Over the past decade, notorious and beloved director David Cronenberg took a curious turn in his filmmaking career: he became normal. (Though anyone who tries to label his lot of ‘00s films like “A History of Violence,” “Eastern Promises,” or even “A Dangerous Method” as “normal” is most certainly speaking in relative terms.) While he may not be exploding heads “Scanners”-style, or exploring the depraved life of a smarmy TV executive with a lust for violent programming in “Videodrome,” Cronenberg has still managed to put his own twisted spin on all three of those ‘00s films, from the family drama in ‘History’ to the biopic-like nature of ‘Method.’ With his adaptation of Don DeLillo’s novel “Cosmopolis,” which follows a 28-year-old billionaire’s stretch limo ride across Manhattan that soon turns into a warped odyssey that tears apart his own world, it looks as if Cronenberg is returning to the sort of ethereal horror fantasies with which he made his name. With “Twilight” heartthrob Robert Pattinson in the lead, along with an awe-inspiring ensemble that includes Samantha Morton, Jay Baruchel, Paul Giamatti, Juliette Binoche, Kevin Durand and Mathieu Amalric, “Cosmopolis” is already proving to be a divisive and titillating work from the famed auteur in the vein of his 1991 William Burroughs adaptation “Naked Lunch” (you can read our review here).
The cast and crew assembled before Cannes press earlier today to chat about the film following its first public screening; below are five highlights from that press conference. “Cosmopolis” is set for an international release over the next few months.
1. It took Cronenberg just six days to write the script.
DeLillo’s novel has long been considered an “unfilmable” book, taking place mostly in a car with the majority of the story’s bizarre happenings going on just outside its windows, but Cronenberg says “the book was fantastic, the dialogue was just beautiful and perfect, and what you see in the movie is almost exactly word-for-word the dialogue that’s in the book.” Regarding the adaptation process though, Cronenberg notes that “there are some structural changes, because obviously a novel and a film are two different things, and I’ve learned in the past you can’t really do an exact translation of a novel. You have to accept that you are creating a new thing that’s a strange mutant hybrid of the book and cinema, and so on.” With an accomplished air, Cronenberg added “it literally only took me six days to write the script, a new record for me, but that’s because the book had such a beautiful structure and fantastic dialogue.”
2. As far as collaboration goes, Robert Pattinson found no trace of Cronenberg’s self-described penchant for laziness.
Since we now know that Cronenberg and Pattinson may team up for round two with an as yet unannounced project (possibly Cronenberg’s gestating “Map to the Stars”), it’s no surprise the actor had heaps of praise for Cronenberg, saying “I don’t think you’re lazy.” Pattinson does have lengthy experience with helmers, having worked with everyone from “Thirteen” filmmaker Catherine Hardwicke to “Dreamgirls” helmer Bill Condon on the “Twilight” series alone, but he applauded Cronenberg for his need to constantly watch the takes he’s done. Pattinson says of Cronenberg, “A lot of directors I find are kind of exhausted by the time they are actually supposed to do their job with the actors, that they aren’t really listening anymore. I think David is listening so intently when you’re doing a scene, when you feel something in a scene and you know that he’s seen it –- it’s such a relief. It makes you pay attention to what you’re doing as well and listen to yourself.”
3. While critics are always ready to look back on Cronenberg’s films, drawing comparisons and singling out specific themes, Cronenberg insists he’s only focused on the task at hand.
After an early discussion in which Cronenberg claimed that when working with talent like Giamatti and especially Pattinson – who both have lengthy CVs of characters and films – he tends to ignore the past and focus solely on the present. “Honestly, I don’t think of my other movies. After the fact, when I’m doing interviews, of course I can play the role of the analyst or the critic of my own movies. You have to not confuse your role with my role, the analysis of my earlier movies does not give me anything when I’m making this movie,” Cronenberg said. Pattinson added that in regards to whether or not he was an admirer of Cronenberg’s early work, that he “really liked his stuff,” with Cronenberg jokingly adding that “I always had a feeling he’d never seen any of my movies, but – you know.”
4. When asked about the bleakness of the film, which portrays Pattinson’s character amid a sordid New York City lifestyle, Cronenberg claims there’s still hope.
Despite both DeLillo’s book – and now Cronenberg’s film – being relentlessly bleak, Cronenberg says “the hope is embodied by the fact that this movie got made – this isn’t a movie that is easy to get made or financed. Things are so conservative these days, you have $200 million movies getting made, which means they will be incredibly conservative, and not edgy, and not dangerous, and not challenging, because it’s just too much money to do that. So the hope is in the art, the fact that we made the movie, and that it’s made with great affection and attention to detail.” Cronenberg insists that being able to tell a story, specifically one where we as an audience “are still challenging ourselves, still questioning, and that we don’t accept,” is important.
5. As someone who has certainly had his life in the limelight for quite some time, Pattinson struggles with connecting his real life to the character of Eric Packer.
Much like Cronenberg, Pattinson claims “I’m not the best self-analyst. I can’t really seem to consciously bring anything from my life into my work, but I don’t know, he’s just trying to find something – it’s another thing about the hopefulness of it – he’s not giving up or throwing anything away. I guess the claustrophobia sometimes of getting looked at and stuff, you feel world gets kind of small, but I don’t really think that – I was never really much of a social person anyway, I don’t really care.” Pattinson seemed to struggle with question of the connection between himself and Parker, with Cronenberg stepping into call it a “flawed” question, because “trying to make this connection between Rob’s life as a celebrity and Eric Packer’s life as a celebrity, that is really quite different, Packer has created this limo to be his very own little ‘Das Boot,’ you know? To create an environment that is completely controlled, completely insulated, and completely isolated.” Along with Packer feeling his limo is his home, the main difference between Pattinson and his character is that “Eric Packer is not necessarily a celebrity at all, but he has deliberately created this airless aquarium that he lives in, that’s not like Rob – he’s quite a different person,” said Cronenberg.