Columnists: David Cronenberg: “The movie business is incestuous”

The recovery and publication of this report is part of an initial instance of the project Great filmmakers: 50 interviewscarried out with the support of the NATIONAL FUND FOR THE ARTS (Creation Scholarship – Project Development 2022).

With twenty feature films in four decades of his career, David Cronenberg has established himself as one of the most provocative, daring and unclassifiable directors on the international scene, with films ranging from the extremes of gore (profusion of blood, guts and fluids) to transpositions of cult novels (Stephen King, JG Ballard, William S. Burroughs, Don DeLillo), going through dystopian science fiction, scathing looks at consumer society and true psychological treatises on the most hidden and perverse aspects of the human soul.

Although they have little to do with each other naked lunch con a dangerous method, pact of love con a violent history, The fly con cosmopolis o Videodrome: Invaded Bodies con eastern promisesThose who follow and revere the Canadian filmmaker are capable of discovering in a single shot the unmistakable stamp of an author who can make better or worse films, but who always escapes the formula, the conventions and tries never to repeat himself. Last May, Cronenberg presented in the Official Competition of the Cannes Film Festival his most recent work, Maps to the Stars (here it will be called star dust), which earned the ever-remarkable Julianne Moore the Best Actress award.

Cronenberg moves along the Croisette with the ease of a veteran and the modesty of a great man. And not because he is already 71 years old, but because at the main festival in the world that takes place in this sophisticated seaside resort on the Côte d’Azur he presented half a dozen films (he was awarded in 1996 for Crash, strange pleasures and received the Chariot d’Or for lifetime achievement in 2006) and was even president of the official jury (the Palme d’Or that he gave in 1999 to Rosetta, of the then almost unknown brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne; and the Grand Jury Prize to Humanityby the revulsive Bruno Dumont).

The detractors of Cannes call him with a certain sarcasm and not a little contempt – like other favorites of the festival – “a season ticket holder”, but the director of Scanners y existence he remains faithful to an event where he can premiere a film in front of the world’s press, sell it to the highest bidder in front of the dozens of buyers with deep wallets that abound in the Marché du Film, and, in the process, finish financing your next projects. full carton

In star dust, Julianne Moore is the engine of the narration and shines in the role of a neurotic actress desperate for roles that now tend to get much younger colleagues. Mia Wasikowska (as an innocent girl who arrives in Los Angeles and wreaks havoc), Robert Pattinson (a limousine driver with artistic aspirations), John Cusack (an eccentric millionaire spiritual guru) and Evan Bird (an overbearing 13-year-old star). a la Justin Bieber) are other characters that parade through this comedy without a network, which includes sex, scatology, perversions not exempt from cruelty, shocking dialogues and even explosions of violence that are quite explicit. Impressionable and overly sensitive spirits, abstain.

We spoke with Cronenberg in a presentation he gave to a handful of accredited journalists to talk about a project that surprised many, since it is a tragicomedy with a choral structure along the lines of the rules of the gameor, by Robert Altman, although with a pathos that also refers to Todd Solondz of Happiness.

-Although you always had a critical and acid position on the film industry, why are you now directly interested in questioning Hollywood?

-The film is not a direct attack on Hollywood. To me to say that would be to reduce it, since there are similar situations regarding the desperate search for success, power and money in other places, such as Wall Street, Silicon Valley, the Washington political class or the auto industry. The project arose in the 1990s, when screenwriter Bruce Wagner was then an aspiring actor and limo driver (in the vein of Pattinson’s character) and began compiling his misadventures into a script. It is a very forceful portrait of ambition, greed and disappointment, about the other side of fame and the dark side of celebrities and, like all such extreme projects, it took more than 20 years to come to fruition.

-The film offers a panoramic view of Los Angeles, but at the same time is it a family portrait?

-Wagner ferociously attacks these times of pop culture, consumer society, omnipresent technology, but they are aspects that in many cases I also admire and with which I identify. But it’s true: Stardust is basically a family portrait, but of people who bit into the apple of Hollywood and therefore couldn’t be a normal functional core. The most interesting thing that Wagner gave me was the tension between satire and reality, since the story goes from comic book exaggeration to very believable aspects, from light and superficial to dense and deep.

-Another curious aspect is that it is a film about Los Angeles that was hardly filmed in that city.

-It’s true. For financial reasons – I don’t care where the money comes from – my films have to be shot in Canada (especially Toronto) and in Europe. Since the Canadian producers contributed a good part of the 13 million dollars that the film cost, we decided to shoot almost everything in Toronto and leave only 5 days in Los Angeles for some typical exterior shots of the city. It was the first time I worked in the United States in my entire career and I must say that the experience was a lot of fun. In any case, I insist, we did not intend to specify a naturalistic tone or offer a documentary look at Hollywood.

How would you define Hollywood?

-The movie business is incestuous, not in a literal sense, but because of the intensity with which it is managed. But Hollywood and celebrity culture of the Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan type are only the context, the background for the film, since the axis remains family relationships, which have a universal reach.

-How have you managed to maintain (and increase) the independence to choose topics that are almost always extreme and develop them with such freedom?

-The only way I have to work is with absolute freedom. Nobody gets into my shoots. I make the decisions day by day and many times in the actual place of filming. Actors like Robert Pattinson tell me that they can’t believe that I handle myself with so much decision-making power because he is used to productions where everything is closed and planned well in advance.

-The performances in star dust they are in almost all cases outrageous. How did you work with the performers in developing their characters?

-We worked on several versions of the script until 2011 and we went looking for the money and the actors. When they joined, the story grew a lot. Moore built a glorious monster, shamelessly: it’s terrifying and funny at the same time. Wasikowska’s is a coming of age tale, and Cusack wasn’t afraid to delve into the darkest depths of her character and still be very seductive. Seeing them makes you laugh, but also… very scary!

Other texts of this series of interviews:

Adolfo Aristarain with Federico Luppi in 1997

Steven Spielberg in 2016

Love Hsiao-hsien and 2001

Leonardo Favio in 1992

Jean-Luc Godard in 2001