because I am an identical twin. You wouldn’t know from seeing me in public, but I walk among you. Of course, I’m usually with my twin brother when I’m in public, so the only times you wouldn’t know are if one of us has to go to the bathroom or something. But I’ve heard the way people talk about twins when they don’t realize who I am. I pretend to smile along to the hurtful conversations, but on the inside, I am weeping. Because my people and our experiences have become a punchline, Tom.
I’d like to tell a brief story. When I was a little boy, my brother and I loved The Parent Trap.We would watch it over and over again. We fell in love with the redheaded stars and decided we would marry them someday in a double ceremony. I adored Annie’s British accent; he loved Hallie for her devil-may-care attitude.
Then we found out the truth. Hallie and Annie were never real twins. They were just one actress and a camera trick. Not just any actress, but Lindsay Lohan. Not just a singleton, but an embarrassing drunk. Our dream was dashed. Two brothers cannot share one woman, especially if she has a drug problem. To make this understandable for singleton readers, I would compare it to falling in love with a woman and finding out she is a half-woman amputee with a drug habit. Do you get it now, Tom?
We were shocked. Why would Hollywood lie to us? Was it really so hard to find real twin actors to serve as role models to twins like us? We realized then that we would never achieve our dreams of movie stardom, because Hollywood has no interest in telling the actual story of American twins, because they see us as no more than a gimmick. A cheap parlor trick.
I am writing this article because it is still a radical act to be an unashamed twin in public. I am a twin, and I should be able to go to the movies or watch a trailer without having somebody piss on my experience, my identity, and my reality. Despite what Hollywood would have you believe,there are real twins in this country. And we are not afraid to come outside anymore.
Stanley Kubrick made us into monsters in The Shining. Schwarzenegger and DeVito made us into a cheap joke with Twins. Coors Light made us into sex objects with their pornographic beer commercials.
And I am being vilified for trying to make us human again.
Hollywood’s campaign of violence against twins is not merely figurative, it is also metaphorical. The following is a list of famous actors who have directly colonized my body by portraying twins.
-Nicolas Cage (Adaptation)
-Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood)
-Mike Myers (Austin Powers)
-Eddie Murphy (Bowfinger, Meet Dave, The Klumps, many more)
-Lindsay Lohan (The Parent Trap)
-Adam Sandler (Jack and Jill)
And thousands more. This is not a witch hunt, because I genuinely believe that these actors did not know they were colonizing my reality. If you’re wondering why I said Austin Powers, there was a plot in Goldmember where Austin and Dr. Evil found out they were twins. I forgot about it too.
The history of real twins in Hollywood is a dark one. Every day twins are exploited to skirt laws about children working too many hours in a week. The best known example of this comes from the Olsen twins, who teamed up to play one little girl on Full House.They were famous before they were old enough to wipe each other’s asses, and that kind of exposure did them irreparable damage. The Olsen twins have become reclusive hermits at the age of 29, only coming out of hiding to release new perfume lines and attend premiers of their younger sister’s movies.
And yes, twins wipe each other’s asses. If that’s shocking to you, it’s because the media has systematically erased the twin experience from the public record. And with the Olsens in hiding, twins need a voice in the media more than ever, Tom. There’s a lot about twins that people don’t know, and you could help us educate people.
I’d like to tell another story about being burned by Hollywood’s twin problem. In 2011, I was thrilled to find out a star of Adam Sandler’s caliber was making a twin-friendly movie. Finally, a film would document my experience with tact and subtlety, and also make me bust my gut laughing at the same time. So me and my brother sat down to watch the movie. But what we saw next shocked us.
The movie didn’t even make sense. Jack and Jill are supposed to be identical twins, but they are two different sexes. At first I thought maybe Jill was transgender and I was watching a wildly progressive peek into the realities of an underrepresented group, but then there were flashbacks to her as a little girl so that theory was out. If two twins have different genetics, they are by definition not identical. As a lifelong fan of CGI-assisted slapstick and big fat drag queens, I should have been the ideal fan for this movie. But Sandler lost my support with his marathon of uninformed claptrap, clearly unsupplemented by even the most basic research. Minstrelsy is alive and well in this country, but this time the butt of the joke is the American twin.
I would have run out of my seat if my twin bro had not been holding my hand (yes, twins hold hands at the movies. GET OVER IT). I started to cry and shout, and when my brother saw that I was crying and shouting, he joined me in solidarity. That is what activism looks like. When our dad told us to settle down, we did what we always do when he visits anti-twin violence upon our personage: We marched around the house banging on pots and pans, chanting twin rights slogans, and basically trashing all our dad’s crap by throwing it down the stairs (books, suitcase, his cell phone, etc.).
That’s the thing about activism: If it makes you uncomfortable, that means it’s working. Our dad was uncomfortable, so he grounded us and we had to sit in separate rooms for two hours. It didn’t just hurt to be away from my brother, it downright sucked. My brother is not just my ally in activism; he’s my mate in mischief, my partner in pranking. I was lost without him. But then I thought to myself: How many nights did Dr. King spend in jail before Washington finally heard his cries? If Malcolm and Nelson had given up the first time they were imprisoned, who would have continued their fight?
There is no such thing as identical twins who are a boy and a girl, and Adam Sandler will never learn that if I allow myself to be silenced.
Reactionary apologists will trot out the same predictable defenses of Hollywood casting practices. “There’s just not that many twin actors,” or perhaps, “you and your brother don’t have the emotional stability to watch any movies, let alone write think pieces on the web.” Ha! If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard these lame duck excuses, me and my brother could buy new matching sailor outfits. (Note for other twins: Good Lad Boy makes the best designs. Even though their adult prices are a ripoff, I find them to the most reliable option in the field). There is only one reason why real twins are invisible to Hollywood, and that is the system’s active and concerted efforts to erase us.
Hollywood casting awareness is only the beginning of our fight. There is still no federal law on the books protecting twin rights. So-called “Twin Crow” laws still prevent twins from basic liberties, like sharing one airplane ticket and both being president at the same time.
I am calling for every singleton actor who has ever portrayed twins to come out in support of our cause. Not just you, Tom Hardy, but every actor who has knowingly or unknowingly participated in Hollywood’s 100-year-long campaign of violence. Imagine, if you can, Hollywood speaking with one voice against twin oppression. A viral video campaign the likes of which has never been seen, with Lindsay Lohan and Dr. Evil standing side by side with real twins and civil rights leaders, doing a lip-sync battle or something.
I would like to close, as always, with a quote from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, embedded in an image of the cast.