From Oregon Live (click to read the full interview)
Given the heavy New York atmosphere of the film, it’s something of a surprise that Cronenberg should have chosen the British actor Robert Pattinson for the lead role. Pattison is best known, of course, for the relatively featherweight demands of the “Twilight” films, which reveal little of the heavy, internal and intellectual stuff that “Cosmopolis” demands. After declaring that “casting is a black art: there’s no rule book to guide you,” Cronenberg explains that he watched some of Pattinson’s non-“Twilight” work, especially “Little Ashes,” in which he played the young Salvador Dalí, and felt he’d found his man. Still, he admits, there is, in all such matters, a leap of faith.
“It’s just intuiting that he can do the role,” he says. “Because you’re asking him here to do things he hasn’t done before. But I was convinced by the time that I had done all my work that he was the right guy. I knew he was good, and he surprised me by how good he was.”
From IFC (click to read the full interview)
IFC: You mentioned wanting to see great actors speak the dialogue, and the movie is filled with them. But I’m curious about Robert Pattinson, who’s still a young actor and doesn’t have nearly as much experience as some of the supporting cast, but has a massive following. When you have a project like this, do you do more tailoring of the script to fit his strengths, or more work with him to match his abilities and talents to the material?
CRONENBERG: For all the actors, you don’t really know what you’re going to get. Except for some auditions that a few actors did for certain roles, I never heard the dialogue spoken until we were shooting. With Rob in particular, I never heard that particular dialogue spoken until we were shooting. You go into filming with confidence that you have the right guy, but you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. There’s a very organic thing that goes on in “Cosmopolis” that’s very spontaneous, because until Robert’s sitting in the limo with the actual actor opposite him who he’s playing the scene with — and there are so many different actors who come in and out of that limo — he doesn’t know how he’s going to react, because he’s not acting in a vacuum. He’s reacting to the other actor. . . . For example, the very first scene we shot was in the limo with Jay Baruchel. Rob was shocked by how Jay was playing it, because he was playing it with so much emotion and vulnerability, and Rob had never anticipated that. So he had to react to that. That’s the excitement of the movie: you mix all of these things that are potent and good, but you don’t really know what you’re going to get from that.
IFC: It’s sort of like cooking…
CRONENBERG: [Laughs] Yes, it is. It’s like cooking a meal you’ve never made before.
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IFC: On the subject of changes form the source material, I’m going to get into spoiler territory here for a moment and ask you about the end of the movie and how it differs from the book. The movie leaves things more uncertain than the book, it seems…
CRONENBERG: It’s hard to discuss without spoilers, but it would’ve been very easy to put a gunshot on the soundtrack and you would know that Eric was murdered. And in the book you know that he’s murdered, or at least if you believe Benno, he’s been murdered — but that’s the thing, because Benno is not exactly a trustworthy narrator. In the book there is still some scope for uncertainty as to Eric’s fate, but as we were shooting that last scene, I loved that these two guys were frozen in that last moment — almost frozen in an eternity of uncertainty. They’re bound together. They’re locked together in this sort of archetypal moment. I thought the moment should be eternal.
IFC: I can picture you going, “And cut it right… there!”
CRONENBERG: [Laughs] Basically, yeah. So it was more like that than a dramatic thing. It wasn’t like, “Oh, I can’t stand to have this character killed,” or “Rob’s fans won’t like it if I shoot Robert,” or anything like that. I wasn’t worry about that stuff. It was really spontaneous. As I mentioned, we could’ve easily made it clear that he’s killed, cutting to black with the sound of a gunshot.
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From Indiewire (click to read the full interview)
How did you wrestle with the verbose dialogue and own it? You essentially talk in wordy, extended diatribes in your scene opposite Robert Pattinson.
Well, I mean it was nice dialogue to say. It’s eccentric, and it’s definitely got a rhythm. It was a bit of a trick to feel your way into it. My character, he’s got a very elaborate fantasy life. He’s got a very intense story playing out in his own head about the other guy and about himself and this relationship. So I think one of the ways it helped me to feel like I could bring the dialogue to life was to make sure that I was constructing this elaborate, emotional life behind all these words so I could connect them all up. And it was weird, the leaps and logic between the speeches -- all of a sudden somebody would start talking about something that seems completely unconnected. So I had to make all these connections, and once I could emotionally figure out what was going on, the words then came pretty easily.
"Something about his style as a filmmaker seems to fit well with the book." It’s odd dialogue, it seems very kind of bare. I don't know if it’s very complex and intellectual, but it actually comes to an emotional life very well, at least for me. And I think that guy is, as you say, in some ways the most sympathetic because he’s the most visibly emotionally engaged.
Was it difficult to act opposite Pattinson, whose character is beyond detached from any semblance of emotion? Or did his passivity fuel the scene?
It's like a therapy session in that you keep switching back and forth between, who’s the therapist and who’s the patient? And so yes, some of his passivity absolutely brought a lot of it to life for me.
How long did you and Robert have to shoot the scene?
I think it took us about two-and-a-half days, maybe? You know, it’s a long scene. I think it was nearly twenty pages long, which is a lot for a single scene. So they had set aside maybe four or five days, but it only took us two and a half.
From Film School Rejects (click to read the full interview)
The tone of Cosmopolis is this very straight-faced, serious type of wacky. How did Cronenberg describe the tone to you?
You know, he didn’t, in a lot of ways. I think he just trusted we’d get a sense of it. Even though the dialogue is very odd, you know what his sensibility is anyway, so you kind of know what the tone is. I did something I don’t normally do on a movie…I just came in at the end, after they shot most of the movie, and I asked David if I could watch the footage, because I wanted to see the tone of the movie and what Rob looked like, talked like, and moved like. I felt it was something I needed to see, because I’m playing a guy who always has a fantasy of him in his head. I did ask to see the footage for exactly what you just said: it’s an odd tone. I wanted to just watch some of it, so I could see how I could fit into it and, in some ways, veer off of it.
It is similar to a few of his previous film in how abstract the story can be at times. When you get a script this dense and full of symbolism, do you try to apply meaning to everything or do you just go with it?
In this instance, with this script, I read this whole script many, many times. I usually do that anyway, but, on this, it felt essential for me to read it a bunch of times. It wasn’t about just concentrating on my stuff, partially because it was so interesting. I just had such a good time reading it and thinking about it. Like you said, there’s a tonal thing, and I needed to have a sense of that in my head. I also feel like the character has a real awareness of Rob’s character, so I felt like I needed to know Rob’s character. Certainly, in my scenes, it all had to make crystal sense to me [Laughs].