‘Life imitated art’, says ‘Black Panther’ star in Welsh twins drama
Black Panther star Letitia Wright says she got so close to co-lead Tamara Lawrance in “The Silent Twins”, competing at Cannes, that both actors began to behave exactly like the siblings in the drama based on the true story of two black sisters in 1970s Wales.
The film tells the incredible story of June and Jennifer Gibbons, identical twins who refused to communicate with anybody except each other, and created a rich inner life that is both fascinating and dangerous.
Guyanese-born British actress Wright was catapulted to stardom with Marvel movie “Black Panther”, as well as “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame”, and dystopian TV show “Black Mirror”.
“The twins were so enamoured with each other, so obsessed with each other. That’s the same I was with Tamara,” Wright told AFP.
“I’d say things like, oh my god, you’re amazing with this or that, I love the way you do this, I love the way you think, I love the books that you’re reading,” she said. “And then in a split second: What am I doing here?”, she laughed. “Life really imitated art”.
Fellow Brit Lawrance, best known for the BBC’s King Charles III, said she, too, felt like a sister to Wright during the shooting for “The Silent Twins”.
“It wasn’t always plain sailing, it was very much a sisterhood,” Lawrance told AFP. “We got very close, and it’s that closeness that gives you the capacity to get in each other’s face,” she smiled.
– ‘Blown away’ –
The film’s Polish director Agnieszka Smoczynska told AFP she was “blown away” when she first heard about the story of the twins that became famous after Sunday Times journalist Marjorie Wallace published a book about the case.
The real June and Jennifer Gibbons were born in 1963, daughters in Caribbean immigrants. They were the only black children in their Welsh community, spoke only to each other and were ostracised at school.
They spent all their time together, writing plays, poems and novels. Later they experimented with alcohol and drugs, committed petty crimes and got locked up in Broadmoor, a high-security mental health hospital, for 11 years.
“I thought: What an incredible story,” said Smoczynska. “I couldn’t imagine that it had really happened, 30 years ago. This is the moment that I knew I wanted to do this movie.”
She said her film has “many layers”. It’s about “two sisters who love each other so much that they can’t live without each other, but they also can’t live together”, she said.
The movie explores the notions of sacrifice and misunderstood artists, but also racism “and what the system did to these young black girls,” said Smoczynska, though the theme remains understated.
“To make it just about race would be reductive, because race doesn’t exist in isolation from everything else,” said Lawrance.
“In this film it’s interesting to look at its intersection with class, and the time you’re born in, the generation you’re born in.”
Critics gave “The Silent Twins” a warm reception, with Deadline calling the lead actresses’ performances “unforgettable”, and The Guardian awarding four stars to the “well acted, disturbing drama” which the paper added was “heartfelt” and “absorbing”.
It is competing in the Cannes Festival’s Un Certain Regard section which showcases mostly young and innovative film-makers.