Jeremy Irons did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning the New York and Chicago critics awards, for portraying Beverly and Elliot Mantle in Dead Ringers.
Jeremy Irons found himself not nominated for this performance despite his critical wins, but it really should not be surprising as he was playing twin gynecologists in a film that surely made Oscar voters uncomfortable. Irons himself believed this to be his best work and even went so far as to thank director David Cronenberg in his Oscar speech when he won for Reversal of Fortune despite the fact that Cronenberg did not direct that film. Although Irons should no his performance in Reversal of Fortune was deserving entirely in its own right. Irons has a right to be so proud of his work here though, and the idea that he was forgotten in favor of several actors giving descent but unsubstantial work really makes the nominees that year a bit of a joke.
All I can say is there are performances than there are performances. The sheer ambition of this performance is stunning in itself as Irons takes on two roles of equal importance in the film. Playing two roles in the same film does occur but many times it is used more of just for a brief moment to cover a character, or is more of used for comedic reasons. Irons depiction of twins here is decidedly serious, and his performance is probably the deepest delve into the relationship of twins as characters. Both Beverly and Elliot are characters each in their own right, neither is a throwaway they are both equally important throughout the film. Irons always keeps each of them fully fledged characters in their own rights.
It is absolutely incredible how Irons creates each twin. A main part of the film is the idea that no one seems to be able to tell the differences between the two twins. Irons plays into that to just the right degree in that of course they look exactly the same, yet he still creates them as two separate men through subtle differences between the two. In Elliot is he shows a man filled with confidence who takes possibly a little too much pleasure in the games he plays with his brother based on mistaken identity. Beverly is a far less confidant individual who lacks the charisma found in his brother, and Irons shows hesitations regarding the games, but importantly still portrays a shy pleasure that Beverly gets from them as well.
Irons is outstanding in his individual scenes as they each take upon one of their patients an actress Claire (Genevieve Bujold). Irons with Elliot portrays him as almost a bit of wolf in the situation. He portrays the brother as in total charge of the situation taking control the relationship with a certain viciousness but as well as still with an undeniable charm that never leaves a question to Elliot's power of persuasion. Irons though is brilliant in his first scene when Beverly tries to take over from Elliot's start at the relationship. He is fantastic he plays Beverly as a man with a bit of awkwardness as he tries to take over from his brother, but in the same notion there seems to be a greater humanity. Where with Elliot it is a conquest, Irons shows within Elliot there is a far more honest emotional connection with Claire.
The relationship between the two brothers is of course the main focus of the film and here Irons transcends greatness with his performance. When the two are in the same scene, Irons's performance simply goes to a whole new level of brilliance. He creates a chemistry between the two that it made facilitating by his performance that never falters for even a moment. Early in the film we see them together and Irons creates a camaraderie clearly between the two as they play their game, and at first just seem to be having a fun time of it. There is a certain dichotomy to their scenes together though as Irons has Elliot very much the one in control of the two as they speak. After all it is only with Elliot's urging that Beverly even decides to even start his own relationship with Claire.
The dynamic that Irons creates between the two is simply astonishing. As the two seem to drift somewhat due to Beverly not wanting to only have a game with Claire, and falls in love with her. Irons is effective as he portrays Beverly's attempts to distance himself from his brother's attitudes. He portrays the greater humanity in Beverly as the game wears on him. Irons is just spectacular in the scene where Claire meets both brothers at the same time for the first time as she disgusted by their tricks. Irons in the same scene portrays Elliot who only continues to enjoy himself with the trouble he has caused for a woman he only sees as something to gain pleasure from, all the while he powerfully portrays the heartbreak Beverly suffers from Claire hatred toward him as well as Elliot's lack of caring.
The two are one but are separated is the constant idea throughout the film, and as strange and impossible that might seem Irons some how does it with this performance. As they are at first connected by their games they play they separate, and the two compensate for each with Irons portraying these compensations flawlessly. Beverly after being separated by Claire falls into drug addiction, and Irons is bluntly effective in his depiction of Beverly's painful despair, as loses. He is particularly strong as Beverly becomes less and less composed he comes in contact with Elliot who tries to help him recover. Irons in these scenes shows Elliot as staying very much in control of himself still, but importantly Irons portrays Elliot as very deeply caring for his brother with a certain warmth, and something else which I will get to.
In the very same film we see Beverly recover somewhat, and Elliot now falls into the addiction. Amazingly though this not all seems repetitive, and Irons seems to create two types of despair in each brother that causes their fall. Beverly far more self loathing, and Irons creates in Elliot a despair over his own troubles regarding understanding his brother. At the end of the film where Beverly attempts to help Elliot as Elliot had helped him a similar way the connection appears fully. Irons in the scenes where Elliot helped his brother showed a warmth, but as well a disturbing obsession that Elliot feels himself to be Beverly all the same. The complexity and oddity of the whole situation could have been entirely lost by simply the idea itself, but Irons some how honest all the elements in to make it so it all works in the study of the two men.
Their final scenes are truly something to behold in both the disturbing sense and in an awe inspiring sense. As the two men's relationship entirely comes together that leads to disastrous results, it is Irons's performance makes this all work as brilliantly as it does. He fully realizes this connection between the two that overcomes both in a fashion that is unable for either to escape their mutual madness. Irons's final moments as Beverly and Elliot are both horrible, and oddly poignant at the same moment, becuase of how well he realizes their relationship. Irons makes the relationship that could so very easily seemed unbelievable believable. This is an astonishing work that I cannot praise enough. Irons's performance is almost otherworldly in how completely he brings in these two men and their bizarre duet to life. This is one of the greatest performances of all time, simple as that.