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By Eric Heinz
Twin brothers Brody and Aiden Weinberg aren’t even 5 years old and they’ve already seen more than their 15 minutes of fame.
Recruited basically at birth for film and television, the twins just got their first major break appearing in the film Jackie as John F. Kennedy, Jr. As the twins are identical, they alternate roles.
Their parents, Brett and Ilyssa Weinberg, shared a photo of the twins on her social media platforms when they were first born, and a friend of hers, who represents actors, called her almost immediately.
“At first, we were kind of thinking ‘Whatever, sure.’ We weren’t really into it,” Brett said. “But we realized that raising twins by yourself is much harder than you could ever possibly imagine. We never slept. We had no breaks.”
Brett owns a company in San Clemente and was working long hours as they settled into their new lives. The couple is originally from New York.
The Weinbergs eventually took their friend up on the offer to represent the twins for acting roles. This would lead the twins landing spots as babies in the TV series How I Met Your Mother, and as regular members on Suburgatory for three seasons.
Ilyssa said Neil Patrick Harris, who played Barney on How I Met Your Mother, gave her advice about raising twins, as he is raising his own pair. Ilyssa said she’s been fortunate to meet high-profile actors who are understanding and willing to help them while on set.
Brody, left, and Aiden Weinberg, twin actors from San Clemente, pose with Natalie Portman on the red carpet of a viewing of Jackie, a 2016 film that depicts life for the Kennedy’s following the assassination of JFK. Photo: Courtesy of Ilyssa Weinberg
“I think the big takeaway from it is that it’s really different than what you think it’s going to be,” Brett said. “It’s a fun, unique experience, and it’s an opportunity for (the twins) that not everybody gets or has, and at that time it didn’t take anything away from their lives. It was just something that was a great, fun experience.”
Brett said he and Ilyssa eventually became more receptive to the ups and downs of being parents of child actors.
Having identical twins at a young age can be a major selling point for child actors, as acting laws only allow for certain amounts of screen time for children, depending on their age. When one of them runs out of screen time for the day, the other can come in to fill the same role.
“Like everything, it all has its positives and negatives,” Ilyssa said, “but right now, we’re (enjoying) the success of Jackie.”
While filming Jackie, the family lived in Paris for three and a half weeks. While there, the Weinbergs said their children leaned basic French greetings and adapted well to the temporary environment.
At the time of the shoot, the twins were 3 years old, and Brett said it can be harder to instruct a 3-year-old than it is a 5-year-old. The children’s ability to take direction is one of their best assets, Brett said, which contributed to them getting booked for Jackie after only one audition.
“(The filmmakers) were looking for a specific age and kids who can remember their lines,” Brett said. “Most kids that age can’t do that or remember dialogue. They’re at the point where they can read and add and subtract. They were able to do the entirety of their script.”
Despite their proclivity for acting, the twins can be very shy. Ilyssa said they enjoy being in front of a camera and once they get the group attention, they transition right into their characters.
But the role of JFK, Jr. is on a new level of cinematic achievement for the family—it’s a film with Natalie Portman as the lead actress and directed by Pablo Larraín, whose 2012 film No was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 85th Academy Awards. Portman has been nominated for a Golden Globe award for her portrayal of Jackie Onassis.
John F. Kennedy, Jr. was just 3 years old when his father, former President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated.
The incident is marked as one of the most shocking events in United States history and has been scrutinized by legal experts and conspiracy theorists for more than 50 years.
In the movie, Jacqueline “Jackie” Onassis Kennedy is in the early stages of her grieving when she seeks solace in Paris with her two children.
Capturing the subtleties of the family’s struggles during that time required the twins to be precise and faithful to history in their respective screen time. Junior’s iconic images and footage with his mother and at the funeral are emblazoned in American media history.
Both Brett and Ilyssa said they want to keep doing this as long as their children are up for it. A typical week includes at least one audition, which can be taxing for a few reasons. Ilyssa said you want to book commercials because those pay the most for the least amount of work. But it’s not always a guarantee, and at the last minute, the director could decide they don’t want the look the child has, making the whole day a wash.
Brett said he hopes this enables the children to build a college fund so they can attend the school of their choice or fund a future endeavor. But both parents said that if Jackie is their last time on screen, then so be it. Everything the kids make goes into their own accounts.
“We definitely want them to enjoy their childhood,” Ilyssa said. “The minute they don’t want to, then we’ll stop.”
Child actors also have to work with a set tutor while they’re working to keep up with school. It can make for an alternate kind of education, but they get the one-on-one attention of a personal teacher.
Both Brody and Aiden were fairly shy when asked questions, but they said they loved being on the red carpet at the American Film Institute awards and seeing the Eiffel Tower while in Paris.