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Viggo Mortensen And Léa Seydoux On Why They Loved Working With David Cronenberg On ‘Crimes of the Future’

Found By: Chrissie

Thanks again to Chrissie for this interview from where Viggo talks as much about not being in The Purple Rose of Cairo as he does about being in Crimes of the Future.

Viggo Mortensen (or, as he was once called, "Morganstern," more on that in a bit) has reteamed with David Cronenberg for their fourth collaboration, Crimes of the Future. Cronenberg is very much one of these directors where actors seem to come back for more time and time again. This is Léa Seydoux's first time working with Cronenberg and she didn't know what to expect.

Mortensen and Seydoux play Saul and Caprice, a couple who put on underground art shows in which Caprice operates on Saul, removing unwanted organs from his body that grow from a condition that, if not removed, they will kill him. So Saul's disease is literally turned into a sensual art performance. As the film goes on, the couple are faced with a situation where they have to decide what's going too far in the sake of art in a way that only Cronenberg can really explore quite like this. There are, let's say, unpleasant scenes in Crimes of the Future, but they are all there to drive the plot, not to shock. Considering the subject matter, it's funny to hear from Mortensen and Seydoux what a fun shoot this was and there were real moments of laughter on set. It's no wonder people keep wanting to work with Cronenberg.

Mortensen had this whole career before he became incredibly famous from the Lord of the Rings movies, which means you can be watching almost anything from the mid-80s until the late 90s (Witness, Young Guns II, Daylight, to name a few) and Mortensen just might pop up. I mention this to Seydoux, which leads Mortensen to tell a very detailed story about how he was cut out of Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo, to which Seydoux even seemed shocked by this. And the way Mortensen tells it, he still seems just a little pissed about it.

Did you see the Crimes of the Future board game tweet?

Viggo Mortensen: Yes.

What do you think of that?

Viggo Mortensen: Well, we saw the game actually.

It's real?

Viggo Mortensen: Someone showed it to us. It looks real. It was a game with a doll. Yeah, there was some buzzers and things.

So it's like Operation?

Viggo Mortensen: Yeah. At least part.

That would be a very unusual game to own.

Viggo Mortensen: We should steal it. It would be worth the money.

You should definitely steal it.

Viggo Mortensen: We'll try to steal an extra one for you.

That would make my day. It's one thing if I just had it. If you stole it for me, that's a much better story.

Viggo Mortensen: Good story. We'll see.

Are you happy with the reaction to this movie? Because David Cronenberg predicted people would walk out at Cannes.

Viggo Mortensen: I think he was joking.

Oh, he was joking? Because people printed that as he was serious.

Viggo Mortensen: Well, they take him literally a lot.

Léa Seydoux: People will walk out? He said that?

Viggo Mortensen: Yeah. I think he has fun. People don't realize how funny he is, actually.

I think if you've seen his movies, you know he's really funny.

Viggo Mortensen: Absolutely.

Have you always wanted to be in one of his Videodrome-type movies?

Viggo Mortensen: I never thought about it. Each story that he tells is quite different. Even the ones of the so-called body horror, or whatever people label it as. I don't think he labels it that way. But each one is quite different, what it's dealing with.

But it harkens back, imagery-wise, to certain movies that he made 20, 30 years ago. But he's changed as a filmmaker. He's leaner, more precise. He's evolved and learned from his own experience. And so working with him, even the first one, A History of Violence, to now, he's become more specific and precise about the amount of shots, the amount of takes. He knows what he needs. He knows when he has it. He's already editing the movie in his head. So it's been great to watch him do that.

Léa hadn't worked with him before, so what are your expectations going in?

Léa Seydoux: For me, it's the first time. So no, I didn't know really what to expect. And I like that. Sometimes you have the script and you get the story immediately, you understand everything. I mean, everything. It's like, it's clear. And sometimes you read something and you're like, Oh my God, how am I going to do this? How is this going to work?

There had to be a lot of moments in this script where you're thinking that. "How would this even work?"

Léa Seydoux: Yeah, exactly. But I like that feeling as well. I think that I like the challenge. So I was like, how am I going to fit in this world? But then I met David and he was so kind and nice and I really loved him as a person. I thought he was, first, extremely funny. Very intelligent. And we got along immediately. There was this tacit connection, when you feel that you speak the same language, in a way, that it was like we didn't need words. It was just… and yeah.

People seem to keep wanting to do movies with him after they do one. There's a lot of history of people coming back. Anyway, it seems like it works that way, but I don't know if it's that easy.

Viggo Mortensen: Well, yes. Sometimes you're in movies that turn out well and they're interesting, but maybe the experience of making it was really difficult. But then the final thing, you're like, Okay, yeah, it was worth it. With him, every time I worked with him, it's enjoyable. It's not only an adventure, but it's a fun adventure. You do laugh. You make friendships. He makes something that's very complex. But there's a lot of thought that goes into it. He's very precise about his work. But it's relaxed, and you feel like almost anything could happen and it would be okay to try anything. In other words, there's a trust that he inspires.

What's an example that?

Viggo Mortensen: When we're in the sock together, for example. We didn't really talk about it with him. It was like, Okay, we see what's on the page, but how are we going to do it? Or when she's operating on me and how do these remote controls work? If we have any questions, he'll explain in detail whatever we want. But if there are no questions, then we're in it together. We're just trying. And you would think, because he's so precise, that he does storyboards and lots of rehearsing. No rehearsing. No storyboards. He's not one of these directors who's insecure and he needs everybody to realize that he knows everything and it's all controlled and it's all my plan. He trusts people. And when you feel like you're trusted as an artist or as a technician, you want to do a good job for that person because you are encouraged and your contribution is respected. Not all directors have this ability to inspire good work in that way.

Do you feel that way, too? You've obviously been in a lot of big movies. Was this a unique experience?

Léa Seydoux: Yeah. It was a unique experience and it's not always the… One can be very different from another. But first, David doesn't work for somebody. He works for himself.

He seems maybe one of the few directors of that stature that is in that situation.

Léa Seydoux: Exactly. Yeah. It's his ideas and it really comes from his mind, which makes a huge difference. And what I loved about the working with him is that I love the meaning that lies underneath. I find this extremely interesting and it's not made to entertain, in a way. It's not made to feed you with images.

Viggo Mortensen: Or shock you or anything.

Léa Seydoux: Yeah. To shock you. It's really just a way to… a reflection.

Viggo Mortensen: There are some artists in the story who are superficial. Sort of sent up. But it made me think about, yeah, there are movies that are shocking and have a lot of surface provocation and then there's not much substance underneath it. And those movies, even if you liked it the first time, the second and third time, you maybe see less. They're less interesting. You might fast forward through it. Whereas his movies, each time you watch them, you see something more. And as time goes by, they become strangely relevant later on. And this script he wrote 24 years ago, 1998, it's really relevant now. Not that he's trying to be a prophet. He just happens to be thinking outside the box and extrapolating, Okay, well, maybe this could happen. I can create this world that's very particular because I'm thinking about this subject matter in my own life, about where we might be headed as creatures.

When I spoke to you for Falling I mentioned this and it happened again. Léa have you ever noticed with him, you can be watching some older movie, he just pops up in it. It's like, "What's Viggo Mortensen doing in Young Guns II?"

Viggo Mortensen: I'm ancient!

I watched Witness recently. What are you doing in Witness? How are you in all these movies?

Viggo Mortensen: That was very early. That was the first movie I was in where I wasn't cut out of the movie.

What were you cut out of?

Viggo Mortensen: The Purple Rose of Cairo.

What? Really?

Léa Seydoux: Yeah? Really?

Viggo Mortensen: Yeah. And Swing Shift. I really liked the part in Purple Rose of Cairo, too. It was a funny story. But it was Woody Allen. I went to this audition. They said, "We want to meet you for this thing." I said, "Can I see the script?" "No, no, no. You can't see it you're just going to meet him and he's going to decide if you're in the movie." I said okay. And then when I got to the office of the casting person, they said, "Now, don't be surprised if this goes very quickly and if he doesn't talk to you." I said, "Okay. Am I going into a room in which he is in?" "He will be there. It'll just be the two of you."

So I walk in and he's sitting in a chair behind a table and he's looking at me. And I'm standing there and I see there's a chair. And I look at the chair and he looks at the chair like, "What's he going to do? What's this actor going to do with the chair?" So I sit down, looking at him, and he's looking at me. And then after a long time, he says, "Hello." And I said, "Hello." It seemed like about 10 minutes, but maybe another minute goes by, and he's just sort of looking at me. And he goes, "Thank you." And I'm like, "Oh, I guess that means I'm done." So I stood up and I walked out, and I'm going, "What the ****?"

So I said to my agent, "That was really bizarre, and I don't think it went very well." And she said, "No, no, you've got the part." I go, "What is the part?" And she said, "I don't know. I know it's something that takes place in the 1920s or the '30s, silent movie era, and you're just in the scene as some kind of Hollywood party." So I got a ride in, I don't know, a van out to Long Island. This is the middle of winter and in this big mansion. I go in and there are hundreds of actors and actresses, all in these costumes, like wow. I had no experience, really. Short films. So this is amazing.

And then I go in and there's this row of makeup, hair. And I had really long hair down to here then, so they were like, "We're going to cut your hair a little bit, okay?" And I said, "Well, just a little bit." And they go, "Well, you have to fit the period." Whoosh! And then it's slicked back and parted and I don't know what. And this nice suit, like a tuxedo. And then they said, "Well, sit down and wait here," in this hallway with all these other actors, waiting hours. I'm like, "What are we doing? Can I see the scene so I can prepare?" "No, you'll be told what to do." So then finally I go. They finally say, "Da da da da, Morganstern!" "It's Mortensen."

Viggo Mortensen: And then off I go with all these other actors into this room and there's this fabulous cupola kind of dome. It was a very nice mansion — living room and marble floors and an orchestra, I think. And lots of cocktails. And they said, "Here, this is yours," and it's like a martini but it was water. And Woody Allen's standing there by the camera and he's talking to an actor, he's whispering in his ear, this other actor about my age. But he had darker hair and maybe a mustache or something.

And then he says, "Okay, let's do one." And I say, "Mr. Allen, what do you want me to do?" He says, "You react to him." And action. And then he comes over. I have no ****ing idea. And he says, "So how was it like, working in the new DeMille picture?" Cecil B. DeMille, right? And I'm thinking, and the camera's rolling, and I'm like, "Um." So then I made up this story. I decided, well, I feel like a really stupid actor, so that's what I'm going to play. So I told him how my arms got really tired because I was standing and it was like this tree with another big log, and I was just wearing these diapers and I had all these thorns in my head, and fake blood, and I also had to have my arms up this whole time and I was really exhausted. And then this Roman guy was poking at me with a stick and I didn't know what the hell was going on. Like, I was such a stupid actor I didn't even know I was playing Jesus Christ. And so that was the thing.

And then Woody Allen was chuckling. He loved that. And he said, "That's really good. Let's do it one more time." I go, "What do you want me to do?" And he goes, "Do the same thing." So I did it again. And then I heard from my agent, they called to say he loved it. He loved the Jesus improv and great, great, great. And then I told my mother, a year later, when it was coming out. "Friday, it's coming out!" And then I see that I'm not in it. I'm not in the credits. And this happened to me twice. Then Swing Shift also.

And if anyone is wondering about the game referred to:

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Viggo in L.A.

Found By: Chrissie

Thanks to Chrissie for sending this along. Q&A from the AMC Grove on 4th June:

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David Cronenberg and his muse Viggo Mortensen talk ‘Crimes of the Future’ and living in the present

Source: The Toronto Star.
Found By: Chrissie

Thanks to Chrissie for bringing us this piece. Excellent interview by Marriska Fernandes at the Toronto Star:

It’s easy to see why prolific Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg and his longtime collaborator Viggo Mortensen often work together: they have a shared sense of humour, a calm demeanour and a fatalistic view of life.

'Crimes of the Future' premiere, Toronto - 30 May 2022
'Crimes of the Future' premiere, Toronto - 30 May …
Image Chris Young.
© The Canadian Press.
Ahead of the North American premiere of his film "Crimes of the Future" in Toronto earlier this week, the duo sat down for with the Star to talk about the film and their long-standing collaboration. Within minutes, it was clear they have a strong camaraderie that's led to a familiar shorthand with each other. When asked what draws them toward this partnership project after project, Toronto-born Cronenberg quipped with a grin, "Over the years he's gotten cheaper."

One might assume that the Canadian icon is edgy and dark given the films he makes, but his demeanour was quite the opposite. He was calm, cool and collected, polite with a dry sense of humour that can catch one off guard.

Cronenberg and Mortensen have a friendship and partnership that spans almost two decades, evident in their witty comebacks and easy rapport. New York-born Mortensen has starred in three of Cronenberg's films: "A History of Violence," "Eastern Promises" and "A Dangerous Method."

The pair last worked together on Mortensen's directorial debut "Falling," where the roles were reversed and Cronenberg had an acting part.

"I was well prepared," Mortensen, 63, said of their time filming his debut. "The Toronto crew was very nervous when he walked in. But then he tells them some jokes in very poor taste and then they realize, 'Oh, he's actually an idiot,'" he joked.

Cronenberg, 79, spoke about the understanding that they have as filmmakers and friends, "We are professionals, unbelievable as it seems, so it means that we can say no to each other. If I offered Viggo a role, and he really feels he's not right for or doesn't connect with it, he has to be able to say no, and I am not going to be shattered and think he's not my friend anymore. And the reverse is true. If Viggo had a project or a script that he wanted me to direct, I would have to say no if I really didn't want to do it. So there's that respect and that professionalism despite the tomfoolery that we enjoy."

When Mortensen, a three-time Oscar-nominated actor, first read the script for "Crimes of the Future," which Cronenberg wrote and directed, he told him, "this is essentially a classic film noir story and I really like it."

Cronenberg's return to his body horror roots

Cronenberg is arguably the master of the body horror genre (some would say he owns the genre), which was evident in his cult classics like "Shivers," "Scanners" and "Videodrome."

"Crimes of the Future" is a return to the maestro's early days as a body horror filmmaker. The film made its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, where it earned a six-minute standing ovation from the audience.

Also starring Kristen Stewart and Léa Seydoux, the movie is set in a future when people's bodies have begun producing new organs, pain is non-existent and plastic is consumed in place of food. Mortensen plays Saul, a performance artist, who develops new organs inside him, which his partner Caprice (Seydoux) tattoos while still in his body and then removes in front of an audience.

The human body has always been a through line in Cronenberg's work and he believes that as a filmmaker you have to be obsessed with the human body.

"I'm an atheist; I don't believe in an afterlife so I accept that this physical presence is what you are. To me, the body is where it all starts. As a filmmaker, what do you photograph most? You're photographing the human body. That's your subject and through that you explore the human condition. So to me, a director who's not obsessed with the human body is not really a director. That is my point of view. Really, that's your subject," he said candidly.

Mortensen shares the same sentiments about the body, connecting it to mortality, adding, "There are different ways of looking at your life and your body, and there's different ways of getting older or dealing with illness. Some people become extremely depressed, irritated, angry, resentful, and they don't really come out of that. Then other people can be irritated about it but have a sense of humour and make the most of it.

"If you can't make fun of yourself and your journey to the end, and all the things you go through, then it's going to be less enjoyable of a ride."

Cronenberg thinks of himself as a "classic existentialist and that there's an absurdity to human life, but that doesn't depress you, it actually should make you laugh. It's something that you could use as a source of strength actually."

Cronenberg isn't out to shock audiences

While there are some uncomfortable and disturbing scenes in the movie — the opening scene involves the death of a child — the film is a social commentary on humanity, creativity, technology and climate change. Like most of his films, "Crimes" is equal parts ambitious and thought-provoking, a dark satire meant to entertain and start a dialogue. Cronenberg had predicted that his film would make viewers walk out of screenings at Cannes and a few attendees did. But shocking views has never been his intention.

"I don't ever think I'm shocking anybody. I know that seems naive or even hypocritical but honestly, with the death of the kid at the beginning, I'm a father and I have four grandchildren, but the murder of a child by his mother … is that a shock? Or is it just a dramatic possibility? I read about it every other day. Some mother has drowned her kids. It's strange and disturbing stuff.

"So I'm really saying to the audience, I have had these ideas, these visions, these narrative possibilities, and some of them I find disturbing to me, some I find troubling, some amusing and provocative. So I'm inviting you to come along with me and share my reactions or maybe you'll have a different reaction to these. So it's really more of collaboration with the audience," he explained.

Mortensen liked the film's commentary on censorship and repression. "There was one aspect of the story that I really liked when I first read it, apart from the film noir aspect, which was the idea of censorship and how people are afraid of what's new, whether it's movies or technology. There seems to be a tension between people being hungry for new things and then, on the other side, people being afraid of it and defending themselves against it. That tension inevitably leads to repression from the authorities."

British-Canadian actor Scott Speedman, who stars in the film as a mysterious, radical leader, said in a separate interview, "It's a very classic David Cronenberg movie, a body horror movie that isn't just a gore fest. It's very much a character-based movie about two people trying to figure it out. Really, it's a love story between Saul and Caprice."

Fear isn't part of the equation

The film is a deep, dark dive into the themes of creativity and performance art. Asked what their fear is when they put their work out there as filmmakers and artists, Cronenberg joked, "It was falling down the red carpet at Cannes" while Mortensen quipped it was that nobody would show up for their film.

Cronenberg said he doesn't have any fear. "If people don't respond or they reject it, that's just part of the deal. That's part of the contract you have with your audience that you will offer them something and they will react, and they could have a negative reaction. But that doesn't induce fear, though."

Mortensen said he's confident about the film. "I would only be worried if in my heart I felt it wasn't a very good movie, then I'm worried that other people might feel that way too. But I don't feel that way. I liked the movie. I think it's really well-made and thought-provoking. I think that David ended up doing what he wanted to do and more."

The Cronenberg effect

Mortensen once said that Cronenberg is one of the most uniquely gifted filmmakers today. "I take that back," he said when asked to elaborate. "He wrote that for me and I regretted saying that." Cronenberg laughed and adds, "I forced him to say that."

Mortensen feels the added layers in Cronenberg's movies are what draws fans. "I think because audiences — whether they love the movie or are somewhere in between — recognize that there is original thinking going on, that he's not showing images or writing dialogue purely for effect, that there is something underneath and they know they're going to go on a ride. They know that if they see the movie again, they're going to see even more layers to it."

Cronenberg wrote the script for "Crimes of the Future" in 1998 and didn't change it at all when it came time to finally directing it in Athens during the pandemic. "It's as valid as ever now and it leaves the audience with room to think for themselves," Mortensen said. "There are not many filmmakers like that; there's certainly not many movies, even ones that I like, or when I see them a second or third time, that I find more to be interested in, more to think about in terms of what's going on in society or even my own life."

Speedman, who grew up in Toronto, described Cronenberg as "the most quietly confident director I've worked with. He's very gentle, sweet, hilarious. He's a rascal too, which I love. He creates that atmosphere on set, no matter how dark or weird of a movie it is. He's not an edgy dark guy."

Cronenberg's legacy

Canadian actor and filmmaker Don McKellar, who also stars in "Crimes of the Future," said he wouldn't have pursued his career if it wasn't for the famed filmmaker; he is "the example of a career in Canada."

Cronenberg said he is happy to be an influence but doesn't think about his legacy.

"It really pleases me when young filmmakers come and say that I'm the reason that they're in film. It's very satisfying when somebody like Julia Ducournau says that I really influenced her filmmaking and she won the Palme d'Or last year. It's very sweet. But honestly, as a card-carrying existentialist, when I'm dead I don't care. It's irrelevant," he said.

A long time ago, one of his goals as a director might have been to become an adjective, like Felliniesque — at which point I reminded him of the term Cronenbergian. He smiled and said he prefers "Cronenburgundian," adding, "I can't deny that it's pleasing, but I don't have a goal in terms of legacy."

Both Cronenberg and Mortensen share views on being present and not thinking about the future. Cronenberg's mantra is a simple one: "Be here now. It's not an easy thing to do to be living in the moment and not worrying about the past or the future. It's a lot of work, but be here now."

Mortensen added, "I think the fact that we can die tomorrow is a stimulus. It gets me out of bed and it gets me going."

The pair's potential next move

It's clear that there will be more to come from this duo. "I'm hoping Viggo offers me a role," Cronenberg said with a twinkle in his eye. "It's a Western and I need to learn how to ride a horse.

"As a kid, all I ever saw was Westerns," he added. "I mean, from 'Hopalong Cassidy' to 'The Durango Kid.' When I was a kid in the '40s and '50s, every other movie, every other TV series was a Western. It's hard to believe that now because it's such a discredited genre, sort of like it's racist, but to be in a Western that would be fabulous." He turned to Mortensen: "We've never talked about it before, but I'm going on the record."

© Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. Images © The Canadian Press.

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Viggo-Works 2022 Webserver Fundraiser!

Categories: Viggo-Works

Hey. It is that time of year when we renew our website server services and ensure that we are
in the best position possible to continue to bring you Viggo-Works without interruption.
Servers are servers, but if you read the news, the real threat to everything on the internet is hackers and cyber terrorism. These continued threats are nebulous but very, very real. Our current webserver is outstanding and they keep us safe from unwanted intrusions.

And so, we again ask for your support for the cost of our webserver to keep Viggo-Works running.
Those of you who have contributed over the years have earned our undying gratitude. Thank you all so very much.

Please contribute, as you are able, to keep us going so that we can continue to enjoy Viggo-Works every day and every week.

This year I have surfaced (from my library) an exquisite and unique prize. It is the exhibit opening gift packet of content and images from the 2006 showing, THE NATURE OF LANDSCAPE AND INDEPENDENT PERCEPTION. The exhibit opened on January 14, 2006 at the Track 16 Gallery, and was the joint creation of the late Georg Gudni (author of 'STRANGE FAMILIAR') and Viggo. There were only 500 of the gift packets offered and they were gone in minutes. This one is 230/500, and as you can see, it was signed by both Georg Gudni and Viggo.
What a rare opportunity to snag it for your own!

Once again, everyone who makes a contribution to our server fund this year will automatically be entered into a special drawing for the signed Exhibit Opening Gift Packet.

Each contribution will automatically be entered (one entry per person please).

I also have surfaced a couple of unique and fun smaller prizes that we will give out along the way. So, stay tuned!

To make a contribution to our webserver fund and
to keep Viggo-Works on the net . . . AND . . . be eligible for the signed book . . . please click onthe PayPal button you see here on the LEFT hand side of our News Page.


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Another Nice Article

Source: The Globe and Mail Inc.
Found By: Chrissie

Thanks to Chrissie for bringing this our way. Another nice article - this time from the Globe and Mail.


David Cronenberg is not the sicko you think he is

'Crimes of the Future' premiere, Toronto - 30 May 2022
'Crimes of the Future' premiere, Toronto - 30 May …
Image Chris Young.
© The Canadian Press.
by Barry Hertz

David Cronenberg is not some sicko – though everybody seems to want him to be.

Actress/collaborator Kristen Stewart admiringly calls Cronenberg's films "deviant art." Critics repeatedly praise the filmmaker's "gut-twisting" sensibility. And there is an entire online community of fans trading on fevered anticipation of what perverted nightmares the King of Pain might deliver next. Perhaps this sicko-cinema reputation can be traced back to the early '70s, when journalist Robert Fulford infamously slammed Cronenberg's Shivers as "sadistic pornography ... a disgrace to everyone connected with it – including the taxpayers." Which is possibly the best-worst thing a young Canadian filmmaker could be accused of producing during the country's tax-shelter boom.

But while Cronenberg's movies are grossly extreme and/or extremely gross – bodies break and bend, flesh is pulled and peeled – they are not devised by some sadistic psychopath hiding out in his Forest Hill house of horrors. David Cronenberg is an ordinary 79-year-old Toronto artist who walks to the corner store to buy milk and bananas. Or so says David Cronenberg.

"In my personal life I'm pretty bourgeoisie, mainstream. Nobody notices me or cares. I understand what Kristen means, but it's hard for me to think of myself as a deviant," the filmmaker says with a laugh. "In terms of the work, it's all natural stuff. Within the film community, maybe it's not considered mainstream. But for me, it's normal. Doing a biopic like A Dangerous Method is more deviant to me than doing Videodrome."

Cronenberg is back in Toronto this morning after spending a month in France, a good chunk of it at the Cannes Film Festival, where his new movie, Crimes of the Future, made its world premiere. The film, a darkly hilarious noir about a performance artist named Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) who grows new organs inside his body while humanity comes to terms with the mysterious disappearance of pain, was tracked not only by its polarizing first wave of reviews but also by a curious game of film-fest number-crunching. Such as: seven, the length in minutes of the film's standing ovation. And: 15, the number of walk-outs, presumably from audience members who could not bear to stomach the film's fascination with stomachs.

As with everything Cronenberg, though, reality is less disgusting. The walkouts were reported from Crimes of the Future's press screening, which typically has journalists flitting in and out due to competing obligations. During the movie's actual Cannes premiere inside the Grand Théâtre Lumiére, there was just one walkout: Cronenberg, who had to go to the bathroom. He came back, too.

"The walkout reports are, you know, whatever. I mentioned [before the premiere] that I thought it might happen, so everyone locked onto it," the director says today, sipping coffee inside the decidedly non-sicko Shangri-La Hotel in downtown Toronto.

"David loves playing into that, it speaks to his quiet confidence," Scott Speedman, who costars in Crimes as a quasi-antagonist to Mortensen's character, says in a separate interview. "A lot of the headlines out of this movie are all 'crazy gore fest.' But that's not what I see."

It isn't hard to understand the gross-out expectations, whetted by the digital lips of a Film Twitter left insatiable. Crimes of the Future is Cronenberg's first film in eight years, arriving not long after the filmmaker mused about retiring altogether. Also, in the time since Cronenberg released his 2014 Hollywood satire Maps to the Stars and today, the world has inevitably changed, arguably becoming more unhinged in the process. In our increasingly religious devotion to celebrity, apocalyptic chaos,and the merging of the organic and the synthetic, it is as if the culture has finally caught up to what Cronenberg has been saying in his films all along (in Crimes' specific case, a very long time ago indeed – the script was first written in the late '90s, titled Painkillers).

Add the rise of instant online discourse, allowing an entirely new generation to latch onto the filmmaker's prophesying, and we've become little sickos ourselves.

It is at this point that I quickly, futilely introduce Cronenberg and Mortensen, who is joining his director for today's round of interviews, to the "Sicko Haha Yes" meme – an old cartoon from the satirical Onion website picturing a sadistic creep, which has over the past few years morphed into extreme-online shorthand for fans of the Cronenbergian shock-cinema canon. Thankfully, neither the director nor his leading man have ever heard of the gag, again confirming that Cronenberg, the Filmmaker, and Cronenberg, the Reputation, exist in entirely separate realities. His work is a product of his, and not our, environment.

"Well, I wouldn't let this guy into my film. But yes, I have no idea what this is," Cronenberg says while studying the image on my phone with a wry smile. "I do, though, consider Viggo totally deviant."

The two continue to gently rib each other, mirroring the pair's long and fruitful professional relationship. Crimes of the Future marks Cronenberg and Mortensen's fourth collaboration – fifth, if you count Cronenberg's cameo in Mortensen's directorial debut Falling – and it feels like the most symbiotic. As Saul, who practices his internal-organ art with a monk-like devotion, Mortensen more than once seems to channel a lovable imitation of his own director. Given that Saul laments the pain that his work is causing him – an echo of what Cronenberg told me three years earlier, describing filmmaking as an art requiring a willingness to "suffer" – just how much of the director can be found in his new-old creation?

"I'm going to defer to Viggo here," Cronenberg offers. "He's said, controversially, that this is my most autobiographical movie. I have no idea what he means by that ..."

"Well, it's a good headline," Mortensen picks it up. "Saul is entirely different than David, but there are certain things about his intellectual approach that reminded me of David. There's also a certain putting oneself out there, physically and emotionally. You also might think Saul is a hard person, uncompromising. But then you get to know him and you realize there's a tenderness, and a commitment to his art."

"Also, I tend to cut my stomach open and offer parts of it," Cronenberg adds.

"That's obvious," says Mortensen. "But he doesn't heal as quickly as Saul."

In that way, David Cronenberg's Crimes of the Future could be read as a metaphor for the challenges of making a David Cronenberg film. The movie contains plenty of talk about the importance of Saul's "star" power, the expectations of "shock," and the inevitably of becoming "self-referential." Then again, Crimes is just as easily understood as a climate-change treatise, with its emphasis on rot and decay. Or it's a hardboiled noir pivoting on double crosses and secret agendas. Or maybe a romance, with a beautifully squishy love story between Saul and his partner Caprice (Léa Seydoux). Or perhaps an organ is just an organ. And as a director, Cronenberg muses, you continue to offer those up to the world until you're dead.

"How many do I have left? God only knows," he says. "I do have to keep myself alive. But beyond that, I didn't think I would be making another movie, that was certainly true."

Hopefully, Cronenberg's insides are still sufficient enough to get through his next two projects: The Shrouds, a thriller starring Vincent Cassel (Mortensen's costar in Eastern Promises and A Dangerous Method) set to film next year, and Consumed, a long-gestating adaptation of Cronenberg's own 2014 novel, which he is aiming to get off the ground with Crimes producer Robert Lantos.

"Each time we work together, it's been hard to raise the money," says Mortensen. "On A Dangerous Method, [producer Jeremy Thomas] came halfway through the shoot saying, 'Good news, we can finish the movie,' I didn't realize we only had enough money until then to only finish the week."

"Part of it is happenstance – you hit the right groove and people are more encouraged," Cronenberg replies, noting that it took 19 separate entities – government funds, private investors, distributors – to get Crimes financed. "The world economy also affects independent movies. If you have some oligarchs investing in your films, well suddenly that becomes a thing. That's what brilliant producers like Robert face. It's not about knowing where the bodies are hidden, but where the money is hidden."

As for whether Cronenberg is still, like Saul, willing to suffer to make The Shrouds, Consumed and Sicko-Meme-knows-what-else, the director plays the happy victim.

"I seem to be willing to suffer because it's also fun. Working with Viggo and a whole new world of actors perks you up," he says. "These things keep you going – and allow the suffering to not hurt quite so much."

© The Globe and Mail Inc. Images © The Canadian Press.

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Last edited: 30 June 2022 13:17:12