Cronenberg – Salon Interview

David Cronenberg - Salon Interview 9/13/07I don’t really want to be a links clearinghouse where I spend all my time culling the internet for interesting tidbits to pass along. For one thing, there are tons of sites that already to a better job of that than I could ever hope to and for another I’d rather spend my time watching movies than surfing the internet. Still, I do surf and people do send me links to great stuff. If something interesting comes along and I have something to add to it, I’ll run it.

For example, Joel passed along this Andrew O’Hehir Salon interview with David Cronenberg to me. It’s a couple of weeks old, but Eastern Promises is still lurking in theaters and you should still see it. This is as good of a reminder as any and also some of the things Cronenberg talked about got me to thinking.

Near the end of the interview, O’Hehir asks Cronenberg a pretty obvious question about whether the success of A History of Violence has made projects possible that weren’t possible before and Cronenberg responds:

I believe it has. I’m hot for 10 minutes, you know? I take it with a grain of salt, but I appreciate it nonetheless. Suddenly people are considering me for scripts that I guarantee you they would not have considered me for before History. If you showed them Spider as my last movie, they would blanch. They’d get very nervous. Because it’s an art film with a capital A, and it’s low budget. My most expensive film is still History of Violence, which cost $32 million. This one was around $27 million. When people hear about movies costing $180 million, they may think that’s peanuts. But in fact, everyone involved takes $26 million very seriously, and so do I. It’s a lot of money.

Spider made the film festival circuit in 2002 and when Cronenberg presented it the AFI Film Festival that year, one of the things I remember him talking about was the difficulty getting money for movies. Looking back at that time, I don’t think it was at all a creative low for Cronenberg, but it was certainly a box office low. It was strange to see this relative giant of cinemas struggling to get financing. This was the guy who did The Dead Zone, The Fly, Scanners and Videodrome for chrissakes.

$32 million is nothing for a movie and it’s his most expensive. I wonder what Michael Bay could do with a Cronenberg budget. He’d be back to making milk commercials. You never hear Cronenberg complaining though. He’s enjoying his financial success while he has it (he’s had it before) and he’s smart enough to know it might only be temporary, but you get the sense he enjoys the freedom of being able to do his movies his way. He might not get to make every movie he wants to make, but each one is his. Without the massive expectations that come from enormous budgets, he’s free to be himself.

He’s a guy who might not be everyone’s cup of tea and who might not hit a home run every time he makes a movie, but you at least know it’s going to be personal and interesting. David Cronenberg is one of the good ones and Eastern Promises is still in theaters. Check it out.

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10 thoughts on “Cronenberg – Salon Interview

  1. Hey! I recognise your problem, I want my blog to feature my own writing mostly but there’s so much to link to! I chose for the option to have a “tumbling log” as well. Nobody visits it, but its also a repository for myself to keep track of things I noticed. It’s very easy to set up, and you can even put a “share on tumblr” button in your browser for quicker linking and inserting. The website’s http://www.tumblr.com , mine’s fruitstand.tumblr.com.

    It’s not an ideal solution, but I just thought I’d mention it 😀

  2. The crazy thing about that quote is that $32 million was a pretty typical sum for a Hollywood film of this style and production level TEN YEARS AGO. Today, a typical Hollywood film that would have the same level of star power, special effects, stunts, and production design would easily be double this price, somewhere in $60-80 million range. And let’s not ignore that Cronenberg shot much of this on location in England, not exactly a cheap place to shoot.

    And he has trouble getting a feature film this cheap financed?

    Hollywood is a mystery to me.

  3. Thanks for the tip Hedwig.

    I get the feeling Joel that if Cronenberg wanted to play ball, he could get funding. The fact that he doesn’t is what makes him interesting though.

    I don’t know the guy and I’m probably over-idealizing him, but I wonder if he’d take $100 million to make a movie if he couldn’t make the kind of movie he wanted to make.

  4. He’s turned down all kinds of movies, like Basic Instinct, and started work on others that went a different way, like Total Recall and Basic Instinct 2.

    It kind of makes you wonder about Hollywood, because filmmakers don’t _need_ to sell out in order to make the kinds of films they want to make within reasonable budgets. I’m sure that Cronenberg, or David Lynch or whoever you want to name, lives a very comfortable life and still is able to make films their way.

  5. And I guess I wonder if Cronenberg needs $100m. I mean, none of his movies over the last 15 years seem to have been struggling for special effects or stars or production values. In fact, I get the impression he’s just smarter about how he spends money than most Hollywood directors. Considering his early films were government funded efforts, I’m sure his entire mindset is about making the most with the least resources.

    Can you imagine if the NEA had funded Shivers, the Brood, or Scanners? Christ, Republicans would still be complaining about that today. The very fact that many foreign filmmakers (including them Cannucks) have come out of government-sponsored programs rather than a huge corporate enterprise tells you a lot about the differences between filmmaking in the US of A and well…everywhere else.

    OK, except maybe India.

  6. Joel, you’re lucky I don’t have a large readership or you’d have just unleashed a named shitstorm of The Day After Tomorrow magnitude. They’d have called it Hurricane Joel of 2007. Homeland Security would’ve sent out a memo. FEMA would’ve cowered in their trailers. Real Old Testament stuff.

    I’ve seen it happen. It’s not pretty.

    I would love to see the goverment more unrestrainedly supportive of arts and culture in this country, but on the other hand things have worked out pretty well movie-wise.

    Frankly, I’d also like to see the big studios doing more to support not-for-profit cinema as well. No one could cry about socialism if Warner Brothers donated money or production services or helped with distribution on small budgeted, indie films.

  7. Yeah, I realize I’m asking for it and honestly, our gov’ment doesn’t have the balls or the intelligence to place people in organizations like the NEA that would fund an up-and-coming visionary like a Cronenberg, a Lynch, or even the Coens, so I doubt it would matter much. For all it’s many, many negatives, the studio system is so big and so pervasive that it kind of works.

    It’s just sad to see that elsewhere in the world, film is seen primarily an artform and here it’s seen primarily as a commercial enterprise. I mean, that’s the real difference, isn’t it?

    And I say that knowing full well that the Cannucks et al make just as much commercial, mainstream crap movies per capita as do us wacky Americans. It’s just a difference in the basic mindset that stands out to me.

    Feel free to pound me with rancid fruit and vegetables. I will accept your slings and arrows, weary readers.

  8. Luckily I don’t think I attract the Limbaugh crowd.

    For the record, I’m with you. I’d like to see a better balance between art and commerce, but the way things stand make me appreciate the Lynchs and the Cronenbergs all that much more.

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