Robert Pattinson Says He Was "Terrified" To Star In 'Cosmopolis'; David Cronenberg Says Digital Is Better Than Film

Interviews
by Drew Taylor
August 17, 2012 2:44 PM
13 Comments
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David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis" opens in New York and Los Angeles today. It's one of the most genuinely weird cinematic experiences we've had this year (and we mean that in a good way). We got to talk to Cronenberg and his leading man Robert Pattinson, who stars in the film as a disaffected young millionaire who prowls New York City in a limousine, dodging a potential assassin, meeting various business associates, and talking endlessly about his existential plight in the midst of economic upheaval. We chatted with Cronenberg about how the project came to be, what it was like to shoot digitally, and much more.

Cronenberg said that "Cosmopolis" came to him from Portuguese producer Paul Blanco, who had the idea for adapting the Don DeLillo novel of the same name. Cronenberg wrote the script quickly, with a single goal in mind: retaining DeLillo's distinctive prose. "Don's dialogue in all his books is fantastic – very stylized, like Harold Pinter," Cronenberg explained. "Pinter is a playwright and you hear his dialogue spoken, just like David Mamet. But I had never heard DeLillo's dialogue spoken so I thought, 'Okay, I really want some fabulous actors saying these lines. I want to see what happens with that.'"

When it came down to casting, Cronenberg had to ask some essential questions: "How old is this character? How old are the actors around? Who can do the New York accent even if they're not from around there? Who has the star power to get you financing, which is always an issue?" Finally the director decided on Pattinson, best known for his role as vampire Edward Cullen in the insanely popular "Twilight" series. Even with Cronenberg's considerable cache, it took him a while to sell Pattinson on the project. Ten days, to be exact.

"I suddenly realized I had no idea how to do it at all," Pattinson said, seeming slightly embarrassed about the whole episode. "I knew it was really good but I was terrified of even calling. Actors are always trained to bullshit, even if you hate something. And I had nothing to say, at all. Because David did the script he obviously knows what it's about. As soon as I said, 'I don't know what it's about,' he said, 'Me neither.'" And while that was reassuring to the actor, it wasn't the end. "Then I spent a week trying to figure out how to get out of it, where I got to the point where I was going to have to call up and say, 'I'm too scared because I don't think I'm a good enough actor and I'm a pussy.' I didn’t want to have that conversation."

Thankfully that conversation didn't happen, mostly because Cronenberg assured Pattinson that he was "absolutely the right person" for the role. And with Pattinson, the movie had an actual fighting chance of getting made (with a lesser box office draw, this would have been more or less an impossibility). "Well it was certainly a thrill to be able to help it get made… Especially one like this," Pattinson said. The actor said that Cronenberg was so legendary that Pattinson wasn't even sure he was still making movies. "He's one of those directors where he's not even on a level of 'Oh yeah I really want to work with him.'" That's when Pattinson turned to Cronenberg and lovingly said, "You have an adjective!" To which Cronenberg exclaimed (with a kind of demented glee): "Cronenbergian!" Pattinson then continued: "It's kind of changed my whole perception of who I can work with. There are people who I grew up watching who are so part of the film language that you don't even realize that they're still making movies." Cronenberg then shot back: "That they're still alive! Which is what he's trying to say."

"Cosmopolis" marks a significant departure for Cronenberg, and not only because it's his first film with Pattinson. It's the first movie he's shot digitally, which actually adds another dimension to the chilly artifice and technologically obsessed tone. For Cronenberg, it was a long time coming. "I was always done with film," he said matter-of-factly. "Film has been dead for years, it just didn't know it. Talk about zombies." The director went on to make a blanket statement about the entire industry, which made us wonder why he wasn't interviewed for the recent digital-versus-film documentary "Side By Side." "It's over for film, and it has been for many years," Cronenberg said. "It's 100 years of film and it's hard to give up because there's an infrastructure and all that and the projectors, but projectors are becoming totally digital around the world and it's been slow because it's a very expensive turnover. There's no reason to shoot film anymore. Film is not as good as digital."

Whatever Cronenberg ends up shooting next, he would like Pattinson to come along for the ride. "We had a great time and we just know we could do something really cool together," Cronenberg said, noting that the long-gestating Bruce Wagner project "Map to the Stars" "could be" one of those projects. "We just don't know what it is. So if you've got any ideas, please let us know."

"Cosmopolis" is now in theaters.

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13 Comments

  • Mana | August 18, 2012 9:38 AMReply

    The Portuguese producer is PAULO BRANCO (not Paul Blanco LOOOOOOOL)

  • WILL | August 18, 2012 6:23 AMReply

    As far as I'm concerned David Cronenberg is saying all of this because he is merely jealous of the success of a filmmaker at the top of his game, Christopher Nolan. Cronenberg feels the need to insult him and his believes because nobody cares to give Cronenberg the kind of budget to afford 35mm film. So as the old saying goes, ''penny wise, pound foolish'' and that can be seen in all of his films such as the atrocious Crash, the overly childish Fly and the sloppy A Dangerous Method (take away Viggo and Micheal, you have a Hallmark movie). Nolan however is trusted and loved in the industry and is given what he needs when he needs it, also his determination to shoot on film as well as keep CGI to a limited size makes and keeps him a fresh traditionalist contemporary re inventor like Tarantino. However for Cronenberg, all he is is a failed old man who seems to have let the world pass him by, Cronenberg began and died in the 70's. He has become the zombie, not film.

  • Kris | August 21, 2012 12:14 PM

    I think it can be generally assumed that Cronenberg's movies are polarizing and not always satisfying, but Crash was brilliant. The fact that you didn't like it means I can't trust your opinion about Cronenberg and probably about cinema in general.

  • dave | August 18, 2012 10:20 PM

    @Bolas: 100% agreed. @Will: You Nolanites aren't that different from Twihards. Anyone (even David Cronenberg) who criticizes your favorite celebrity MUST be either "jealous," bad at his job, "a failed old man," etc. -- or all of the above. First of all, Crash is not atrocious. 2) "the overly childish Fly..." WTF? 3) I'm curious where I can find a Hallmark movie remotely similar to A Dangerous Method. Besides, you know, something which happens to contain period costumes, which I'm guessing is the only reason you compared them. I guess by the same token you could say: take away Nolan's pretentiousness and all you have is a stupid superhero movie!

  • Bolas | August 18, 2012 8:45 PM

    Nolan is trusted and loved because he makes money, not because he is better. Cronenberg is a failed man? You don't know what you're saying..

  • mass | August 18, 2012 1:04 AMReply

    Has David Cronenberg forgotten to check out PTA's 'The Master'?


    Yeah, fuck off.

  • Of Course | August 17, 2012 4:19 PMReply

    No wonder David Cronenberg hates on Chris Nolan ( besides being jealous) , because Nolan hates digital.

  • dave | August 18, 2012 9:58 PM

    "Chris 'The Next Kubrick' Nolan." BAHAHAHA... Jesus. What is even remotely similar between the two of them anyway? Nolan makes action blockbusters, for the most part.

  • zatopek | August 17, 2012 4:23 PM

    Yeah, Cronenberg is totally jealous of Chris "The Next Kubrick" Nolan.

  • wes | August 17, 2012 3:29 PMReply

    Too bad he doesn't give any artistic reason for preferring digital. I would have liked to hear that.

  • Stevo the Magnificent | August 17, 2012 9:24 PM

    Oops, should have mentioned Quentin Tarantino in my post, not repeating Chris Nolan's name, sorry 'bout that...

  • Stevo the Magnificent | August 17, 2012 9:22 PM

    I understand why Cronenberg is firmly behind the digital team now, 35mm has both it's advantages and disadvantages, as does digital, but digital is cheaper, more versatile, you can shoot longer for less, and the resolution is increasingly getting much better, and is arguably close to 35mm standard as it stands... in ten years time, digital will be the ONLY format used for both filming and projection, no more 35mm stocks will be even made, and people like Chris Nolan, Steven Spielberg, and Chris Nolan will either have to get on the digital train, or will have 35mm stocks custom made for their own specific use.

  • bohmer | August 17, 2012 5:11 PM

    Totally. Someone should definitely asking him on the matter again.

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