The filmmakers were also aware that curiosity might pique audience interest. "The image of conjoined twins is initially strange," says Michael, "but instead of taking a sideshow approach, we portrayed Blake and Francis as presentable, clean-cut guys." The look was inspired by old photographs of Chang and Eng, Mark adds: "They seemed so proud."
Once audiences satisfy their initial curiosity, "the next thing people are usually interested in is whether Mark and I are actually conjoined," Michael continues. "Then finally, when people learn that we're not, they wonder how we can pull off our performance."
"Sooner or later, though, other factors take over, because Blake and Francis are confronted with universal issues. In every relationship, there's always one person who's stronger and one who's more sensitive. And there's the reality that the closer you get to someone, the more you face issues of dependency and compromise."
"This film takes you far beyond physical deformity," says Ronson. "You find yourself drawn irresistibly to this very endearing couple. You go way beyond what they look like to their feelings, and the deformity becomes almost an afterthought."
The uncanny synergy the Polish brothers have experienced in their own relationship since childhoodthe same closeness that led to their own private languageplayed a key role in the making of "Twin Falls Idaho." Recalls producer Steven Wolfe, "It was like working with one person. The two of them were so in sync with each other that it didn't matter which one you communicated with. They worked together as a unit."
"I can honestly say it was a real collaborative effort," Ronson observes. "People even hung around and helped other departments break the set. And at the same time, the film is clearly Mark and Michael's vision. You can hear their voice. In this film, the story is the star."
To keep the focus on the human element, the Polish brothers wanted to give "Twin Falls Idaho" a timeless quality hearkening back to the 1970s, '60s and even '30s, when Chang and Eng were still alive.
In 1972, for instance, the year Blake and Francis were born, medical science did not have the equipment or know-how to separate twins fused so intricately. Instead, conjoined children were most likely hidden away from the world by stunned parents, or given up for adoption. For Blake and Francis' mother, "time stood still when her sons were born," explains Michael, "and in some ways the twins, too, remain stuck." As a result, the twins' clothing is reminiscent of an earlier era while their mother's apartmentnumber 1972, significantlyis decorated in the bright orange hues that were popular three decades ago.