The Weird True Story That Inspired Dead Ringers

In 1988, David Cronenberg released an uncomfortable, disturbing film where Jeremy Irons gave the performance of his career. Dead Ringers had the actor in an unforgettable double performance as identical twin gynecologists Elliot and Beverly Mantle, who jointly operate a highly successful clinical practice in Toronto that specializes in treating fertility problems, but behind the scenes, they are psychologically abusive. and sexually of her patients who never quite know which of the brothers they are dealing with. The film won several awards (minus the Oscar for Irons, one of the classic Academy injustices). Now, 35 years later, it has won a new edition, transporting the plot to the present day, with actress Rachel Weisz, living with the sisters Ellie and Beverly Mantle.

Just like in the original, they work at a fertility clinic and “share everything: drugs, lovers and an unbridled desire to do anything, including going beyond the bounds of medical ethics to challenge outdated practices and put women’s health first.” It will undoubtedly be a vehicle for new awards for Rachel, who has played twins before (in the movie Constantine) and will have the double challenge.

The story is inspired by a real case that shocked the United States, the twin brothers Stewart and Cyril Marcus, renowned gynecologists in New York who, in July 1975, were found dead in separate rooms of Cyril’s apartment in Manhattan. The two, who were not identical but very similar, had a troubled and strange relationship, never being away from each other, and died just days apart, in the first part of an apparent suicide pact due to chemical dependency.

The bodies were found after complaints about the smell of the place. Cyril was lying face down on the bed in a pair of shorts and Stewart was on the floor, in another room, next to an identical bed, lying face down with no clothes on. The place was in complete disarray, with large amounts of cash strewn across the apartment and no signs of a struggle. One of the armchairs was covered in human excrement.

Born in 1930, Cyril and Stewart have always been more interested in chemistry and science than sports, talking more to each other than others. They were only apart for a single year when Stewart transferred briefly to Stanford, but he returned within a year, starting a private practice with his brother. In the 1960s they were at the height of their careers, co-authoring what was considered a classic book, Advances in Obstetrics and Gynecology, but over the next decade, they somehow became addicted to barbiturates and amphetamines, non-stop working.

At some point, they began to behave alternating between arrogance and erratic moments, attacking or tormenting patients. In 1972, Cyril overdosed, but after a brief hospital stay, he returned to the office to see patients. Some say that as a side effect, he would have had brain damage, anyway, and then it became understandable, the clientele started to abandon the doctors with the signs of chemical dependency, each day more difficult to disguise and after an ultimatum from doctors, the twins decided that they would kick their drug habit without outside help, isolating themselves in Cyril’s apartment and using anticonvulsant medication. However, sometime between July 10th and 14th, Stewart overdosed on Nembutal and died, while Cyril was out buying more medicine. Witnesses say that upon returning Cyril even left the building as if he were considering fleeing, but soon returned to the apartment, where he never left.

A suicide note of sorts was found at the scene, with a copy of Iris Murdoch‘s novel, A Fairly Honorable Defeat, face down in the middle of one of the rooms. The book is about two brothers and a mischievous, satanic figure named Julius who bets he can break up a homosexual couple’s relationship. Aside from medical work, it was the only book found in the apartment. After placing the book, Cyril appears to have simply laid down and waited to die.

The story is so bizarre that the press made a series of articles about them, but it was Linda Wolfe who immortalized the story with the book The Strange Death of the Twin Gynecologists, published in the same year of their death and which was the basis for the film by David Cronenberg, as well as the book Twins, by Bari Wood and Jack Geasland.

The 1988 film was initially to have starred Robert De Niro and later William Hurt, but both dropped out of the material because it was too heavy. The 2023 version – from what we saw in the teaser with Blondie‘s music, Heart of Glass is nothing like what the official trailer (now featuring another 1980s classic, Tainted Love) showed: more than an unhealthy relationship also hinting at the abuse of science and lack of medical ethics. Rachel, of course, looks amazing. Premieres on April 21st.


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