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David Cronenberg‘s films have a notorious reputation, with graphic sex and violence, outre images and disturbing themes. The Canadian parliament has called his work “disgusting” and one critic said his 1996 film Crash existed “beyond the bounds of depravity.”
However, after visiting with the 68 year old Canadian director near his home in Toronto, The Hollywood Reporter‘s executive editor, feaures Stephen Galloway found him to be calm, courteous and downright mellow. His latest film, A Dangerous Method, stars Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud, Michael Fassbender as Carl Jung and Keira Knightley as their patient, Sabina Spielrein. The historical drama premiered at the Venice International Film Festival on Sept. 2 and has received strong reviews. It will be released in theaters by Sony Pictures Classics on Nov. 23.
Is this family man — who works regularly with his wife, sister and grown daughter — really the same filmmaker who once showed actress Samantha Eggar licking the amniotic fluid off her psychically-controlled killer dwarf offspring in The Brood?
Some of the surprising revelations from this week’s THR cover story:
1. ‘A DANGEROUS METHOD’S’ ORIGINAL STARS, CHRISTIAN BALE AND CHRISTOPH WALTZ, DROPPED OUT
“Waltz waltzed and Bale bailed,” Cronenberg said. Though the director is understanding of Bale’s decision to withdraw without ever being formally attached, talk of Waltz’ departure shakes the director’s mellowness just the tiniest bit. “Christoph [had] pursued the project,” he explains. “He came to me to convince me to take him as Freud; his grandfather had been a pupil of Freud. [After] Inglourious Basterds, all the German money was built around him, and when he bailed, a lot of that money went as well.”
2. THE FILM COST $20 MILLION — HIGH FOR AN ART HOUSE MOVIE
Financing came from three separate German entities; from presales arranged by producer Jeremy Thomas’ HanWay Films; and from Canada’s Telefilm and Universal Germany, among others — though all deals were still in play when shooting commenced. Cronenberg describes it this way: “It’s like a Frankenstein quilt: 15 entities were involved, and they all had to sign at the same moment.” While Thomas notes: “Having the film start when you know you haven’t closed the finance, and greenlighting it when you are still in a nervous state, that is a very difficult, lonely moment for a producer.”
3. CRONENBERG HAD TO CALL IN A FAVOR TO GET MORTENSEN TO PLAY FREUD
Viggo Mortensen had worked with Cronenberg to great success on A History of Violence and earned an Oscar nomination for Eastern Promises. But the actor initially turned the director down when he was offered the part of Sigmund Freud. At the time, the actor said he was handling “problems with my parents’ health and because I didn’t picture myself playing Freud.” After Fassbender and Knightley signed on, Cronenberg approached him again. This time he said yes.
4. THE GERMAN SHOOT WAS EASY COMPARED TO CRONENBERG’S EARLY FILM EXPERIENCE
With one of his first features, Scanners, Cronenberg had to witness the deaths of two women who had paused to watch filming from a highway. “They slowed down, and the guy behind them didn’t,” he recalls. The man’s car went straight over theirs. “My grip jumped over the fence and pulled the women out of the car, but they were dead, and that was our first day of shooting. I thought if I could survive that, I could survive anything.”
5. MARTIN SCORSESE WAS SCARED TO MEET HIM
“He said he was terrified,” remembers Cronenberg. “He was serious. He had seen Shivers and Rabid and thought they were devastating. I said, ‘Marty, you’re the guy who made Taxi Driver!’ ”
6. HE’S ALREADY NEARLY FINISHED WITH HIS NEXT MOVIE
A Dangerous Method won’t be released domestically until November, but the filmmaker is already at work editing his next movie, an adaptation of Don DeLillo‘s novel, Cosmopolis.
7. TED TURNER TRIED TO BURY ‘CRASH’
In the case of Crash, which equates sex with violent car crashes, Ted Turner was so upset, he did everything to kill the movie’s release.The mogul, who owned the picture’s distributor, New Line, “wanted to destroy it,” Cronenberg says. “He and Jane [Fonda, his then-wife] had apparently screened the film and were appalled. But they wouldn’t tell me at New Line. I was planning to come down to do publicity and they said, ‘Don’t get on the plane. We’re going to delay the release.’ I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ” Turner would relent.
8. CRONENBERG LOATHES HOLLYWOOD
The Toronto-based filmmaker turned down films such as Flashdance, Top Gun and Interview With a Vampire and worked through 12 drafts of Total Recall, adapted from the Phillip K. Dick short story, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale before being told by producer Dino De Laurentiis, “‘You know what you’ve done? You’ve done the Dick version. We wanted to do Raiders of the Lost Ark Go to Mars.'”
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