The other “Twins” was directed by Ivan Reitman, a Canadian director like Cronenberg, but who specialized in comedy, not horror. In Reitman’s film, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito played the Benedict twins, Julius and Vincent. Born as the product of a genetics experiment, the two are separated at birth and only reunite 35 years later. They find that their differences aren’t just skin-deep: Julius is goodhearted and book-smart, Vincent is a street-smart con man.
Reportedly, Universal executives thought that the absurdity of the premise, that two men as different looking as Schwarzenegger and DeVito could be related, let alone twins, was comedy (and box office) gold. The “Twins” poster shows this absurd juxtaposition up front. The stars stand next to each other with the title hovering above them.
During an interview with Spin in November 1988, just after the release of “Dead Ringers,” Cronenberg discussed the film. For “an undisclosed but persuasive sum,” he let Reitman and Universal have the title they wanted. So how did he come up with a new one for his movie? “Any title with the word ‘Brothers,’ ‘Sisters,’ ‘Split,’ ‘Reflection,’ ‘Double,’ or ‘Mirror’ was automatically disqualified,” Cronenberg says. With those parameters set, he arrived at “Dead Ringers.” As he told Spin, it wasn’t lost on him that this was his second film with “Dead” in the title.
I’d say things worked out for the best. “Twins” is, truth be told, a rather generic title more befitting Reitman’s comedy film. “Dead Ringers” conveys the same point but is more ominous, befitting a psychological drama like Cronenberg’s.