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Tale of the Four twins

Movie preview At a screening of the Facebook movie, the Winklevoss twins and their on-screen counterparts stole the show, says Monica Hesse.

movie reviews Updated: Oct 02, 2010 21:23 IST

At a recent advance screening of The Social Network, the heartiest audience laugh went not to Mark Zuckerberg’s deadpan zingers (as witheringly delivered by Jesse Eisenberg), or to Sean Parker’s flamboyant paranoia (Justin Timberlake). The ha-ha moment went to the identical Winklevoss twins, as the crew-team Adonises decide whether they should mincemeat the Facebook founder for stealing their idea.

“I’m six-foot-five, 220 pounds,” one Winklevoss says, trying to convince his brother that victory would be swift. “And there are two of me.”

Technically speaking, there are one and three-fourths of him. In one of the most seamless but little known aspects of the award-bait film, Cameron Winklevoss is played wholly by Armie Hammer, a 24-year-old great-grandson of oil tycoon Armand Hammer whose previous credits were a brief Gossip Girl stint and a made-for-TV Billy Graham.

From the shoulders up, Tyler Winklevoss is also Hammer. But everything from the clavicles down is Josh Pence, a Dartmouth grad and Ralph Lauren model whose face was digitally scrubbed after shooting.

Insert obligatory irony about getting your big break in a movie about Facebook, and then being the man without a face. “It was shocking at first,” says Pence, 28, whose real face resembles the shining morning sun. He’d read several times for Tyler, but after he finally got the part, his agent phoned with a warning. “He said, now, obviously these are identical twins. They’re going to want to make them true to the story. In some way your face is going to be morphed. ... Once I got over my ego” and thought about the opportunity, Pence says, “It was a no-brainer.” “Josh took it amazingly well,” says Hammer. “I want to be Josh Pence when I grow up.” (Pence had also auditioned for Hammer’s Gossip Girl role.)

For 10 months of production, the two enlisted in twin boot camp, working with acting coach Cameron Thor to drill the subtle movements and speech patterns that the Winklevosses would have developed over two decades of genetic equality. “Does one grab the salt first, and one grab the pepper?” Pence says. Would Tyler slouch while Cameron was poker-backed?

“We wanted to make sure that we showed them as people,” Hammer says, “Instead of going to that dangerous place where you just have jocks picking on the nerd.” He and Pence’s lower body play the twins as basically decent guys whose fatal flaw is believing that everyone is as scrupulous as they.

“I think they did a superb job,” says Tyler Winklevoss, who has seen the movie twice with his brother and who, on the telephone, sounds as wholesome and indignant as his on-screen self. The twins’ court battle with Zuckerberg makes up the backbone of the film. In 2008 they reached a settlement valued at $65 million and raises questions of intellectual property and the nature of creativity.

Cameron says that seeing the Facebook story on the big screen has provided a measure of closure for him: “We’re a conscience (for Mark Zuckerberg). We’re a mirror that’s being placed in front of him and I think he’s upset that he actually has to look at it because I don’t think he’s ever had to reckon with his actions.”

After The Social Network had finished filming, the real Winklevosses and the fake Winklevosses met each other on but of course Facebook. Hammer’s wife friended Tyler and Cameron; it turned out they had mutual buddies at Harvard.

The real Winklevosses had finally joined the site in 2008 after admitting it was the best way to keep in touch with friends they’d made rowing for the United States at the Beijing Olympics. “We don’t hate the product,” Cameron says. “If Facebook was killing animals for fur, it would be the product we had an issue with. But we have an issue with Mark Zuckerberg.”

The four Winklevosses all got together for drinks in California and talked about how many daily practice hours it takes to become a champion rower (real Winklevosses) and what it’s like to work with Aaron Sorkin (fake).

The real Winklevosses have recently completed matching MBAs at Oxford and now live together in New Jersey, training for the 2012 Olympics and sussing out other entrepreneurial opportunities. Cameron is the publisher of social site

As for the unseen fake Winklevoss, Pence is currently wrapping The Algerian, about the relationship between a Muslim immigrant and his new acquaintances in Los Angeles. He says, “We see my face the entire time.” Those unwilling to wait for that movie’s release can spot Pence in The Social Network after all, just not where you’d expect. He has a tiny Easter-egg cameo about a third of the way through. Keep an eye out for a bathroom scene. Don’t blink.

In exclusive partnership with The Washington Post

First Published: Oct 02, 2010 21:21 IST