The spectacular rise and near fall of the world's most rich and powerful twins.
The Olsen twins were born on June 13 1986 in Mumbai, India. Their parents, Frank and Judy Olsen, were founding members of the Symbionese Liberation Army or SLA, and considered naming the twins Patricia and Hearst. They have only one sibling, older half-sister Kaitlin, whom they have a contentious relationship with.
Despite Frank and Judy's previous lefty leanings, the yuppie 80s got to them. So it was only a matter of time before they returned to Los Angeles, Hollywood specifically.
Having studied California's stringent labor laws, they noticed a hole they could drive a double seated big wheel through. With info in hand they cosied up to as many agents and producers as they could, while they proferred up the twins. After many horrible misunderstandings, the twins landed a gig.
The story of a man, Danny Tanner, who murdered his wife (only to get off on a technicality), didn't seem like the best idea for a family show, but it worked. After his loss(?), he was forced to raise his three kids Donna Jo (DJ, for short), Stephanie and Michelle(s). He would be helped by uncle Jesse(his wife's brother, and a former gay prostitute), and "uncle" Joey (a man he met in prison while awaiting his trial).
Uncle Jesse's constant plots to gain his vengeance, provided much of the humour in the series("Blast From the Past (uncensored version)" from season two being the perfect example). Yet it was the twins Olivier-esque acting skills that was the talk of the nation. It is rumored that in their eight seasons on the show, they never botched a line or missed a cue. That being so, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences would always ignore them come Emmy time. Their snub is mainly attributed to their radical views on Topeka, Kansas' right to exist.
The show hit a mini-crisis after season three. The twins demanded the sacking of actors Bob Saget, Candice Cameron and Jodie Sweetin. In their words. "How is America supposed to believe people this butt-ugly, could even be remotely related to us?" After a major pay raise, and mandatory plastic surgery for the rest of the cast, the show (to America's delight), went on.
Season five would be the apex of the show's popularity. A worldwide audience measuring in the hundreds of millions would tune in weekly. (One quarter of the Indian population would tune in to cheer on their prodigal daughters, alone.) But the threads of disaster were right around the corner.
After season seven, the infamous "Gibbler Incident" would occur. An incident that would shape the rest of their careers. Actress Andrea Barber (Kimmy Gibbler on the show), was always a bit of a loose cannon, but on June 13 1994, she went overboard. The scene was the twins seventh birthday party, a party Ms. Barber was purposely not invited to. But an allegedly intoxicated Ms. Barber wasn't taking "no" for an answer. She would proceed to ram her 1987 Ford F-150 through the twins' Bel Air mansion gates. She would then head to the party in the back, armed with a tire iron. After bashing a couple of clowns and a pony unconscious, she set her sights on the twins, only to have the tables turned. This is where things get sketchy. There are no definitive reports of how things went down, as Disney execs quickly paid off everyone involved. But the quote, "twins turned her into a human pinata, it was horrible", survive to this day.
After the incident, all the chemistry on the set was gone. The rest of the cast lived in fear of the twins. The ratings reflected the downturn in spirits, and it was only a matter of time.
On May 23 1995 the show came to an end. But the twins would survive, and then some.
After the demise of the show the twins branched out into the emerging home video market. The Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley were instant hits, selling millions and padding the twins already swollen bank accounts. Coincidentally, "I'm buying this for my kids, honest", "what are you looking at?" and "stop judging me", became the most popular phrases heard at K-Mart checkout stands across America.
Despite their success, the videos were constantly being denounced by critics for their characters ultra violent tendencies and explicitness. No more so than in "The Case of the Shark Encounter", a "mini Jaws with chainsaws" as one critic put it. This was the twins' attempt to cash in on their newly acquired bad girl reps. And despite initial dismay from some of the Full House audience, vindication would eventually come. In fact, today the videos are on the mandatory curriculum of most major film schools.
The lesser known series of videos, You're Invited to Mary-Kate and Ashley's... would also debut around this time. This series would prove to be less visceral, and more avant-garde, leaving most fans scratching their heads. But, as proof of its resonance, director David Lynch was almost inclined to re-edit Blue Velvet after viewing the series.
But, it was time to move on.
How could someone take the carnage and brutality of the Adventures videos to network television? To put it simply, they couldn't.
In this poorly scripted action-adventure show, the twins play the "World's Most Deadly Assassins". One problem, in a nod to The A-Team, they never actually kill anybody. This watered down version of Team Twin lasted one season, one season too long for most fans.
Despite each twin being paid one million per episode, they have long since disowned any involvement.
For most of their careers the twins called the shots, but as the money was being hauled in by the truckload, this stopped being the case. Producers, once whipping boys for the twins, were steadily asserting more control over the twins' projects, due to the money involved.
After the lukewarm reception to Two of a Kind, and then direct to video movie Our Lips Are Sealed (2000), producers smelled blood. The twins, having only known success, were at their lowest and most vulnerable. Allegations of the twins own reps being paid off also started to spring up at this time. It was only a matter of time that the under-handed tactics would begin.
In late 2000 the twins production company Dualstar would sign a seemingly lucrative TV and Movie deal. The flagship of the deal would be the cable series So Little Time. Time was the twins at their most berserk ever. Despite having an 11pm airtime on Fridays, the first episodes were being viewed by millions. Fans initially hailed it as the best twin material of all time. But what should have been the twin's greatest work, turned into another disaster.
It wasn't that the show stunk, in fact the "Tedi's Burnout" episode is considered one of the greatest pieces of television to ever air. The problem was the production itself. Constantly dogged by delays and budget short-falls, the twins were being boxed in. It all came to a head when the show took an unscheduled fourteen week mid-season hiatus. When it did return, the budget was gone, and it showed. It showed way too much for the fans, who left the series in droves. Time was up, so to say.
Another failure, and it got worst. The twins deal through Dualstar stated that for a greater share of profits, the production company would underwrite all losses, and there were a lot of losses. At the start of production, guaranteed three year contracts were being handed out left and right. The twins had no choice but to return to the movies, asap.
2001 to 2003 would see the twins at their most stressed. Jumping from production to production, usually never bothering to read the script before putting pen to paper. It led to several questionable decisions, including The Challenge. Ever wanted to see the twins play serial killing rodeo clowns on the Pro Bull Riding circuit? No? Then you weren't alone.
Despite, personally reeling in a few million for picture, the film division of Dualstar was still running in the red. In fact, if it wasn't for their doll and clothing line, Dualstar itself would have gone bankrupt.
Finally unshackled from their poorly constructed media deal, the twins were free to set out again. First stop, New York.
New York Minute was going to be their Taxi Driver. The twins co-wrote the script, and it was rumored Ridley Scott directed the movie using a pseudonym. The basic plot involved the twins playing two hard-boiled cops on the trail of a merciless cannibal (as played by Eugene Levy in a rare dramatic turn). With the mean streets of the Bowery as the backdrop, it had "can't miss" written all over it. But like all good plans...
The initial cut was given an NC-17 rating by the MPAA, so the producers ordered a re-cut. Scott was appalled by the order, and (un)officially left the production. (FYI, a bootleg copy of the original is still a cult favorite among Hollywood insiders.) This was only the beginning of the disaster, though.
After the studio drafted in a "fixer" the new cut was ready to go. Though it didn't have as much gritty realism as the original, it was still considered a top rate feature. Unfortunately, the film was given an ill-advised preview screening in Topeka, Kansas of all places. Topekans, no fans of the twins, purposefully set out to sabotage the movie. "The twins need a funny side kick", "less explosions, more toilet humour" and "can you get them riding a zebra?" were typical comments. Studio execs ran with them and...
After three extra months in post production, the end product that hit the screens May 7 2004, made Rush Hour 3 look like Seven.
Despite it all, the twins personal fortune was still enough to buy a small Carribean nation. But instead they decided to use a part of their personal wealth to buy-out minority Dualstar shareholders Robert Thorne and Greg Redlitz (reportedly for their awful mis-management of the duo over the previous five years).
During this time Mary-Kate would take a short stress-related trip to rehab. But soon after, she would join her sister Ashley to pursue their academic pursuits at New York University.
This should have been the twins' time to reflect on their lives, their goals and their future. But a shadow from the past, would never let that happen.
Still feeling aggrieved from her treatment at the twins seventh birthday party, former actress Andrea Barber decided it was time to strike. And before you could say an old Klingon proverb, Ms. Barber was plotting the twins' downfall. She would use the tabloid press, and her "insider cred" to set her plan in motion.
In no time at all, Mary-Kate's short stay at rehab, was magically turned from stress related, to a full blown $1000 a day coke habit. Not content with that, rumors of a strange incestuous relationship began to pop up everywhere. The tabs were eating it up. By the time the twins finished their first term at NYU, they were accused of buying good grades with oral sex, funding terror cells in the deep south, hunting the homeless for sport and burning the flag of India. The last one hurt the twins the most, as they had to look on in tears as their former countrymen burned them in effigy.
Denials were scoffed at by the public, as the twins' credibility was torn to pieces. But Ms. Barber was just starting. She put most of her effort towards destroying Mary-Kate first. This culminated in arranging the "chance" meeting of Mary-Kate's first true love Stavros Niarchos with professional slut Paris Hilton, and letting nature take its course. This hurt Mary-Kate so much she dropped out of NYU. But seeing a lonely and heartbroken Mary-Kate, just made Ms. Barber push the knife in deeper. A few months later during a routine traffic stop in Los Angeles, officer S. Holguin spotted a seven pound brick of crystal meth in Mary-Kate's car. The dumb-founded actress was promptly hauled off to jail. The charges would later be dropped, on a technicality, but the damage was done.
Ashley wasn't immune to attacks during this time, either. Rumors of her own drug dependency were running rampant. The twins' empire was quickly collapsing. And while flat out denials were greeted with flat out laughter, the coup-de-grace was about to come...
On January 22 2008, actor Heath Ledger was found dead in the New York loft apartment of one Mary-Kate Olsen. How he got there in the first place is anyone's guess. Except for maybe...
Now details about this are sketchier than the twins' seventh birthday party, but could this have been Ms. Barber's final blow? Did she somehow arrange this scene? My guess is no one outside of the twins and Ms. Barber will ever know. But....
After a long time out of the spotlight "Andrea Barber" made a personal appearance at a supermarket in Modesto, a real cheap supermarket. While having a Q & A with the fans, several of the questions flew right over her head. For example, she didn't know that Full House was set in San Francisco or John Stamos played uncle Jesse or even (most confusingly) her own character's name. She also commented about her delight about working with Rob Saget, Judy Sweetums and Cory Coughlin. Most fans assumed she was just on drugs. But could it be something altogether different?
Now I'm not saying the twins got wind of Ms. Barber's activities, then tracked her down before she used her "insider cred" to feed the tabloids with more lies, then secretly had her killed, then replaced her with a dim-witted clone to cover up their crime, but if you ever see "Andrea Barber", say "hi Sally" and watch her flinch.
The last few months have been relatively uneventful for the world's most rich and powerful twins, but that's about to change. On August 21 2009, the twins challenged the surviving members of the Thompson Twins to an unsanctioned series of cage fights to be held around the world. This will culminate in a winner take all pay per view event in Mumbai, tentatively called "There Can Only Be Two". Stay tuned for more details.