David Cronenberg’s 1988 film Dead Ringers set a new standard for twisted twin tales—but Prime Video’s new series adaptation, with Rachel Weisz playing sister versions of Drs. Elliot and Beverly Mantle, the brothers Jeremy Irons played in the movie, carves out its own disturbing place in the genre. Ahead of its premiere next week, io9 talked with Weisz, who also executive produced, and creator/writer/executive producer Alice Birch to learn more.
Cheryl Eddy, io9: This version of Dead Ringers has an immediate change from the original film (and book) because it’s about sisters rather than brothers. But what was the most important element that you carried over or wanted to preserve from the original story?
Alice Birch: I think firstly it’s just the intense, extraordinary relationship at the center of it. That was kind of our starting point, and that was the thing I hung on to the whole way through the process—this extraordinary relationship. And in the film, they look like they’re having such a great time until they’re not. That was something also that we wanted to carry with us.
Rachel Weisz: I think the codependence, the intensity of that copendence. The intensity of how much fun Elliot is always having. Alice mentioned that in the original film, the twins, Jeremy Irons’ characters, always had a martini glass in their hands—just, you know, leaving a gala, having a great time. It was important to us that was happening too, in our series. But yeah, [like in the movie, there’s] the twisted intensity, the kind of psychosexual drama of the patient that comes between codependent siblings and will rip this co-dependency apart.
io9: Did you speak to any twins or do any research into twin relationships to shape that part of the story?
Birch: We did, yeah. We spoke to a few before we started the writers room. And we read a lot and did a lot of research and spoke to people, which was fascinating. But I think the intensity in this is turned up to such an extreme level, while it was really interesting to talk to those people, I feel like we went in quite an extreme direction.
Weisz: The show’s quite a wild ride; it’s not a documentary about twins, but we were inspired by real twins. But the story’s pretty heightened.
io9: Was there a metaphorical line drawn to keep the show from taking things too far, or was that sort of the driving point, pushing boundaries as far as they would go?
Weisz: It begins in a very recognizable world, in terms of the hospital where the twins work. That was very important to us, that that was grounded and realistic, because the twins have very big dreams of how they want to change the face of maternal health care and female medicine. We wanted to show, and what Alice in her writing wanted to show, what was imperfect about it—so we meet a lot of patients and really see the system. And then the show makes the case for why Beverly’s dream of having a birthing center and Elliot’s scientific dreams might be necessary. And then it gets more heightened and more… operatic was the word that we used. And, hopefully, entertaining.
io9: When you think about Cronenberg, the immediate genre association is “body horror.” How does your version of Dead Ringers evolve that concept? Do you consider it to be a horror series?
Birch: I think there’s notes of horror for sure. I don’t know if I would categorize it as a straight horror series—I think there’s other other things going on, but the horror is definitely a part of it. We were super aware of the body horror of Cronenberg—that he’s the master of that. And again, I think our show begins in a slightly more grounded place and then goes to a more extreme place. I feel like it’s a slightly different lens on that.
io9: Prime Video is releasing all six episodes at once, meaning the potential for a really intense six-episode, six-hour binge is there. How do you hope viewers experience it?
Weisz: We leave it up to the viewer, as to how much appetite they have, how much they want to devour. I mean [it depends] on them. They’re free.
io9: Without getting into any plot spoilers, I’d like to ask about the ending. What made you want to tie up the series in that way?
Birch: We wanted to make sure that it was inspired by the Cronenberg film, but it’s so iconic, you know, we never wanted to do a straight retelling of it. So we wanted to find find the ending that best served our twins and our story. It feels like the ultimate twin swap, the ending. It felt like a good thriller ending.
Dead Ringers hits Prime Video on April 21.
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