Director David Cronenberg got his start in the 1970s as a maker of sensationalistic horror movies ("Rabid," "The Brood," "Scanners"). But, over the past two decades, he has become something of a critic's darling with his more cerebral -- if no less unsettling -- psychological dramas ("Dead Ringers," "A History of Violence," "Eastern Promises").
Cronenberg's latest film, the characteristically dark "Cosmopolis" (based on a novel by Don DeLillo), casts brooding "Twilight" heartthrob Robert Pattinson as a rich and fatalistic "cyber capitalist." In the course of one day, he ponders the meaning of his life (or the lack thereof), mostly from the back of a huge limousine, effectively disconnected from the real world.
Q: How would you describe this movie? Frankly, I'm not sure I fully understand what you're trying to say in it.
A: I can appreciate that, but it's not just me. It's DeLillo's book as well. Besides, I don't think you necessarily need to understand everything. It's like in sci-fi movies, when the scientist is explaining his rockets or whatever. It's not like you need to know anything about physics, so long as you believe that the character knows what he's talking about. In "Cosmopolis," here's this international bond trader who's become fabulously wealthy without producing anything real. He exists in an abstract bubble world. It's a very frenetic kind of existence, but he doesn't really have a life (and) no idea how people work or exist, how they interrelate. The basic gist of the story is that he's trying to reconnect with his own humanity. But, in a larger sense, it's also about the future of money and capitalism.
Q: Do you think it's a hard sell for audiences?
A: You're always compelled to think about a project's commercial prospects when you're financing it, but the good thing about working on such a relatively low budget is that it doesn't really need to be a blockbuster to make back its money or even turn a profit.
Q: How do you gauge a film's success, if not in box-office terms? Do you put much stock in reviews? Or is it simply the personal satisfaction of making the best movie you could?
A: Personal satisfaction is part of it, but ultimately you make movies for other people to see. Intelligent reviews can be good. But beyond that, a lot of it is a matter of time. Movies have a much longer life now, thanks to DVDs and so many other new ways to access them. Sometimes, you never know how significant a film might be until several years later.
Q: What made Pattinson the right guy -- his talent or the fact that he's such a bankable star?
A: Both. Making an independent film like this, you're always balancing a lot of forces. Without a big studio budget, you absolutely need a proven name to help get things rolling. Let's face it, he's one of the hottest stars on the planet right now. At the same time, though, he's a terrific actor, doing things he's never had the opportunity to do before. He wasn't totally convinced he could pull it off, at first, but I never doubted I had the right guy.
Q: What was your biggest challenge in adapting the novel?
A: I had to accept that certain things were innately literary (and) wouldn't translate cinematically. The book is very internal, conveying all these philosophical meditations from inside the head of the protagonist. By setting so much of the script inside his limo, I wanted the audience to see everything the way he does, from his strange and insulated point of view about life and the outside world.
Q: Talk about filming so much of the movie within the confined space of a limousine.
A: I liked that challenge, actually. We had to build one that could be taken apart or reassembled like so many Lego pieces. I looked to films like "Lebanon," which took place entirely inside an Israeli tank, and "Das Boot," which was set in a German submarine. They reminded me how exciting it can be for a director to restrict himself in that way.
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