The Boston Globe had a sit down with Robert Pattinson and David Cronenberg. They're quite the pair and their promotional tour for Cosmopolis in the US has been stellar. There are a few interviews in this post so have a cup of tea or coffee and enjoy the reads. :)
Cult hero filmmaker David Cronenberg and “Twilight” leading man Robert Pattinson rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange last week to promote their new psychological thriller, “Cosmopolis.” Both men agree that their visit was a bit strange. After all, “Cosmopolis,” based on the book by Don DeLillo, is a capitalist critique that, while having been published in 2003, speaks to the Occupy Wall Street movement and creates a disturbing portrait of the emptiness of the 1 percent.
The English actor and the Canadian director, who called us shortly after Pattinson made a much-hyped appearance on “Good Morning America,” admitted that their “Cosmopolis” experience has been odd at times and, much like their film, uncomfortable with a bit of irony. There’s the strangeness of the movie itself. Then there are the “Twilight” fans who love Pattinson enough to expose themselves to an R-rated film about the economy that involves an eccentric millionaire getting a proctology exam in the back of a limo. Adding to the weirdness is Pattinson’s involvement in a very public cheating scandal; his longtime girlfriend Kristen Stewart recently apologized for being unfaithful with Rupert Sanders, the director of “Snow White and the Huntsman.” After Stewart went public, Pattinson disappeared for weeks, was rumored to be hiding out at Reese Witherspoon’s house, then resurfaced, to the delight of the paparazzi, to promote “Cosmopolis” on the red carpet and elsewhere.
It’s been a strange trip, but Cronenberg and Pattinson seem wonderfully comfortable — at least with each other — amid all the awkwardness.
Q. You both have said that you filmed this movie in chronological order, and I know that with many movies, the last scenes are shot first. Was that a luxury — to film from start to finish?
Cronenberg: One of the trickiest things that I had to learn as a director was exactly that. I mean, suddenly you’re forced to shoot the last scene of the movie first. And it’s hard for the actors because they don’t know who they are yet and they’re doing their death scene. As an actor myself, I was in Clive Barker’s movie “Nightbreed,” and the first thing we shoot was my character getting killed. And I said a typical actor thing. I said, “How can I know how to die when I haven’t lived yet?” So it is kind of a luxury. I think Rob can talk about that.
Pattinson: I agree. (Laughs) I don’t think I can add to that.
Q. You have both been very candid in interviews about the fact that you didn’t necessarily know how this novel would translate to film and what it meant to you. Do you have a different interpretation of the text now that you’re finished with the film?
Pattinson: Well, I like it. I don’t think that confusion is necessarily a bad thing. We’ve done hundreds of interviews now and I still find myself coming up with new things to say.
Cronenberg: Those statements that we made, which were very candid, can be misinterpreted as meaning we were inept, incompetent. But not at all. You know, I don’t do storyboards, for example. I don’t really know what I’m going to do at every set up and every shot. It’s all very spontaneous and of-the-moment, even what lens to use. That’s what we’re talking about. We don’t have it all mapped out. We’re trusting the script and trusting the dialogue that is all 100 percent Don DeLillo’s and taken from the novel directly. We know that if we respond directly to that . . . the movie will have its coherence.
Q. You just rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. What was that like? And what do you think the people there would think of this movie if they saw it?Two more interviews after the cut - "I felt secure because I knew David was watching me"
Cronenberg: All through the halls of the stock exchange they have these monitors built into the walls, and they were all showing clips of “Cosmopolis.” All of the people there who were marshaling us were incredibly excited about the movie and really wanted to see it. And they were incredibly friendly and sweet, and I was suddenly thinking, “This is the wonderful, friendly face of capitalism. I don’t know why I’ve been fighting it for so long. I think I’m going to buy some stock.” [Pattinson laughs.] And the stock exchange is about marketing. To link the starting of the day with some product that’s being marketed was a no-brainer. And the fact that it might be rather ironic that we were opening the stock exchange; I don’t think it occurred to them.
Q. Mr. Pattinson, what did you think of the visit?
Pattinson: I’m so clueless about anything to do with that world. I was kind of just terrified that I was somehow going to mess it up. And also to see people’s enthusiasm. It’s so alien. Even people’s attitudes there. It seems so alien to me. I mean, I’ve met traders before, but in their own environment — everyone’s extremely happy, which is not what I expected. It doesn’t seem stressful at all. They were all excited about seeing who was going to ring the bell this morning. They had the American gymnastics team closing it that day. It looks like a really fun place to work.
Q. You guys seem like you like each other a lot. You seem so close during this publicity tour. I was thinking, when I looked at pictures from the stock exchange visit, that you actually look like relatives.
[Cronenberg and Pattinson laugh.]
Cronenberg: We get along pretty well and we were kind of wearing the same suit. They were Gucci suits that were connected with the movie — the character wears them — and so, we were Tweedledum and Tweedledee at that point.
Q. Mr. Cronenberg, where do you most enjoy promoting your films? You don’t have to say America.
Cronenberg: I have a huge enthusiastic fan base in France. My first films were horror films and genre films, and in France they never had any prejudice against them, whereas in North America, in the old days when I started especially, there was prejudice against them. They weren’t taken seriously as good cinema. So I suppose I feel more comfortable, weirdly enough, in France releasing a film. The level of discourse there is very intelligent, very intellectual, sometimes humorously so, but I like playing that game there.
Q. Mr. Pattinson, how have you taken to the Cronenberg fan base? I imagine that it’s strange to see “Twilight” fans with people who love David Cronenberg movies.
Pattinson: Absolutely. We were in London and we did a Q&A and it was two very diverse groups of people who suddenly came into contact with each other for I think probably the first time. And, I don’t know . . . David’s horror film fans . . . and general “Twilight” female fans . . . are actually quite a good pairing. I think both of them didn’t see anything in each other first of all, but they’re quite a good, odd couple. When you see a bearded guy with long hair, who absolutely will weep [for Cronenberg] . . . and then a “Twilight” fan who will weep at that, they actually look like a couple. (Tink: Matchmaker, matchmaker make me a match. Find me a find. Catch me a catch. I like MatchmakerRob.)
Q. Mr. Pattinson, I have to ask, in reference to all of the talk show hosts who are asking you personal questions right now: I’m always fascinated by the ability of celebrities to just disappear during a controversy. How do you do that? Is there a tunneling system? Where do you go to hide when you’re so watched?
Pattinson: There is a netherworld where celebrities go. They’re the only ones that have access to it. A mysterious little network of boroughs. (Giggles.)
The Miami Herald sat down with David and Rob. I excerpted the Rob parts. It's wonderful to keep reading about Rob's experience making the film. I loved the part about dark, blank suit and what that says about Eric. Also, about gaining confidence because Rob knew David was watching.
Cosmopolis’ $20 million price tag still seems high for such an outside-the-box movie, but Cronenberg offset the risk to financiers by casting Pattinson, who appears in every scene. (Colin Farrell was originally set to play Eric, but had to back out due to scheduling conflicts.)
“I got the script out of the blue and was offered the role, which was a little shocking,” Pattinson says. “Usually, the movies I am offered straight-up are terrible. This script felt so original, it was almost gleaming.
“I knew there was a movie to be made here. I was just worried that I might not be the one to pull it off. I kept thinking ‘There are tons of people better than me for this job!’ It took me a while to make peace with that.”
Cosmopolis offered Pattinson the opportunity to try a kind of minimalist acting he hadn’t done before. Eric Packer is a detached, aloof man who rarely expresses what he’s feeling. On the page, DeLillo makes us privy to his thoughts and interior monologue; on screen, Pattinson uses small gestures, the faintest trace of a smile or a frown and the hardening of a stare to convey his inner state. (Tink: Rob does this fantastically.)
“At the start of the movie, I am wearing this dark, blank suit,” he says. “I am wearing completely blacked-out sunglasses and I’m standing still, not moving. Every tool actors use for their performance has been taken away from me,” he says.
“But I felt secure because I knew David was watching me — really watching me — and that gives you confidence. Most of the time on movie sets, I question whether the director is even paying attention to what I’m doing.”
Pattinson’s legion of Twilight fans will be befuddled by this coldly fascinating movie, but Cronenberg has built a sufficient following to ensure an audience for the strange brew.
Not everyone will like it, of course. There isn’t a Cronenberg fan on the planet who could honestly say he loves all of the director’s movies. And that’s a testament to the risks he’s taken from the beginning of his 37-year career.
For Cronenberg, too, the inspiration to adapt Cosmopolis sprang not from grand themes but subtle detail.
“I was simply taken by the dialogue. It’s a bit like David Mamet or Harold Pinter, because it’s realistic on one level — it sounds like the way people speak — but it’s also very stylized. When I transcribed it into screenplay form, it gave the movie an incredible cohesion and resonance. That’s when I asked myself, ‘Is this a movie?’ And I thought, ‘Yes. It’s a really interesting movie.’ ”
Nearly all of the dialogue is lifted from the book, which meant the actors had to sound natural while saying lines like, “We’re all young and smart and were raised by wolves. But the phenomenon of reputation is a delicate thing. A person rises on a word and falls on a syllable.”
For Pattinson, the unusual cadences and word choices felt liberating.
“I felt a physical connection with the writing — I thought it was so good — and I wanted to read it aloud as soon as I got the script, just to see how it sounded. It is so perfectly written. I loved the fact that I didn’t need to put my personal stamp on it as an actor. I just had to perform it in the truest way possible.”
With its emotionally cool demeanor, polished visuals and occasional bursts of bloody violence, Cosmopolis folds neatly into Cronenberg’s body of work, continuing themes he explored in previous films, albeit in a radically different way.
“The movie Cosmopolis reminds me the most of is Crash,” Cronenberg’s 1996 adaptation of the J.G. Ballard novel, says William Beard, author of The Artist as Monster: The Cinema of David Cronenberg. “In that movie, the characters were frozen in a way: They were cut off from their own feelings. They had to have car crashes and very strange sex in order to break through the ice that had encased them. They had to go to bizarre extremes just to feel something.
“In Cosmopolis, you have a guy who is literally encased in this car. The limo glides through the streets in this dream-like fashion. He also seems to be a guy who is divorced from his feelings. He’s replaced them with power — he can control people, he has staff at his beck and call, he even has his own philosopher.
“And as the film goes on, you start thinking about other Cronenberg movies where the central protagonist is wrapped up in hallucinations. Cosmopolis presents you with a barrier that you have to struggle with — ‘What the hell is going on here? This movie is not going anywhere, it’s not doing anything, it’s just a guy in a car and strange things are happening.’ And by the end of the movie, he almost has a smile on his face. He’s had his crash.”
In a solo interview with Salon.com, David mentioned Rob. The author briefly mentioned Rob as well.
Excerpt from Salon:
I wouldn’t argue that Pattinson has immense dramatic range, but I think the same thing here as I think in “The Twilight Saga”: He’s a commanding screen presence who can do a lot with a little, and he holds the center of “Cosmopolis” all the way through. After the tabloid uproar surrounding his apparent breakup with “Twilight” co-star Kristen Stewart, Pattinson backed away from most interview requests, including mine. (He did, of course, accept ice cream from Jon Stewart, a memorable publicity coup if nothing else.) That put Cronenberg in the position of speaking on his young star’s behalf, which he did with reasonable dignity. Not that talking to Canada’s leading filmmaker is any kind of hardship. Over the past decade or so I’ve averaged an interview a year with Cronenberg, and it’s always a pleasure, rather like reconnecting with your favorite college professor and being reminded why you liked him so much – and realizing he still has things to teach you.
Of course everybody wants to ask you about your star, who unfortunately has decided not to join us today. I guess he has his reasons. How and why did you wind up casting Robert Pattinson?
DC: Well, it begins in a very pragmatic way. You get a list of 10 people from various producers and agents, and you start with the basics. How old is this character, and how old is the actor? This character is young, his age is given as 28. So that’s where you start. Does he feel like the right guy? Eric talks about working out a lot and is very physical, so you’re not going to cast someone who’s overweight. It’s simple stuff like that to begin with. And then you get to the pragmatics: How big is your budget and what kind of star power do you need to get the movie financed?
And here’s something people don’t think about, which is the passport of the actor. This is a Canada-France co-production, so you’re really restricted in the number of Americans you can use. There’s only one American in this movie, even though it’s set in New York, and that’s Paul. So the fact that Rob is British helps, because he can fit into the co-production thing. So that’s the long way round, and ultimately you get to: Does the guy have the chops and charisma to hold the movie together? Because this character is in every scene of the movie, without exception, and that’s very unusual, even for a star.
So I looked at everything I could find that Rob had done, including “Little Ashes,” where he plays the young Salvador Dali, and I thought, yeah, he could really do this. And I think he’s actually extraordinary. It’s ultimately intuition on my part, and casting is a huge part of directing that’s very invisible. Making-of documentaries don’t usually cover the casting process, but for a director it’s a hugely important part of your art. Juggling all those other balls that I was just talking about, and still coming up with the right guy
I realize I’d be better off asking him that question, but do you think Rob is eager to change his image after “Twilight,” and push into doing different kinds of characters? After this role, and playing a sadistic sociopath in “Bel Ami,” it certainly looks that way.
DC: Well, I know from doing interviews with him in Europe that he’s not really thinking in terms of his career. He gets offered a lot of stuff, and it’s usually very conventional, boring stuff. He’s always been interested in doing unusual stuff. He’ll tell you that when they started with “Twilight,” he thought it was kind of an indie film. Which it sort of was, you know! It had Catherine Hardwicke as the original director, and it was an unusual, off-kilter vampire story. Nobody knew that it would be the kind of mainstream success that it became.
In a way, “Cosmopolis” is a lot closer to his heart than “Twilight,” you know. When he read it, he told me that he was also struck by the dialogue. He thought it was incredibly fresh and new and surprising and engaging, and he immediately wanted to do it. He was afraid, because I think he still hasn’t come to terms with the fact that he’s actually an actor! He didn’t grow up thinking he wanted to be an actor. As with many actors, and not just young, inexperienced ones, he wasn’t sure he was good enough! He wasn’t sure he was the right guy, and he didn’t want to be the guy who would bring down this terrific project. So my job, at that point, was to convince him that he was indeed the right guy. That took me about 10 days, I suppose.
Are you telling me that you have actually watched the “Twilight” movies? That’s a bit hard to imagine.
DC: Yeah — or no, I watched about one and a half of them. I’m interested in everything, frankly. I’m not a snob, you know. I really am curious about everything. If something’s hugely popular, it doesn’t automatically mean I’m going to look at it, but sometimes I’m curious as to why something is really popular, let’s say. In the case of “Twilight,” I was watching it for Rob, that was the thing. It’s not like – I mean, I hadn’t seen them before that.