Catherine Bray: Hello David. I should start by saying I really loved the film, having seen it twice now, at the premiere in Cannes and on coming back to London - it’s a really extraordinary piece of work.
David Cronenberg: We should stop the interview right now, we can’t do better than that.
Catherine Bray: [laughs] Maybe we can start off by talking about Eric Packer, who I think is such an extraordinary character, for which your casting of Robert Pattinson was such a smart move.
David Cronenberg: Well, as a director you have a lot of balls to juggle, just with casting the main character and something that’s obvious, I suppose, is that you have to have an actor whose fame will support your budget. It’s kind of mundane and it’s not really part of the creative process, but it is part of the pragmatic process of getting a film made, so you need somebody who financiers and financial people and investors can get excited about and obviously Rob has that.
But beyond that, when the smoke clears you’re left with you and the actor on the set, and whether he is good or he's not good - is he the right guy or not? - and that’s something that as a director you can’t lose sight of. And having looked at a lot of the things that Rob did, particularly the Spanish movie called Little Ashes in which he played the young Salvador Dali, I thought, 'this is a really interesting and serious actor who’s not afraid to play some very difficult roles', and so it proved to be. Even Twilight and so on let me know that he could do the accent that we needed for the movie, that he had the charisma that you need if you’re doing a movie in which the lead character’s in absolutely every scene. There’s no scene that he’s not in, so you need someone who’s incredible watchable, and we all know Rob is that.
Catherine Bray: And there’s a really exciting tension between his kind of persona in the film and his public persona, the idea of someone being at their peak deciding to go another way.
David Cronenberg: Yes, and the character himself is a kind of enigma. It's something that is becoming more and more familiar - someone who is incredibly capable on one level, in this case financial wizardry, and completely inept on the level of human interaction. It seems to go together a lot these days, and we’re just discovering more and more people who’re like that.
Catherine Bray: A little like [Jon Ronson's] book The Psychopath Test, about how it's sometimes kind of an advantageous trait in our society, to be this sort of person who doesn’t empathise...
David Cronenberg: Yes! It’s interesting, people are now talking about the ‘London Whale’, you know the mysterious financial figure who actually avoids celebrity, as in the movie. This character Eric Packer has a bodyguard but it’s not because he’s a celebrity, it’s not to keep fans at bay, it’s literally to guard his body; he wants to be anonymous, he doesn’t want to be a star. And that’s the way these guys operate, because they don’t even want you to know what they look like, they don’t want photographs of them to be around, because that’s part of a stealth attack, financially.
The problem is that there’s only ever brutality or ruthlessness; they’re so disconnected from the effects of what they do, which is often devastating to actual human beings, causing incredible suffering on a very basic level. And it’s not even, as I said, cruelty, really, because it’s simply not even thinking about it.
Catherine Bray: So where would you kind of situate this film within your body of work?you can read the whole article HERE
David Cronenberg: Well I wouldn’t. I understand that people like to connect the films and so on, I can play that role too, I can become a critic of my own work. But creatively connecting a film that I’m working on with my other films actually gives me nothing, there’s no creative upside to doing that, I don’t do it. What I love best when we’re working on a film, my crew and I, is that we have a relationship, I work with the same people all the time, and sometimes the actors as well. It’s as though we’ve never made another film, that’s the wonderful part. Suddenly we are alone making this movie, trying to create Eric Packer and his world and it’s as though Rob had not made another movie or Paul Giamatti or Juliette Binoche or me, we don’t think about the other movies and that gives us the freedom, it liberates us.