5 minutes with: David Cronenberg
Film3Sixty talks to David Cronenberg about his new film Cosmopolis.
Cosmopolis features global financial meltdown and anti-capitalist riots in New York – did the Occupy Wall Street movement influence the film?
David Cronenberg: Well, it didn’t inform the film at all, because we really just stuck to the script. It’s really just that what Don DeLillo wrote was prescient and clairvoyant, and the world was just catching up with him. So it didn’t alter what we did, but we couldn’t help noticing it. Paul Giamatti, for example, texted me saying “I can’t believe it, I just saw Rupert Murdoch get a pie in his face!” and we’d just shot the scene where Robert gets a pie in his face! We were just thinking “Wow, this is weird!”. It was strange to be shooting scenes about anti-capitalist riots in the streets of New York and then reading about the Occupy movement.
What’s your take on what Occupy Wall Street are after?
DC: It’s interesting, and I’m only just thinking about it after the fact, but there really are no anti-capitalists in this movie. In fact, it’s been noted, and I think it’s really accurate, that the Occupy Wall Street movement is not anti-capitalist. They really want a piece of the action. They’re saying “We want to be part of that 1%. We should be part of the capitalist dream.” So it’s not as if they’re communists or socialist and want to take capitalists down. They actually want to be capitalists. So [the Occupy movement] is a little odd, it’s not what you might think. With Benno (Paul Giamatti’s character), he loves capitalism, he loves investing and the complaint he has it that he’s been left behind by Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson). Eric is too quick, he’s too fast, he’s destroyed the way that Benno loved to work. So it’s not that easy to say the movie is anti-capitalist. It isn’t.
How does Eric Packer sit in the canon of other David Cronenberg characters?
DC: I don’t really think about my other movies. You’re asking me to be an analyst of my own movies, but I won’t, because that’s your job! What I can say is that I don’t think about my other movies when I make a movie. The joy for me is in the middle of the night, on the street, with your actors and nobody else around. You’re not thinking about Twilight, you’re not thinking about Scanners, you’re thinking about Cosmopolis. That’s beautiful and that’s very pure. When I’m putting the movie together I do think about the star value of the actors I get, I have to think about Robert’s passport as it’s a Canada/ France co-production, all of that stuff – but that’s all irrelevant to the actual creative making of the movie. So I try to be pure that way.
Eric Packer’s only real goal in the film is to get a haircut. Why is he looking for something so trivial?
DC: The trivial thing is not at all trivial. He even sets it up. He says “A haircut is what? It’s calendars on the wall, it’s a barber’s chair, it’s the neighbourhood”. It’s his past, where he was somehow pure, and somehow innocent. There’s one thing Robert did, and he probably didn’t even know he was doing it, but when he’s sitting in the barber’s chair he becomes a child. And the old barber becomes like his father or grandfather. There’s a great moment where he says “You were four at the time”, and Eric say “Five, I was five,” and it was just gorgeous. I’m getting chills just thinking about it. And this is beautiful stuff that was in every line of his dialogue, there’s a real intuitive understanding of that stuff. So as I say, it’s not trivial, you understand eventually that this movement to his childhood is what the haircut is all about.
A lot of Twilight fans will go and see the film just for Robert Pattinson – how do you think they will react to it?
DC: At the German Premiere a lot of those girls in those lines actually had copies of Cosmopolis. And they were asking us to sign them. And they’d read them, or truly intend to read it. The websites that were made by girls, young girls, Twilight fans, while we were shooting, they all had read the book – and they were still excited about the project. Some of the websites were gorgeous, really sophisticated and great. Ok, maybe they’ve only read Harry Potter and Twilight – and now they’re reading Don Delillo! What’s wrong with that?
You’re rumoured to be working with Robert Pattinson again on a pet project of yours, Map To The Stars. Is there anything you can tell us about that?
DC: There is a brilliant script by a friend of mine who’s a novelist Bruce Wagner – he wrote the script some time ago and tried to get it to happen five years ago and I couldn’t get it made. It’s one of those great scripts. In a way it’s a lot like Cosmopolis – it’s not an easy sell. It’s edgy in a nasty, disturbing way and it has emotion, but it’s a weird emotion, just like Cosmopolis I think. By the end of the movie, Cosmopolis is strangely, weirdly, sad and emotional, and it creeps up on you, because you don’t think it’s ever going to go there, and that’s how the book struck me as well. It’s hard to make difficult movies, and even when you have credible actors who bring a lot of intention and stuff – Viggo Mortensen wants to play another role in the movie and with those two guys you’d think “Hey, $15 million is no problem,” but it isn’t like that.
Cosmopolis is released in UK cinemas 22 June 2012.