At first glance, Packer appears to be a soulless character. He initially exhibits little to no outward emotion, not while receiving updates about his dwindling finances, not during sex, not ever. That sense of detachment is enhanced by the limo, which is smooth-running, soundproof and bulletproof, with tinted windows that minimize Packer's view of outside events and prevent prying eyes from looking in at him.
"You can see his soul as the movie progresses, as he approaches his childhood," Cronenberg said, "because, really, we begin to realize that the barbershop represents his childhood. It's his childhood barbershop. It's where he used to live. It's where he came from.
"Eric wasn't born into money. I think you see Eric become more vulnerable and more childlike and naive, and when he's in the barber chair he becomes like himself as a child, before he'd erected this Eric character, this Master of the Universe guy. So you should gradually warm up to him as you realize how vulnerable and how wounded he is.
"It's why I cast Robert," Cronenberg added. "It's a very uncompromising performance. We don't go out of our way to make him more likable than he is, but you want to watch him. He's very charismatic, Rob."
"Cosmopolis" is Pattinson's show, and it's as far removed as it could be from the commercial gloss and sparkly vampires of the "Twilight" films in which Pattinson has starred as Edward Cullen. The actor has been in the news of late, owing to the demise of his relationship with "Twilight" co-star Kristen Stewart, but Cronenberg lauds his leading man for his often-overlooked, still largely untapped talents as an actor.
"Rob is in every scene of this movie," the filmmaker said, "and I needed a guy who could support that. His accent is spot-on - it's very much like Don DeLillo's accent. He brings a wry sense of humor, and he brings that strange emotionality that you feel from underneath because, as I say, it's not there from the beginning, because it's a journey in more ways than one.
"You have to see Eric evolve and, thanks to Rob, you do," Cronenberg said. "I think it's a spectacular performance, very nuanced and detailed."
Like everyone with a stake in "Cosmopolis," Cronenberg hopes that Pattinson's legions of "Twi-hard" fans will turn out en masse for "Cosmopolis." Based on the production of the film, he said, that might happen.
"The Twi-hards followed this movie hugely," Cronenberg said. "There were 20 to 30 sites devoted to 'Cosmopolis,' some of them really quite spectacular, professional and slick, and they were being done mostly by Twi-hards, who are mostly girls, and they were reading the book. They were reading the book and commenting on it, on these sites, before the movie was finished."
The director is clearly impressed.
"That was incredibly satisfying," he said. "They were loving the book and the idea that Rob was doing it, and they're supporting Rob's choice.
"I got a lot of props myself," Cronenberg added with a laugh, "because the Rob fans are rooting for him to show what he can do as an actor and, therefore, they loved me for giving him the chance.
"That was their attitude, though my attitude was that I felt lucky to have Rob."
Read Cronenberg's full interview at The Reading Eagle