Behind the scenes on COSMOPOLIS with Robert Pattinson & David Cronenberg
Cosmopolis is David Cronenberg’s second film in the space of a year. Chosen to compete for the coveted Palme d‘Or at the recent Cannes Film Festival, the film follows Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) is a young billionaire as he journeys across New York City for a haircut. As capitalism is destroyed outside the confines of the car, Eric and the people who visit his silent bubble, engage in existential discussions as Eric’s world is slowly destroyed. Movies.ie was present at the press conference in Cannes, where we spoke to both Robert Pattinson and David Cronenberg…
David, how did you originally discover Don DeLillo’s book, ‘Cosmopolis’?
DC: I was given the book in Toronto and I read it and two days later I said ‘I would love to do this’. I knew Don’s writing, but I had not read this particular book and it took me only six days to write the script. That’s because the book was fantastic; the dialogue was just beautiful and perfect and what you see in the movie is almost word for word the dialogue that is in the book. There are some structural changes because obviously a novel and a book are two different things and I have learned in the past that you cannot do an exact translation, or anything like that, of a novel. You have to accept that you are creating a new thing that’s a strange mutant hybrid of the book and cinema and so on.
Robert’s character is a blood sucking capitalist. David, how do you deal with the public’s pre-exisiting knowledge of him and his famous ‘Twilight’ role when making a film like Cosmopolis?
DC: We just didn’t deal with it. It is very easy to say that this character is a vampire or a werewolf of Wall Street, but that is fairly superficial. He is a real person and a real character in the movie. An actor cannot play an abstract concept; you cannot say to an actor ‘You are the symbol of capitalism, I want you to play that’ How do you play that? This is a real person with a history and a past, which is not Twilight. It is Cosmopolis. You must ignore the baggage. You know it exists, but you are creating a new thing and you have to forget all that stuff and we do because it would give us nothing on the set.
How did the collaboration work between you both?
RP: I think the best thing about David as a director… David has this thing where he will go back to his trailer after he chooses a shot. Most directors will sit on a set and wait around until the shot is set up and I was always curious where he went. He would be watching a live feed of the shot setting up. I just thought he was sleeping or something. If you are sitting on the set, people will ask you questions all the time and a lot of directors are kind of exhausted by the time they are actually supposed to do their job with the actors, and they are not really listening any more. I think David is listening so intently when you are doing a scene that when you feel something in a scene you know that he has seen it, which is such a relief. It makes you pay attention to what you’re doing as well and listen to yourself.
Robert, how did you prepare for the role?
RP: I spent two weeks in my hotel room worrying and confusing myself [laughs]. I think it’s impossible to approach as you would a normal character. What I liked about the script initially was it’s lyricism and the rhythms of it. Normally when you do a movie you can blur the lines and make it your own, but that’s the one thing I knew I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to change a single word. David was quite strict on that too, even the punctuation. That made it easier, it was like doing a song instead of a movie. It freed you up, because if you are trying to do something in a cerebral way, it becomes about ego and it’s silly. Actors aren’t supposed to be intelligent [laughs]
DC: I think the idea of song is actually quite correct because it’s like you’re doing a version of a Bob Dylan song; everybody knows the words, you are not going to change the words, but it still gives you a lot of creative scope with the rhythm, with the orchestration, with your vocalisation, with what register you are playing in and that’s the way I was approaching Don’s dialogue. It is realistic in that that is how Americans speak but it has it’s own strange sensibility, which is uniquely Don’s. I didn’t want anybody to mess with that, yet each person who comes into the limo is an additional singer in the choir and has his or her own voice and finds a way to sing that particular song. If you have got a great script – and I give Don credit for the greatness of the script – the dialogue gives you so much as a performer. You just have to do the dialogue and you have got the character.
Robert, do you feel that this is a movie that has a message of hope or despair?
RP: The first time I saw it, I didn’t think about the greater scope of the movie, and then I heard people’s reactions about things like nihilism and things like that. I think it’s actually a really hopeful movie. I think in a lot of ways, when I look at the world – maybe I am just a depressive – I think sometimes the world does need to be washed and cleansed, and that’s the hope of it.
Words – Brogen Hayes COSMOPOLIS hits cinemas on June 15th