Cronenberg straightens the record

Director on body control, actors, “insane” US and Top Gun

by Richard Mowe

'Master and slave'  - the jokey description by David Cronenberg of his relationship with Viggo Mortensen revealed at the Cannes media gathering for Crimes Of The Future
'Master and slave' - the jokey description by David Cronenberg of his relationship with Viggo Mortensen revealed at the Cannes media gathering for Crimes Of The Future Photo: Richard Mowe
Although aficionados of David Cronenberg love to make links between his various films he is adamant that he does not have an agenda setting out points for discussion of anything in particular. At a meet the media session at the Cannes Film Festival today - alongside stars Viggo Mortensen, Kristen Stewart and Léa Seydoux - after last night’s hotly awaited red carpet premiere of Crimes Of The Future (which had some walkouts as well as a standing ovation) Cronenberg wanted to put the record straight.

He said: “I know that people will see things in my other films such as Videodrome and Existenz that connect with Crimes of the Future but when I was writing the script I am not thinking about the other films at all. They are all coming from my nervous system so inevitably the connections will be there. Creatively, however, looking back on my other films does not give me anything.”

Kristen Stewart: 'All that weirdness never repulses me. When we were making it we had no idea what the film was about'
Kristen Stewart: 'All that weirdness never repulses me. When we were making it we had no idea what the film was about' Photo: Richard Mowe
He added jokingly: “I am just looking at the actors and trying to make them look good and desperately trying to get a performance from them! Viggo and I have a riff on why I have to be cruel to my actors but with good actors you don’t need to direct much.”

Although initially written some 20 years ago the new film is eerily prescient: He drew a paralel with the Roe v Wade case in the States which has kept basic abortion rights but may now be overturned.

“You could feel, even then, that this was coming. A kind of oppressive ownership and control. It’s the constant in history, that somewhere in the world that wants to control its population. That means, once again, body is reality. You control people’s bodies — that’s speaking, expressing themselves, that’s control.”

He suggested that in Canada, everybody thinks the US is completely “insane.” “We cannot believe elected officials are saying what they’re saying,” the director added. “Not just about Roe v Wade but everything else. It's strange times.”

When asked whether he had been in the frame to direct Top Gun: Maverick he admitted that he could see why the producers might have thought he would be interested.

“I had done a movie called Fast Company, which is quite a sweet one for me about drag racing in the American West. I can imagine why they might thought I would be interested in those amazing flying machines. However two hours to watch the film might be OK but two years to make it would not be so great!”

Mortensen articulated why actors love the Cronenberg experience. The pair have worked together now on four occasions and have become firm friends despite Cronenberg wisecracking it is a master-slave relationship.

“I have been pounded into submission some time ago and I am a willing slave. From the first time we met I appreciated his sense of humour but it is so deadpan. I said the script, in this instance for History Of Violence, was kind of long … and it is bad and that is how it started.

Léa Seydoux: 'David is an icon of cinema, and I am always attracted to directors who have a special cinematic language'
Léa Seydoux: 'David is an icon of cinema, and I am always attracted to directors who have a special cinematic language' Photo: Richard Mowe
“He is making jokes all the time. There is a trust there and a shorthand and we do not have to waste so much time talking. There is a different world in this kind of story and it is a different team. You gravitate to him because you feel he is open to suggestions. He may reject them brutally but if it is useful he will take it on. He makes you feel part of the story telling and if we had not felt that then it would have been much more difficult project to accomplish.”

Stewart added that Cronenberg’s Crash had had a formative effect on her when she saw it at an impressionable age. "I was probably too young, and I thought I was going to be in trouble for watching it. He has this ability to zoom out of the world we live in. All that weirdness never repulses me. When we were making it we had no idea what the film was about and the cast were constantly discussing it together. But when I watched it last night it all became crystal clear.”

For Léa Seydoux there was never a second thought. “David is an icon of cinema, and I am always attracted to directors who have a special cinematic language. I was attracted to his world and wanted to be part of that universe.”

On the subject of death and ageing Cronenberg was crystal clear: “I have never allowed myself to hear those two words but death and ageing are in every film any director makes. And just to let you know, I am older than the Cannes Film Festival.”

The Festival is celebrating its 75th edition … Cronenberg, born in Toronto on 15 March, 1943, is 79.

Crimes of the Future is set for release in the States on 3 June. The UK date has not yet been confirmed.

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