Robert Pattinson headlines Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis
Canadian director plans to work again with Twilight star
David Cronenberg and Robert Pattinson at a Toronto press conference to promote their new film Cosmopolis (CP Images)
It remains to be seen whether or not the Canadian contingent of Team Edward shows up en masse at movie theatres this Friday to support the Canadian release of their hero Robert Pattinson's latest film, Cosmopolis. The movie, a David Cronenberg-penned-and-directed adaptation of the 1993 Don DeLillo novel, casts the Twilight star as Eric Packer, a young billionaire travelling by limousine across heinous midtown New York traffic for a haircut. Of course the film, shot in Toronto last summer, is about a lot more than that, including the collapse of his marriage, the meltdown of his personal fortune, and a potential assassination.
Packer is a far cry from Edward Cullen, the sparkly, lovelorn vampire that Pattinson plays in the Twilight films, but the young star's fans seem so far to be supportive of the choice, as evidenced by the huge crowd my wife and I stumbled upon during a late night walk around our Toronto neighbourhood last summer. Why were hundreds of young people gathered around one of the auto body shops that line Geary Avenue at 10 p.m. on a weekday night? Obviously it was a film shoot so I asked a security guard what the show was. He uttered a single word: "Cosmopolis." Enough said.
"One thing just to say: the girls who were at Geary Avenue at three in the morning were very sweet, and they had read the book," says Cronenberg during a recent Toronto press conference alongside his cast. "This is quite extraordinary. They made a T-shirt for us that said 'Nancy Babich' and had a pistol on it," a reference to DeLillo's novel. "And I wore that, and they went crazy.
"But that's interesting because very early on we were on the 'Net [and] we had seen that they were making these Cosmopolis fan websites. Some of them were incredibly beautiful. There were a couple that were better than the official one."
Adds Pattinson: "We were doing interviews in London, and someone asked about what the tagline was for the movie. I can't remember exactly what it was now, but I thought, 'Is that the tagline?' And both of us didn't know what it was. And I just found out the other day that it was from one of the fan-made posters. A whole bunch of journalists thought it was the real one!"
"They were making posters and they were reading the book, and the commenters were commenting on Don DeLillo's book," adds the director. "These were girls who had read Harry Potter and Twilight and now they're reading DeLillo, and they still like it and they still want to see the movie. So I thought, 'Well, there's nothing wrong with that.'"
Indeed. Pattinson's presence in Cosmopolis lends Cronenberg's film a pop cultural weight it might not otherwise have had original star Colin Farrell's Total Recall schedule not kyboshed his casting as Packer. (Inception's Marion Cotillard was to play his wife Elise, a role now played by Toronto actress Sarah Gadon.)
And while the teaming of Cronenberg and Pattinson might on the surface seem unusual, the strength of their relationship is evident not only in their interactions during the press conference but also by the fact that it has been reported that the duo plan to continue their collaboration with the director's next mooted project, Maps to the Stars. (Frequent Cronenberg collaborator Viggo Mortenson (Eastern Promises, A History of Violence, A Dangerous Method) is also rumoured to be eying a role in the film.)
While film critics debated the validity of Pattinson's casting after its premiere at Cannes in May -- Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter called him "too bland and monotonous to hold the interest," while Damon Wise of Empire Online wrote that he "nails a difficult part almost perfectly" -- the star himself questioned Cronenberg's wisdom in picking him for the role. When asked, the actor says that his preparation consisted of "two weeks of worrying" in his hotel room. It was Cronenberg who told his young star "to stop worrying. What did he say? I think you heard me in the very obvious throes of a panic attack. I think you were just placating me," he laughs, "hoping I'd come around.
"I think [Cronenberg] just said, when we started shooting, 'What will be, will be.' The job of acting now, people interpret it to be... You've got to analyze it. You've got to be a psychoanalyst as well. But that's just from the '50s. Before that, actors only thought about their voice and their face and their movement. You read DeLillo, and I'm not a post-modernist scholar..."
Cronenberg: "Your agent said you were."
"Can I come up with an interpretation of DeLillo that's completely original in two weeks?" Pattinson asks rhetorically. "But there's something in the construction of his writing that's so easy. You don't need to add anything to it, and I think that's just what you encouraged me to do," speaking to Cronenberg.
"There were no rewrites in the script," Pattinson adds. "That's the first thing you're thinking about as an actor because normally the script's just s**t! There's no foundation to stand on in the first place. And you're so used to just changing it all the time, every single movie, that, with this, once you suddenly get to the idea [that] 'we're not changing any of the script, the script is fine,' it's you that's the problem!"
Cosmopolis opens across Canada this Friday, June 8.