Between them, Luke and Harry Treadaway have got the film and theatre worlds sewn up… Just don’t mention the t-word.
Plucked from their first year of drama school to star in a haunting mockumentary about conjoined punk-rockers, Luke and Harry Treadaway became overnight indie stars. Any young actor would kill for such a launchpad, and the twins, now 24, got stuck into Brothers Of The Head with relish, spending the entire shoot sewn together in a wetsuit and even sharing a bed.
“Since then, though, we’ve been off doing our own things,” chirps Harry, the younger by twenty minutes, at London’s Holborn Studios. Harry has boosted his film CV with the likes of Joy Division biopic Control and Tim Robbins-starrer City Of Ember. Luke, meanwhile, has made a name for himself as one of the Bright Young Things of British theatre, with star turns in the National Theatre’s War Horse and Philip Ridley’s Piranha at the Soho.
Spend five minutes in their company and it’s clear that Harry, eerily reminiscent of a cocky young Malcolm McDowell, is the more confident of the two. He’s also more restless, eternally making roll-ups or fiddling with his new iPhone. By contrast, Luke seems softer-edged, sweeter, perhaps – and happy to let his brother take the lead.
Four years since their startling debut, the Treadaways are coming together for their second joint professional outing, this time on stage. Mark Shopping and Fucking Ravenhill’s two-hander Over There is part of the Royal Court’s new season Off The Wall, marking twenty years since the Berlin Wall was smashed into tiny, tourist-pocket-sized chunks. Luke and Harry play Franz and Karl, identical twins separated as infants when their mother escapes to the West, taking one son with her and leaving the other behind. “It’s a great idea, I can’t wait to get stuck in,” Harry grins.
But while Ravenhill’s piece probes at the nature of twinhood and the brothers have consented to being interviewed together, their genetic relationship turns out to be a topic neither Luke nor Harry seem keen to discuss…
Wonderland: I see you’ve succumbed to the lure of the iPhone, Harry.
HARRY: I just got it a couple of weeks ago.
LUKE: I’ve hardly spoken to him since. I’m very jealous.
HARRY: I’ve realised that it’s like the temptation of man – it’s like taking a bite of the apple in the Garden of Eden. It’s as close to an identity card as we can have because it’s saying exactly what I’m doing on the internet, what music I’m listening to, and in the Book of Revelations there’s a bit that says when there’s a chip in the eye of man, mankind will fall. This is a chip – a computer chip – and it’s got the apple with a bite mark.
LUKE: It’s weird how you were saying that you can type in where you want to go and it will direct you there.
HARRY: Yeah, it makes you lazy. If you lose a signal, it’s like, ‘What the hell do I do now?’
Wonderland: Are you looking forward to the Royal Court play?
HARRY: Yeah, we haven’t done a play together since college. /I/ haven’t done a play since coming out of college. You’ll have to teach me the ropes.
LUKE: I’ll show you how it’s done. It’s funny how it can go from us having not worked together for three years to suddenly something cropping up on the Wednesday and by Friday we’re doing it together… although we know that we won’t do many things together in our lives. We’re not going to make a habit of it. But I’m deeply excited about this.
HARRY: It’s like a complete extension into the adult world of playing in your living room with your brother.
LUKE: Which is what you do anyway on any job with other, non-genetically similar people.
Wonderland: Who’s playing which role?
HARRY: We might just decide before we go on every night. Alternate.
LUKE: It would keep it fresh.
HARRY: We haven’t decided yet. I’ve been saying to people that we’re doing it and people go, ‘Did Mark write it for you?’ And what’s weird is that he didn’t at all. It says on the first page that it’s up to every production whether they do it with real twins or not.
Wonderland: Did you avoid working together again after Brothers Of The Head?
LUKE: Yes, there were some things which were proffered but we just felt…
HARRY: …It would have been stupid if we’d gone and done another brother thing straight after drama school.
LUKE: But we haven’t consciously tried to do anything ever. There’s no weird planning. We’ve just gone up for things and either got them or not.
HARRY: We go up for the same stuff sometimes. Sometimes one gets them, sometimes the other one gets them, sometimes neither of us get them. But we never both get them – that’s impossible. So there’s no conscious plan.
Wonderland: Is it awkward when you know you’re going up for the same role?
HARRY: Don’t think about it. Because you have mates who are going up for the same stuff as well. If you start thinking about who else is going up for something, your head is in the wrong place. Whether it’s your twin brother or not.
LUKE: It’s quite funny though when you’re the next one in as you walk out the door. Sometimes they’ll say something: ‘Coming back in for a second go?’
HARRY: Then you have to laugh, as if it’s funny and you’ve never heard it before.
Wonderland: How did you find drama school?
HARRY: It’s good training for theatre but you have to forget a lot of what you learnt to do any film. It’s hard to take on all this shit about identity and the psychologies of other characters when you’re still 18. You’re going, ‘What the fuck, I don’t even know what the Tube does yet.’ I found that quite hard. But I’m getting happier the more time that I’m away from it.
LUKE: I don’t regret having gone through it but I’m glad I’m not going through it now.
Wonderland: What was it like growing up as twins in a tiny village in Devon?
HARRY: I have nothing to compare it to, not having grown up anywhere else as a twin…
LUKE: It was very good for me, I enjoyed it.
HARRY: I loved the countryside. I can’t imagine not having had that. People are happy who grew up in cities and that’s cool but for me I need occasionally to go and walk by the sea or be in the countryside. It keeps me happy; it keeps me sane, I think.
Wonderland: Did your parents encourage you to be individuals?
LUKE: As with any siblings, I think. We were never dressed in the same way.
Wonderland: Some twins are…
HARRY: Some sisters are.
LUKE: I think that’s akin to child abuse, when parents dress their kids identically…
HARRY: They do it because they think it’s cute… and child abuse is never cute.
LUKE: No, but I just think it’s so sad because you think, ‘They’re obviously going to have a harder time than other siblings having an identity anyway. Why the /fuck/ would you want to put them in matching jumpers?’
Wonderland: How close are you now?
LUKE: I’d challenge anyone to spend 98 percent of their life with someone, pretty much in proximity…
HARRY: Well, up to 18.
LUKE: Up to 18… The first few years of our life we probably weren’t apart for more than a day. That’s a lot of days to spend with someone so you’re either going to feel pretty close, or hate or kill that person. It’s hard for there to be a middle ground in that and luckily we haven’t murdered each other and we don’t hate each other so I guess that’s a sign of being close.
HARRY: But the last two and a half years, we’ve seen each other maybe half a year because we’ve both been working so much.
LUKE: Like now, you’ve just come back to London –
HARRY: I’ve been in Nottingham doing a film.
LUKE: And it’s quite nice. It’s kind of like, ‘Yeah, this is fun.’ We’re living together at the moment. We went to the theatre last night together for the first time in years.
Wonderland: In what ways are you different?
LUKE: [sighs] I’m trying to think of the equivalent question if we weren’t twins, which would be, ‘How do you think you’re different from everyone else in the world?’ Which I guess would be highly impossible to answer. I can’t even think of anything specific at all, only inasmuch as we’re as different as…
HARRY: …any brothers are different.
LUKE: Yeah. [gets a text message alert]
Wonderland: You used to have a band – do you still play music together?
HARRY: We just play with mates. We had a great jam the other night with our mate. One of us was on the guitar, one was on the violin and one was on the xylophone. What a blend. We just get drunk and play with musical instruments that we’ve procured throughout the world.
LUKE: My friend just texted me saying, ‘I’m gonna give you a hot, oil-filled body massage tonight.’
HARRY: [unimpressed] That’s bizarre…
LUKE: That’s bizarre, isn’t it. Sorry.
Wonderland: How do you look back on Brothers Of The Head now?
HARRY: It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. But since then, there’s been a lot of stuff so… we could talk about that if you want.
Wonderland: Not keen to talk about Brothers?
HARRY: Think about it: it was our first audition, we went in there with no idea about anything. We went in there smoking and drinking Stella, not in a self-conscious, isn’t-this-clever way, just thinking, ‘They’re punks so they smoke and drink Stella.’ There was such a naïve quality about it. And it was an amazing psychological experiment being strapped to someone – we didn’t want to fake any physicality or work with some choreographer. Why give up the opportunity to actually see what it would be like? For me it’s going to make my career far more interesting if I don’t try and fake it each time. I got into birdwatching for a film I’ve just done called Pelican Blood, in the same way that I learned to take drugs for Control. It’s more interesting if you actually do it.
LUKE: I’d say exactly the same.
Wonderland: Did you learn anything about each other that you didn’t already know?
LUKE: I gained only more respect and more love for you through doing that.
HARRY: Jesus. Right, okay.
LUKE: No. Fuck it. Nothing.
HARRY: Right. Not really.
Wonderland: So, Luke, you starred in your second film, Dogging: A Love Story, recently…
LUKE: Not recently. It seems a while ago. It seemed to be delayed and delayed and I hear now that it’s being released. So, yeah, we’ll see… I’m still yet to see it so I can’t really give it a good mention apart from, ‘Newcastle is very cold in December.’ That’s really all I have to offer on that one.
Wonderland: Doesn’t seem like it’s going to factor in your all-time great experiences…
LUKE: Uh, no… I did kind of enjoy it. Sometimes.
HARRY: [sharply] Leave it there, Luke, just leave it there.
LUKE: Yeah, I know, I’ve left it there.
Wonderland: What are the differences for you between doing film and theatre?
HARRY: Film’s like making an album and theatre’s like doing a live gig. I can’t wait to do a live gig.
LUKE: Are you going to be my roadie?
HARRY: I’m not going to be your roadie, mate, I’m going to be the frontman. And the Royal Court – what an amazing theatre. It’s done so much amazing work over the last fifty years: Never Look Back In Anger…
LUKE: Look Back In Anger.
HARRY: Look Back In Anger, yeah.
LUKE: Never Look Back In Anger – never less than a companion piece.
HARRY: [sarcastically] Thank you. I’m glad you’re here mate.
Wonderland: Do you ever envy the other’s career?
HARRY: I want all of it. In abundance. I’d be unhappy if it was one or the other. Wouldn’t you?
LUKE: Yeah, man. I’ve only just dipped my toe in what this game is, and there’s just plenty more to come of both hopefully.
Wonderland: Together and apart…
LUKE: Working together every five years would be enough. That would be a few things in our lifetime.
Leaving the studio and walking to the Tube, the Treadaways are visibly more relaxed and bantery. As Harry mock-swoons over a buxom fake-blonde taking a fag break from her own photo shoot, Luke admonishes him: “Get real. Going out with someone like that in real life must be an absolute nightmare. It would be like going out with a doll.” “No, the thing is, Luke,” Harry retorts, “it’s no worse than if your girlfriend was an actress or a dancer.”
Harry’s off to finish his Christmas shopping before flying to St. Lucia for two weeks. Luke’s on his way to audition for the big-budget remake of 70s campfest Clash Of The Titans. Little brother gives him some advice: “Be passionate – don’t do that arched-eyebrow thing. Just go for it…” The bristly reactions have vanished, although when I tell them I’m heading straight off to interview Rupert Friend – who happens to be Keira Knightley’s boyfriend but, I’ve been told, doesn’t take kindly to questions about their relationship – Harry play-slaps me on the shoulder: “See? We could have said we didn’t want to talk about being twins.”
“There’s nothing I have less to say about in the world than being a twin,” chimes in Luke. “In a few years time, I think we’re just going to stop talking about it…”
Photographer: Ben Rayner
Fashion: Lauren Blane
Words: Matt Mueller
A full version of this article first appeared in Wonderland #17, Feb/Mar 2009