cosmopolis david cronenberg robert pattinsonWith the Twilight behemoth winding down, Robert Pattinson is an actor looking to shake off his teen idol persona and establish himself as a adult leading man. He’s taken the latest step on this road to rehabilitation by teaming up with Canadian body-horror legend David Cronenberg, taking the lead in his adaptation of Don Delillo’s dark sci-fi satire Cosmopolis.

Pattinson is superb as Eric Packer, an arrogant, narcissistic young billionaire who trundles through a dystopian future New York in search of a haircut, while the city, his life and his fortune all crumble around him. The film marks another step in the evolution of David Cronenberg’s career, building on the triumphs of his recent steps away from horror such as Eastern Promises and A Dangerous Method, but also retaining a uniquely Cronenbergian world view. It’s also a very timely film, feature a financial crisis and protests in the streets that strongly echo the Occupy Wall Street movement.

We sat down with Davin Cronenberg and Robert Pattinson in London to talk to them about the film.

One of Cronenberg’s answer does include some spoilers for the film, but we’ve clearly highlighted it.

HeyUGuys: The film features global financial meltdown and anti-capitalist riots in New York – did the Occupy Wall Street and We Are The 99% movements influence the film?

Cronenberg: Well, it didn’t inform the film at all, because we really just stuck to the script. It’s really just that what Don DeLillo wrote was precedent and clairvoyant, and the world was just catching up with him. So it didn’t alter what we did. But we couldn’t help noticing it. But Paul Giamatti, for example, texted me saying “I can’t believe it, I just saw Rupert Murdoch get a pie in his face!” and we’d just shot the scene where Robert gets a pie in his face! We were just thinking “Wow, this is weird!”. It was strange to be shooting scenes about anti-capitalist riots in the streets of New York and then reading about the Occupy movement.

What’s your take on the Occupy / 99% movement?

Cronenberg: It’s interesting, and I’m only just thinking about it after the fact, but there really are no anti-capitalists in this movie. In fact, it’s been noted, and I think it’s really accurate, that the Occupy Wall Street movement is not anti-capitalist. They really want a piece of the action. They’re saying “We want to be part of that 1%. We should be part of the capitalist dream.” So its not as if they’re communists or socialist, and are hating on capitalism, and wanting to take that capitalists down. They actually want to be capitalists. So {the Occupy movement} is a little odd, it’s not what you might think. With Benno {Paul Giamatti’s character}, he loves capitalism, he loves investing and the complaint he has it that he’s been left behind by Eric Packer {Robert Pattinson’s character}. Eric is to quick, he’s to fast, he’s destroyed the way that Benno loved to work. He’s not an ati-capitalist. So it’s not that easy to say the movie is anti-capitalist. It isn’t.

In DeLillo’s book, it’s the Japanese Yen that Eric Packer is investing in, yet you changed it to the Chinese Yuan for the film – why did you make the change?

Cronenberg: That was just my feeble attempt, as a complete ignoramus in terms of the economy, to make it a little futuristic. The Yen, since the book was written, has collapsed, and then you add the tsunami that hit Japan, and suddenly Japan is staggering. But when it was written, it was like the Rising Sun, everyone was terrified of Japan – the Yen was going to be the world currency. But now it’s China. The look to the East was correct, but it’s really China that will be a world power, and by 2015 the Yuan will be a fully convertible currency and might well displace the dollar as the world currency. That’s the Chinese plan, and nobody seems to think that it won’t happen. That was all I did there, I don’t think it really changed the tone of it though

There’s a re-occuring image of a rat in the film, was intended as a metaphor then, referencing the Year of the Rat in the Chinese Zodiac?

Cronenberg: I never go into metaphor! (laughs) This is the first I’ve heard of that, I never thought of it. And I don’t know that Don thought of it.

Robert, your character in the film, Eric Packer, is a not a very nice person – he’s a selfish and nihilistic. How do you approach playing a character like that?

Pattinson: I don’t think I approached it as being a nihilist. I think there was an energy there, but I think the energy of being a nihilist is something different. He’s not really throwing things away consciously, he’s just getting more stressed. He thinks he’s getting closer to something, and everything just starts falling away – he’s not consciously destroying it.

How do you think Eric Packer compares to other David Cronenberg characters?

Cronenberg: I don’t really think about my other movies – I said this before. You’re asking me to be an analyst of my own movies, but I won’t, because that’s your job! What I can say is that I don’t think about my other movies when I make a movie The joy for me is middle of the night, on the street, with your actors, nobody else around. You’re not thinking about Twilight, you’re not thinking about Scanners, you’re thinking about Cosmopolis. That’s beautiful and that’s very pure. When I’m putting the movie together I do think about the star value of the actors I get, I have to think about Robert’s passport as it’s a Canada/ France co-production, all of that stuff – but that’s all irrelevant to the actual creative making of the movie. So I try to be pure that way.

Eric Packer’s only real goal in the film is to get a haircut. Why is he looking for something so trivial?

Cronenberg: The trivial thing is not at all trivial. He even sets it up. He says “A haircut is what? It’s calendars on the wall, its a barber’s chair, it’s the neighbourhood”. It’s his past, where he was somehow pure, and somehow innocent. There’s one thing Robert did, and he probably didn’t even know he was doing it, but when he’s sitting in the barber’s chair he becomes a child. And the old barber becomes like his father or grandfather. There’s a great moment where he says “You were four at the time”, and Eric say “Five, I was five,” and it was just gorgeous. I’m getting chills just thinking about it. And this is beautiful stuff that was in every line of his dialogue, there’s a real intuitive understanding of that stuff. So as I say, it’s not trivial, you understand eventually that this movement to his childhood is what the haircut is all about.

(The next question has a few spoilers, so you may want to skip it if you haven’t seen the film yet)

Eric and his wife never touch in the film – in the book they take part in a massive public orgy, which doesn’t make it into the screen version. What’s your reasoning for this?

Cronenberg: Well, I didn’t feel that they ever touched in the book, frankly. And the scene in the book of the filmed orgy, hundreds of people in the streets of New York, I honestly though when reading it that it was Eric’s fantasy of reconciliation, and a rather juvenile one at that. And the way that Eric is rather infantile in some ways I didn’t believe that it was real. And I thought on screen it would be laughable, you’d never buy that, it could never happen. So I thought, no, he disconnects from his wife and he never does touch her, and they never do have sex. It’s over, and that’s one of the things that leads him to destroy himself. There are several moments – it’s the death of brother Fez, it’s the break up of his marriage, it’s the killing or Torval, it’s these moments that lead him to the end, which is a kind of suicide, really. He’s going back to his childhood, and then beyond, before his birth, which is to say death.

(No more spoilers from here on in)

People aren’t going to expect to see Robert Pattinson in a film like this – how do you think the Twilight fan’s who just come to see Robert will respond to the film?

Pattinson: I dunno. I mean, I hope people come to see it! (laughs). Get them into the cinema anyway you can! The Twilight fanbase is very much maligned for their tenacity for sitting out in the rain. Like in Germany yesterday, there were all these people sitting on a miserable day in the middle of nowhere, waiting. Everyone’s always screaming and that, but you go down the line, people give you books. Somebody gave me a Lawrence Ferlinghetti book, even. They give you all these different things, and it’s not like they’re giving you teddy bears. People,for some reason, have some kind of… (pauses) I don’t know. Twilight has attracted such a broad spectrum of people, and they have all kind of been lumped together because it’s much easier to get these images of people screaming and stuff. It’s quite a strange spectrum of people. A lot of people who’ve been coming to the premieres in Europe have seen the movie four or five times already, and they all have interesting critiques of it.

Cronenberg: And a lot of those girls in those lines actually had copies of Cosmopolis and they were asking us to sign them. And they’d read them, or truly intend to read it. The websites that were made by girls, young girls, Twilight fans, while we were shooting, they all had read the book – and they were still excited about the project. Some of the websites were gorgeous, really sophisticated and great. Ok, maybe they’ve only read Harry Potter and Twilight – and now they’re reading Don DeLillo! What’s wrong with that?

What’s next for you both? The two of you are supposed to be working together again on Map To The Stars, an adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s novel As She Climbed Across the Table. That’s all been confirmed to go, right?

Cronenberg: Is it? Did you find the financing? Can you come up with the money (laughs)?

Pattinson: You probably know better than me! I want to do it. I’m going to start talking about it to get some financing!

Cronenberg: It has created some interest in it actually, just talking about it and weirdly enough that counts. There is a brilliant script by a friend of mine who’s a novelist Bruce Wagner – he wrote the script some time ago and tried to get it to happen five years ago and I couldn’t get it made. It’s one of those great scripts. In a way it’s a lot like Cosmopolis – it’s not an easy sell. It’s edgy in a nasty, disturbing way and it has emotion, but it’s a weird emotion, just like Cosmopolis I think. By the end of the movie, Cosmopolis is strangely, weirdly, sad and emotional, and it creeps up on you , because you don’t think it’s ever going to go there, and that’s how the book struck me as well. It’s hard to make difficult movies, and even when you have credible actors who bring a lot of intention and stuff – Viggo Mortensen wants to play another role in {Map To The Stars} – and with those two guys you’d think it would be “Hey, fifteen million here is no problem,” but it’s not like that.

  • mi

    Why other actors playing in idiotic comics adaptations are not considering as teen idol or have to shake teen actor stigma?What about Hemswarth,LaBeouf,Bale,Downey jr,Fassbender?

  • blackbeanie

    Thank you for this nice aricle. I’ve read a lot of interviews with David and Rob but in this one I still discovered some new stuff.
    It’s intriguing to see how everybody, who has read the book, has his/her own perception of it and in particular of Eric Packer. I like the suicidal comment of David, because that was how I saw Eric’s actions myself. But Rob said something very interesting too: Eric wasn’t throwing away, he was trying to find something that could mean something to him. Very fascinating.
    I’m also puzzled about David’s opinion concerning the street movie scene that didn’t get it to the screen. I thought it happened real and it brought Eric and Elise finally together though their marriage was broken up. But I remember, while reading the novel, questioning myself the reality of a scene with a mass of nude people being shot in the streets of New-York, so i can see his POV.
    David and Rob are both very intelligent men who want to make the movie industry more about art than about cheap entertainment and box office.
    Rob knows his fanbase quite well. He knows that most of his fans are aware of the fact that he’s a reluctant star and sex symbol ,that he wants to improve his abilities in small art house movies and ..he knows .that they will support him in his choices, no matter what they are.
    Just this: these fans mostly grown up, educated women and they’re all reading more intellectual stuff, in fact, Twilight was kind of escapism.

  • abbeysbooks

    Cronenberg changes yen to yuan because he has misread the significance of the word yen. A yen is a sort of want, like a yen for some ice-cream, or say a haircut. On the page 3 (7 in my edition) of Cosmopolis DeLillo says, “He didn’t know what he wanted. Then he knew. He wanted a haircut.” Is this a “want” or a “yen”, it certainly isn’t desire. But Cronenberg takes the literal path and changes it to yuan, because he knows nothing of Lacan, laughingly ignores metaphor, and thinks dumb interviewers won’t notice anyway something he can’t be bothered to explore or know or discuss.

  • abbeysbooks

    Sorry Rob, he is consciously destroying cyber-capital. I understand you are following Cronenberg because you think he knows, but he doesn’t.

    he’s just getting more stressed. He thinks he’s getting closer to something, and everything just starts falling away – he’s not consciously destroying it.

    Eric Packer is doing exactly what Francisco d’Anconia did. Taking everything down of his own and everything and everyone with it. In Cosmopolis DeLillo is writing about cyber-capital, Rand is writing about a rusty infixable bureaucracy.

    There is no outside – Michel Foucault; (Vija Kinski)
    Implosion. – Jean Baudrillard

  • abbeysbooks

    Eric Packer is NOT committing suicide, nor is he self-destructive, any more than Francisco d’Anconia in Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.. He is throwing the money changers out of the temple (of finance) and out of control. Packer can be seen as a visionary also. When Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple, that was his last act. He went too far. He was too dangerous. He had to be stopped. He signed his own death warrant.

    Packer throws them out and ruins them to boot. Then he gets out of the limo to let the “world will him” to let Destiny decide his fate. He reuses to hide behind the dumpster. He refuses to shoot Benno when he clearly can. He refused to run away. He sought his assassin out and Benno’s victim came to him. The fatal objects seeking their subjects. (Baudrillard; Zizek)

    Benno is no longer a cyber-capitalist wannabe to be distinguished from a capitalist producer of something. Benno is writing his confessions, like Augustine. He wears a towel as a prayer shawl as DeLillo wrote it. Benno is patterned after Benny Levy, who converted to orthodox in Israel after leaving France following the failure of May 68 to lead to change. He was Sartre’s secretary at the end when Sartre converted to Christianity. The religious significance of Benno is his wearing of the prayer shawl “towel”, which no one seems to get either.

    Benno traded in the baht. Baht/bought homonyms (Lacan again) Benno was “bought” by Eric and discarded by him when he was no longer useful. Eric kills Torval (Lacanian inversion to lav -rot/rat (rat again folks!) lav from lavare( to wash in Latin – Lava Soap) So Torval stands in the rain getting washed, to wash the rot off him, the rat, the bodyguard who hates him no less than his assassin. So Eric kills him. And I won’t go into Nancy Babich here.

    I am not putting these reviewers down. They have asked great questions ( reminding me almost that they could be as good as Oriana Falachi if they dared a little more) to expose the sleight of hand of the Cronenberg in his eviscerating of DeLillo’s novel. You guys are the only ones to do this. And this is not to detract from Pattinson’s performance in any way. He was performing as the Cronenberg ordered him to do; trusting the Cronenberg to be intellectually honest and knowledgeable.

  • abbeysbooks

    blackbeanie you are deluded by the Cronenberg. Intelligent NOT! Your intuition that it was real was correct but you let the Cronenberg’s authority make you question and delete what your own mind told you. Some men do that you know, and women too, to be fair. Rob’s statement about Eric was correct. Eric is not self destructive and he is not a loser. He did it on purpose as DeLillo tells you in the novel and in his interview with Krasny on youtube.. Eric chose Destiny: risk, challenge, death, passion, love not comfort, survival, fucking, accumulation, etc. Eric Packer is a visionary. Oh can you just imagine the film it could have been!

    Do not write off Twilight. Meyer has accomplished a great “cut” in the History of Sexuality Read Calchi-Novati’s paper on Twilight reading through Lacan and Zizek. she is a serious scholar. No one need be embarrassed that they have loved and continue to love Twilight.

  • abbeysbooks

    Because Rob is so beautiful and good. He is the living image of Melville’s Billy Budd. They wish to destroy him because he is too perfect. Billy Budd was destroyed; hanged as I remember for being too beautiful and too good. this is Melville saying this, so pay attention.

  • abbeysbooks

    Sorry to have hogged your whole comment section but you did such a good job I couldn’t stop.

  • abbeysbooks

    Eric Packer kills Torval because Torval is paid to keep him alive, so Packer can “survive” but Packer wants the “world to will him’ Destiny, challenge, risk, death, reversibility.

    Read Torval through Lacan. Inverted Torval is lav -rot/rat is the homonym. Lav is Latin for lavare, to wash clean, and Torval stands in the rain with the water washing over him. IF he doesn’t die, then Eric can’t “express himself, he can’t go deeper into the night.” And here he is paying a man to keep him alive who hates him as much as the assassin who plans to kill him. Actually Benno loves him as Torval does not. Giamatti go that right.

  • Diana Chips Morehead

    abbeysbooks/whoever you are. Quit playing on the internet as you’re embarrassing yourself. Adding in a little Sartre & why not? Camus & a smattering of Gurdjieff & Ouspensky just for funsies. Your blog/thesis reads as rambling/rant. Is it Cosmopolis the movie? Cosmopolis the book? Please take a few deep breaths & focus. You’ve missed the whole point of the movie.