As is tradition at the Provincetown International Film Festival, PIFF resident artist John Waters sat down with the recipient of the annual Filmmaker on the Edge Award for an informal discussion in front of live audience. Past winners include Harmony Korine, Darren Aronofsky, Quentin Tarantino, Mary Harron, Jim Jarmusch and Gus Van Sant. This year, Waters chatted up none other than David Cronenberg. Below are the top highlights. Go here for video from the event that occurred over the weekend.
He wore sun glasses on the Cannes red carpet for practical reasons.
“That was a defensive move,” Cronenberg said when asked why he wore mountain goggles on the red carpet for the world premiere of latest, “Maps to the Stars,” at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. “The flashes there — you have wall of a thousand flashes. I found that I was beginning to have an epileptic seizure when those flashes went. So I looked up on the net and found some mountain sun glasses that are really, really dark for when you’re high up in atmosphere. And that’s what those were. They said I ruled the red carpet.”
He doesn’t seek out new horror films.
“I don’t really look for them,” Cronenberg said when asked by Waters if he keeps up with the horror genre. “There was a time when I studied them when I was a kid. But since then, unless it’s something really special, I won’t seek it out. It has to be something that I feel will nourish me.”
He rarely goes to the theater.
Cronenberg said he watches most new releases on Blu-ray.
He defended “Crash” to Ted Turner.
Waters at one point gushed over his favorite Cronenberg film, “Crash.” While discussing the controversy surrounding the film, Cronenberg recalled how Ted Turner at one point tried to stop its release in the US. “New Line Cinema (the company that distributed the film) had been bought by Ted Turner. And Ted Turner and his wife, Ms. [Jane] Fonda, apparently had a private screening of the film and were appalled and tried to suppress it. They could for a while because they had the power to do it. Later I met Ted on a red carpet and I said, ‘Ted…so ‘Crash.” And he said, ‘Well I thought it would make people have sex in cars.’ And I said, ‘There’s an entire generation of Americans spawned in the backseat of ’55 Fords. You think I invented that?'”
He hates to rehearse.
“I did that once on ‘The Fly’ and I realized it was a neurotic waste of time,” Cronenberg said. “It really was. Once we got on set, everything changed. Most of my films are low budget so we don’t have time to rehearse two weeks ahead of time. I’ll tell you one moment, though, it was on ‘Crash.’ Holly Hunter said to me, ‘We really should have rehearsal.’ I said, ‘I really don’t like to rehearse. I like the spontaneity on the set. When we’re blocking the scene is when we rehearse.’ And she said, ‘You don’t understand, I’m fucking everybody in this movie and I should really get to know them first.’”
He turned down “Star Wars.“
Waters asked Cronenberg about the time he reportedly turned down directing “Return of the Jedi,” the third “Star Wars” installment. “‘Return of the Jedi’ was at that time called ‘Revenge of the Jedi,'” Cronenberg said. “They then realized that Jedi cannot take revenge so they had to change the title. I got a phone call, I was in my kitchen – this was some years ago – and some guy said he was with Lucasfilm and wondered if I would be interested in directing a sequel to ‘Star Wars.’ And then I said — instead of saying, ‘Oh my god yes!’ — ‘I don’t usually do other people’s stuff.’ Click. That was it. So I don’t know how serious that would have been, but it was that.’
He witnessed Tom Cruise getting turned down for a role.
Cronenberg spoke of a moment early in his career when he got close to directing a big budget studio film for MGM that was to star Tom Cruise and Denzel Washington, before the company went bankrupt. Waters got to talking about legendary producer Dino De Laurentiis, who was backing the doomed project. Cronenberg then recalled a time he met with De Laurentiis when a famous actor walked in the door. “Dino had this huge desk,” he said. “So I’m sitting with him and we’re talking about the Denzel movie and someone comes in and says to Dino, ‘The actor is here to see you.’ And I said, ‘Do you want me to go?’ And he said, ‘No, you stay there.’ So in walks the guy and it’s Tom Cruise. His star was rising. He was wearing a baseball jacket and cowboy boots. He looks at me. Then Dino looks up and I realize that Tom Cruise is auditioning for ‘Dune.’ Dino looks at him and says to Tom, ‘Look at him.’ He wanted him to look at me so he could see his profile. And then he said to look the other way. Then Dino said, ‘Okay.’ That was the audition and he didn’t get the role!”
He doesn’t storyboard.
“For me it’s very physical, tactile and sculptural thing to direct,” Cronenberg said near the end of the discussion. “I need to be on set with real actors. I really need to know how they want to move around the room. I’ve seen young directors with packs of storyboards and they’re not even looking at the actors. They’re looking at their storyboards. I don’t find I have the need for it. I think a lot of the time it’s a safety net for a director.”