Saturday, May 5, 2012

‘COSMOPOLIS’ Prodution Notes: Behind The Scenes With David Cronenberg, Robert PATTINSON AND MORE

When asked how COSMOPOLIS came into his life, David Cronenberg smiles: “COSMOPOLIS is one of those gifts that come out of the blue,” the kind one hopes for, but which are rare. Paulo Branco—a recognized Portuguese producer whom Cronenberg knew of but had never met—approached him with the rights to DeLillo’s Cosmopolis. Branco thought David was perfect to adapt it: “I knew David’s artistry would balance the novel’s sensitivity and violence on screen.”
However, Cronenberg acknowledges that in “reinventing the story for the cinema…in a strange way I think you have to betray the book in order to stay faithful to it.” David explains that some material in the novel wouldn’t translate to the screen: “Specifically,  here is a lot that goes on inside the heads of certain characters, and that’s not something a movie can do without a voiceover, which to me is not the solution. I think the film should feellike the book, so I was quite prepared to be brutal in cutting things out to preserve the essence of the story.” Although David closely adheres to what Producer Martin Katz calls DeLillo’s “terrific concentration on thoughtful, clever, stagey, theatrical dialogue,” the story had to be altered for the screen. Because of the changes, David cautioned the actors against reading the novel. Nevertheless, DeLillo was supportive throughout the filmmaking process and told Cronenberg he approved of the script when they met at Paulo Branco’s Estoril Film Festival.
“Casting is a black art,” proclaims David Cronenberg. “You can kill your movie by making a mistake before you’ve even shot film.” When Robert Pattinson’s name was proposed for the lead role of Packer, Cronenberg watched much of his work—including the young actor’s role as Salvador Dali in Little Ashes—and he was sold: “Rob was the most interesting and exciting actor suggested for COSMOPOLIS, and I knew that he would bring something wonderful to the screen—maybe even something he didn’t know he had.” Under David’s direction, Robert delivers an edgy, understated performance. In fact, Robert notes that he has never felt “utilized to this degree as an actor,” and fellow cast member Paul Giamatti describes Robert’s casting as “genius.”
Robert Pattinson—Eric Packer
Eric Packer is a selfish young member of the ruling class, at the top of the super-rich 1%. He is an anti-hero whose privileged reality is decadent and isolated. Casting Robert Pattinson in this unsympathetic role wasn’t obvious. Robert’s super-stardom perhaps gives him some insight to the pressures of success, but his pressures include the attention of a zealous fan base that might expect him in a different role. And he is younger than Eric Packer was envisioned, an age difference that influences the rest of the casting process. On the other hand, young billionaires and tech-savvy traders are not unusual in today’s society.
Plus, casting Robert presents an opportunity to attract a new generation to Cronenberg’s work. Ultimately, the choice rested on Pattinson’s talent and experience, with or without celebrity.
Cronenberg found Robert mature and willing to challenge himself: “…Rob is not deluded about his fame; he understands that popularity is not the essence of being a good actor, andrecognizes the danger of taking projects to please others rather than himself.” Bringing the egomaniacal Eric Packer to life required Pattinson to forget being a sympathetic character. Cronenberg observes, “Some actors worry about not being appealing or sensitive, but that was never an issue for Rob; it was always about finding the often unlikeable truth of who Eric is and what it means to be a 25-year-old billionaire…. Rob is incredibly likeable, but he doesn’t need to be liked.” So Eric Packer, a financial god, perhaps soulless but with feet of clay, is realized by the charismatic, modest Robert Pattinson.
Robert was surprised and excited by the COSMOPOLIS offer. He recounts receiving the screenplay about a year earlier and thinking it was “one of the most original scripts” he’d read. However, he doubted he’d get the part: “Then the offer came out of the blue and I was amazed!” Praising David’s consistently “thought-provoking” and innovative work, Robert says he was certain about taking the part; however, he admits, “I had no idea how I was going to play it…. I was scared at first, mainly because I could interpret the script and play it so many different ways….” He didn’t have much time with David before shooting, but he knew he was in good hands. His trust in the director, as well as David’s in Robert, was wellfounded. “I could feel David moulding it as we shot, and that made me really comfortable because it meant there was no specific right or wrong way. Eventually, I was very relaxed, especially for it being such an intense piece.”
Pattinson wanted a project that would take him to the edges of himself, and COSMOPOLIS provides the character to do it. Eric Parker is inscrutable and contradictory, both calculating and reckless. Robert had to find the emotional core of a man who is desensitized, a man who interprets the world in terms of numbers and acquisitions. Robert notes, “I think Eric has an all-consuming ego.” He lives an artificial existence, and Eric’s success seems a product of detachment and cold rationality. Yet his odd quest for a haircut is risky, irrational. He normally makes people come to him, including a physician for a daily exam, but he insists on seeing an old-fashioned barber on the opposite side of town, despite the risk to his personal safety.
Rob notes his character’s grasp of contemporary events, business and politics. Eric Packer’s knowledge of the world, however, comes primarily through technology, and he sees most things as mere information, “some kind of list or matrix,” Rob suggests, about which he is dispassionate. Rob describes Eric “Watching screens informing him of current data all the time. I think he ends up taking drastic measures just to feel something because he’s become so desensitized.” He knows, and somewhat owns, many people but seems to have no friends. Even his new wife feels distant, an acquisition, someone to use or ignore. He is the master of his cosmos, but is he lonely at the top? Does he care? The enigma of Eric’s character is central to the film, and his interaction with secondary characters both shapes that puzzle and perhaps gives clues to solving it.

GOD bless you

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