Several publications posted articles from their sit down time with Rob and David. Click the links below to check out their interviews. Excerpts:
How did Pattinson surprise you?
He literally surprised me every day, as he read dialogue and interacted with the other actors. We were throwing different factors at him almost very day because of the stucture of the screenplay. He really has extended scenes. With one actor at the end, Paul Giamatti, he really let it fly, in that he didn’t cling to a preconceived idea of what he should be doing. He reacted spontaneously to other actors as they surprised him and he surprised them. He was terrific and not predictable and dead-on accurate.
How many takes do you do?
One or two. The whole last shot was a long take with Giamatti, three minutes in that last 22-minute scene.
Congratulations on Cosmopolis, David. It is a wonderfully strange film, even by your standards — and I mean that in the most complimentary way.
David Cronenberg: [Laughs] Thanks.
I’m sure you’re quite weary of answering this question, but we do need to get it out of the way…
Robert Pattinson. There were plenty of people who were a little surprised when you picked him for the role, but I have to say he gives a really sublime performance. You knew what you were doing, clearly — so what was it that drew you to Robert?
Cronenberg: Well, casting always starts in a very pragmatic way. It’s, “Is this guy the right age for the character?” “Does he have the right sort of physique, the right screen presence?” “Is he available, and if so, can you afford him? Does he want to do it?” You know, all of those things. But then you do your homework as a director, more specifically, and you watch stuff. I watched Little Ashes, in which Rob plays a young Salvador Dali; I watched Remember Me; I watched the first Twilightmovie. And I watched — interestingly enough, I suppose, because people wouldn’t expect it — but you watch interviews with the guy on YouTube, you know. I want to get an idea of his sense of humor, his sense of himself, the way he handles himself, his intelligence — all of those things you can’t really tell from watching an actor play a role in a movie. I suppose in the old days you meet the guy and hang out, and go to a bar or whatever — [laughs] — but these days nobody has time for that, or the money, and so you do it some other way. And once I’d done all that stuff, I thought, This is the guy I want. I thought, He’d be terrific and I actually think he’s a very underrated actor — and it would be my pleasure to prove that by casting him.
What’s relatable about Eric might be that his world is so mediated by technology — he experiences the world at a remove, through screens, and so he’s struggling to feel something, whether it’s through sex or shooting a gun or gambling away his fortune. Do you think people can relate to that kind of alienation and wanting something real?
DC: One of the investors in the movie is a genuine French billionaire named Édouard Carmignac. He’s known as the French Warren Buffett. He wanted to be involved with this movie because he said it was absolutely accurate. He knows many people who are like this character, who have created this strange bubble that they live in. Within that bubble, they’re very alive and in control, and yet they’re completely disconnected from normal humanity, normal relationships. So Eric Packer says things to his wife like, “This is how people talk, right?” He’s trying it out, because he really doesn’t know. He’s dealing with billions of dollars, but he’s never actually touching real money, and he doesn’t know how to actually pay for things. Of course, Carmignac doesn’t think of himself as that person, but he recognizes it completely. So I take him at his word that it’s not such a stretch. People create a limo for themselves, a little spaceship, a little bell jar in which they insulate themselves from things that hurt.
RP: I think Eric is confused between genuine power and ego. He’s mixing the two up. I think a lot of people in that job find that empathy is a weakness, so he realizes that it’s a strength. I’ve read things that describe Eric as a monster, but I always thought the story was a hopeful progression. His biggest problem is that he’s totally self-obsessed. But he’s taking baby steps toward coming to terms with it. He’s had an extended adolescence in a lot of ways, and he’s really smart — he’s a savant. Some people are so entrenched in what they think they are, and he realizes that the only shock that can snap him out of himself is that someone is going to kill him.
You were expecting people to get up and leave? Because your character is so unsettling? He isarguably a sociopath.
RP: I think the walk-out thing actually is just the culture of filmmaking, I mean, it’s become a consumer thing. People think they’re being insulted when there’s a challenging movie. It’s so weird. People sit in a movie which they know is s**t and know they’re gonna talk to all their friends and say it’s s**t, but to sit there and watch a piece of s**t [laughs]. They’ll watch one which they know is kind of good and don’t really get it and have to walk out and be so offended. I don’t think I’ve ever walked out of a movie in my life. And people will be so offended by it, they can’t take it anymore.
DC: I think the walk-outs, I only know about from some of the Twi-Hard websites, because the girls are saying, “I was so shocked these people walked out of the movie.” They walk out because it’s too much talk. They can’t absorb it, and [don’t] let it wash over them and just not worry about that, which is really the way you handle that. Everything that’s said in the movie actually makes sense and is pretty intelligent, of course, from DeLillo, but there’s no way you can absorb it all. It comes at you so fast and so articulate, you know.
RP: People are panicking.
DC: Yeah, you should just let it wash over you, and naturally it’ll soak in or it won’t. It’s not gonna hurt you, but they can’t take it. I don’t think it has anything to do with the character that Rob plays, because, I mean, Hannibal Lecter’s pretty chilling and nobody walked out of that. Though [Rob’s character] Eric is … cuter.
In terms of the dialogue, did you work with the actors to create a consistent tone, or did you want the different actors to bring their own interpretations to how they would handle the words?
DC: Part of the pleasure for me was to see how different actors would cope with the specific rhythms of Don’s dialogue. The one mandate—and I never had to express it, it was obvious—was that you don’t change the dialogue. You say the script. Basically, you say the novel. But, given that, there’s incredible scope for invention and texturing and everything else. So part of the pleasure was to seeing how someone like Juliette Binoche would handle that dialogue playing it with Rob Pattinson. Two very different actors from very different traditions and yet, they’re in a car together batting that dialogue back and forth. Yes, of course you, as a director, have to make sure that all the actors are in the same movie. And certainly when you have Juliette parachuting in for just two days of shooting and Mathieu Amalric parachuting in for one day of shooting, there is the possibility that they might be hugely, wildly off the mark. You could play it very broadly and comedically and so I had to, as I say, make sure they’re all in the same movie. But within that arena, there’s a lot of scope for variation. I mean, it’s a series of little duets but the range and the tone is very different in each case.
Embarking on “Cosmopolis” appears to have been a process of letting go for Pattinson _ of self-awareness, of worry, of fear. Asked if he now feels certain he’s an actor, he quickly replies, “No.”
“As soon as you start existing in a certain world, you feel like you have tremendous amount of baggage all the time,” he says. “You get stuck in this rut where you want people to think you’re something else, but you’re too scared to do what that is to actually be the other person.
“Then you get a gift like this movie where it’s way easier than I thought it was,” he says. “You just do it. It doesn’t really matter if you fail.”
The actor said that Cronenberg was so legendary that Pattinson wasn’t even sure he was still making movies. “He’s one of those directors where he’s not even on a level of ‘Oh yeah I really want to work with him.'” That’s when Pattinson turned to Cronenberg and lovingly said, “You have an adjective!” To which Cronenberg exclaimed (with a kind of demented glee): “Cronenbergian!” Pattinson then continued: “It’s kind of changed my whole perception of who I can work with. There are people who I grew up watching who are so part of the film language that you don’t even realize that they’re still making movies.” Cronenberg then shot back: “That they’re still alive! Which is what he’s trying to say.”
Other than the anti-capitalist bent, one of the other things I took away from this film is Paul Giamatti is still unbelievably talented.
RP: I was kind of terrified about every single scene, because I would shoot with everyone for about three days, and me and Paul’s stuff was the last bit. But having these independent chunks, you kind of stay in a state of perpetual nervousness right up until the end, when I had this huge scene with him. Paul was luckily just as terrified as I was. Basically, I had no idea what was going to happen. But it’s really funny, that scene, we were playing it for laughs. It’s weird. The bit, where [Paul] is doing the thing about the women’s shoes and stuff, I’ve never really been in a scene where I literally started watching it, like I was watching a movie. It was so great. I didn’t even see the camera. I was literally just watching him, completely out of the scene. I kept forgetting to say my line. I mean, I think it’s one of the best things he’s ever done. I couldn’t even talk to him about it when we were doing it, because I knew if I started kissing his ass about doing it, I wouldn’t be able to come to work the next day. I thought he was amazing.
“The strength of the ‘Twilight’ movies is not the acting,” acknowledged Cronenberg. “But it’s not understood that doing ‘Twilight’ requires presence and professionalism. Are you saying this is an Academy Award performance, or Alec Guinness? That’s a whole other discussion. But you throw somebody on a grueling set like that — a normal person would be dead in an hour.”
Warming to his own defense, Pattinson interjected: “With this movie people keep saying, ‘Is this gonna be the movie where he can prove he can act?’ It’s like, ‘What do you think I have been doing?'”
“By the way,” Cronenberg added, “he’s a British guy doing an American accent. People don’t realize that there are a lot of very good actors who cannot do accents, and they don’t give Rob credit for that.”