David Cronenberg isn't quite a household name (unless your house is full of macabre horror fans who enjoy watching circa 1980s Jeff Goldblum morph into a fly). But the 69-year-old Toronto native has been one of film's most critically acclaimed directors for over thirty years. In 2012, he crafted one of the year's best (and most difficult) movies with Cosmopolis, an adaptation of Don DeLillo's novel with Twilight star Robert Pattinson in the lead. On the cusp of the film's Blu-ray and DVD release, we sat down with the legendary director to discuss his car obsession, expanding the minds of Twilight fans everywhere, and his inability to get back in the TV game.
DETAILS: You directed Fast Company (1979), Crash (1996), and now Cosmopolis. What is it about sexy cars that keeps pulling you back in?
DAVID CRONENBERG: The car here is very metaphorical. It's a time machine. It's a time capsule. It's a spaceship. And it's a tomb in a way. It's a mausoleum for [Cosmopolis character Eric Packer]. It really has metaphorical import more than car import for me.
DETAILS: Did having someone as marketable as Robert Pattinson in the lead help get Cosmopolis made?
DAVID CRONENBERG: It's not just Rob, but this was a Canadian-French co-production so actors like Juliette Binoche and Mathieu Amalric really do contribute to the strength that you have when you're trying to find money. What matters is, do you have a good actor working with you?
DETAILS: What made you want to cast Rob? This part is so far removed from what his enormous Twilight fan base would normally see him in.
DAVID CRONENBERG: Surprisingly enough they were very interested in it and developed websites for Cosmopolis just because of Rob. And a lot of the girls were talking about reading "Cosmopolis." I think the only thing they had read, probably, was "Twilight" and "Harry Potter," and suddenly they're reading Don DeLillo.
DETAILS: Did spending most of the film inside the limo feel more like a limitation or a freedom?
DAVID CRONENBERG: I actually like shooting in confined spaces. I find that you get an automatic enhancement of intensity and it's also a really interesting visual challenge. Prior to shooting, I showed my crew Lebanon, which is this Israeli movie that takes place entirely inside a tank and Das Boot, which takes place almost entirely in a submarine. Just to encourage them to feel not the limitations, but the creative possibilities.
DETAILS: There's a very slick, high-tech fashion to the film. What was your inspiration for the look of Rob's character?
DAVID CRONENBERG: It all comes from what the characters are supposed to be in the movie. They're both very wealthy. They're both very comfortable with their wealth. It's interesting because some people have asked, "Is Rob's fame a parallel to Packer?" And I say, "No, quite the contrary. Eric Packer is not famous at all. He doesn't want his name in the paper." He dresses well, but sort of conventionally. In fact, Rob said that he wanted the guy to be dressed in almost a non-descript way. It's expensive clothes, but it's not flashy.
DETAILS: You cut your teeth on "body horror" films like The Brood and The Fly. Do you think you'll ever go back to the horror/sci-fi genre?
DAVID CRONENBERG: It's not that I've consciously turned my back on any genre or themes and images, but I don't want to bore myself. I don't want to bore my audience either, but more importantly, I don't want to bore me. A lot of the scripts that I get sent are almost remakes of my old movies and, sometimes, they literally are remakes of my old movies. Why would I do that? I'd be bored.
DETAILS: What's the status of The Fly companion piece that you wrote?
DAVID CRONENBERG: You'd have to ask Fox about it. As far as I know, it's dead. Technically, Fox could choose to have someone else direct it or rewrite it. But, as far as I know, it's dead.
DETAILS: You were once considered for Return of the Jedi. Now that there's a new film in the works, would something like that interest you?
DAVID CRONENBERG: No. It didn't even interest me then, so it certainly wouldn't interest me now. I haven't even seen the last three movies.
DETAILS: You've dabbled in directing TV in the past. Any interest in doing more?
DAVID CRONENBERG: I've tried many times and it always flounders. Very recently there was a project that I was involved with called Knifeman. It was developed by Rolin Jones who developed Weeds and Friday Night Lights, a very experienced and talented guy. He couldn't get it done either. TV is definitely of interest to me, but despite the fact that there's some good stuff being done, somehow my sensibility and the sensibility of the powers that be don't correspond.
DETAILS: Maps to the Stars is supposed to start shooting in May. Have you been able to sign Robert Pattinson, Viggo Mortensen, and Rachel Weisz?
DAVID CRONENBERG: I don't think Viggo will be able to do it, but with the other two, so far, so good. Have they signed? No. But they have a verbal commitment if everything works out and if other things don't come along. It's still very possible for the three of them, but it's far from certain. That's life in the indie film world.
David Cronenberg's Cosmopolis is available now on Blu-ray and DVD.
—Scott Neumyer (@scottneumyer) is a freelance journalist from central New Jersey.
• • •