Interview with Robert Pattinson:
Were you already familiar with the novel by Don DeLillo?
No. But I had read some of his other books. I first read the script when it was sent to me by David Cronenberg and afterwards the novel. The script is so faithful to the book that seems almost incredible, especially considering that Cosmopolis was deemed impossible to adapt. Even before reading DeLillo’s work, I was struck by the pace of the screenplay was agitated and the relentless tension.
What was it about this film that attracted your attention?
Cronenberg, without a doubt! I shot a few films and I could not imagine how it would be to work with him. I was not disappointed … I knew he would play with his creativity and that this experience would have scored. I left the script involving the same way you can be fascinated by a long poem, a very mysterious poem. Usually, when you read a script, you quickly understand what it’s about, where it will go and how it will end, although there are unexpected twists and sophisticated solutions that address the course of history. With the script of Cosmopolis, however, it was completely different: the more I read and I could not understand how it would be more evolved and pushed me to thinking of wanting to be part of the film. It would not be like shooting a movie , but a separate and unique opportunity.
The first time you read the script and saw the role, did you imagined how it would be?
Not at all. The first time I spoke with David I explained that I could not prefigurami nothing and he reassured me that was a good sign. Since then, I have asked many questions and I left all the text to evolve in a progressive and organic, in transforming visual choices that would form the film. It was a living process, although during the first week of filming we were all still wondering which way he took everything once finished shooting. Everything was very charming, it was as if the film was modeled step by step.
Now that it’s ready, is the film very different from the script or, conversely, has it stuck to what was on paper?
Hard to say, the film moves on several levels. I’ve seen it twice so far. The first time I was amazed by its farcical side: while touring knew what they were seeing on the screen but the tone was alienating. The second time, however, it has taken over the weight of what they had been involved. There have been two private screenings to test the reception of the public, whose reactions were varied and wide ranging, from smiles to the tension. (Kate: GAH Two private screenings! Who else wishes they had been at one of them?) Despite its complexity, I was amazed at how Cosmopolis was able to cause such a wide range of emotions.
In your opinion, who is Eric Packer? As you describe him?
For me, Eric feels like a person who belongs to another world, living as if he had been born on another planet and then trying to discover who really should live. Very simply, Packer does not understand how the world works and how.
However, he has enough knowledge of the world he lives in to be able to create a fortune.
Yes, but in a very abstract way. Banking, brokerage and speculative activities are unconnected. If managed well in all it is not because he is an industry specialist. If anything, he’s has a very rare instinct, something very mysterious and profound, which can treat the algorithms as if they were spells. In the film, as in the book, you can see that his approach to financial data tends to show it again in the future, as they do not know how to live the present. Perhaps, somehow, manages to capture the mechanisms of the world around him but only in a particular way and obscure.
Have you discussed this with David Cronenberg?
A little, yes. But he liked when I was looking for answers to something inexplicable. In particular, he appreciated as I began to pray without really knowing what I was doing and, as soon as he realized that I was giving birth to the sequences of cause and effect, I froze. It was a very strange way to direct, based entirely on feelings rather than ideas.
How did you prepare for the role?
David does ‘t like tests. We have not talked much about the film before it began to spin. During production, I only met the other actors on the set and only there I discovered how would literally appeared in the limo of Eric Packer. And it was quite pleasant. Since the beginning of filming, it’s as if I had lived through the film and the machine: I was always there, had become my home and in my space I welcomed all the other actors as they came to visit while I remained seated on the kind of throne. Feeling all one with a velvet that environment was comfortable enough and all the others had to practically adapt to what was my world.
You had a say on the appearance of his character, or on clothing?
Yes, the important thing was that Packer had a neutral appearance. We then sought to avoid the most obvious features and stereotypical business people. The only discussion was on the choice of sunglasses to wear at the beginning, I tried a couple that were anonymous and that they said nothing of the character.
Did it make much difference shooting the scenes in the same chronological order of the script?
I think it was very important, it creates a cumulative effect that shapes the entire film. At the start of filming, no one knows what the final tone will be…Well, perhaps David does but he has never suggested. For the crew, the identity of the film you constructed as Packer revealed something more about himself. Also, let me turn in order to capture the full essence of Packer when his life is gradually falling apart.
One of the peculiarities of his role is that, one after another, he finds himself having to meet and interact with different actors. How does it feel?
When I agreed to do the film, the only actor that was already engaged was Paul Giamatti , I’ve always considered him great. Then, it was quite magical and frightening to see Juliette Binoche, Samantha Morton and Mathieu Amalric transformed into their characters. Each of them brought a different tone and it has not been easy being in a short time as David had asked of them. They had to transform their acting and be guided by the context. I was inside the world of Cosmopolis a long time but they had been accustomed to that reality and tune into its rhythm. While we were shooting, Juliette Binoche was also very involved in the creative process, suggesting different hypotheses of acting then put in place.
Does this means that there are various styles of acting, dictated mainly by the different nationalities of actors? Or did all the actors comply with the provisions of Cronenberg?
There are different feelings and I think David wanted no more. Paradoxically, this diversity is underlined by all the celebrities who are allegedly American, except Mathieu Amalric. This diversity is connected to the city of New York, where everyone seems to come from different places and where the mother tongue of many people is not English. Of course, the film does not aim to recreate the effects of realism: it takes place in New York but never insist on a particular location. Having actors with different backgrounds that mirror those of the city contributes, if anything, to give to Cosmopolis strangeness and abstraction.
Foryour part, did you have in mind some model or actor for inspiration?
On the contrary. Actually, I just tried to avoid any possible reference. I didn’t want the audience in front of Cosmopolis to be reminded of other films with Wall Street in the center, the financial world and the rich bankers. I had to find my own approach rather than relying on attitudes and acting in effect already seen.
Can you remember if Cronenberg has ever had special requests while you working with him?
He insisted sticking to every word of the script, to the letter, the dialogue would be those already written. He would not tolerate any change. The screenplay is based largely on the pace and we had to be careful with the words. But David’s approach was very positive, few were clinched take, and this seemed almost scary. Paul Giamatti just arrived on the set had to recite a monologue in one breath, and David was able to shoot it without any interruption. I was fascinated by both the performance of Paul that the readiness and the safety of David.
Have you enjoyed working in this manner and strictly adhering to the script written?
It was something that still does not know and that was one of the main reasons why I agreed to do Cosmopolis. I had never done anything like this, usually the scripts set the stage to follow, and each actor gives his contribution, sewing on itself the character. In my earlier films, the dialogues were flexible. This time, however, it was how you act in the theater: when you take Shakespeare on stage, you certainly can’t change directions.
Somehow, the limo is a bit like a stage.
Of course. And, since this framework lends itself to different types of scenes, you must always be ready to change the registry. After many years of my early plays, I found myself having to learn all the jokes. You live in constant tension, you have to be careful but always know that you’ll get a better result. Even if I was forced to live as a recluse during the filming – I know the part to perfection, studying dozens of pages a day and put everything in focus – it was worth it: I left with a good feeling, than that experienced on most of the set where everything is divided.
What was the major difficulty while filming?
The most disturbing thing was playing a character that does not pass through a clear evolution and does not follow a predictable path. In fact, Packer changed, has evolved from hell, but it’s not like the public is accustomed to seeing. David has kept everything under control. I had never before worked with a director who, taking care of every aspect of his films, is also considered responsible for everything, every little step. At first I found it disturbing but then, little by little, I gained confidence in his methods and I let myself go.
Interview with David Cronenberg:
How did you choose the actors?
To begin with, as was done for A Dangerous Method, the actors that I have chosen are not what I had in mind. For Cosmopolis, in the main character I wanted Colin Farrell and Elise, his wife, Marion Cotillard. But Farrell was already honoring other contractual commitments and Marion Cotillard was pregnant. So, I changed the script sew on a very young player – in tune with the idea of the novel – and consequently his wife should be younger. I thought it was better that way. The real problem arises when closing agreements for funding from the protagonist’s name. Fortunately, it was not my case.
So you thought then that Robert Pattinson was right?
Yes I found him interesting in Twilight, even though the work done falls under very special. I saw him in Little Ashes and Remember Me, and I was convinced that he could be my Eric Packer. It is a heavy role and he appears in each scene. I don’t think I’ve ever done before a movie where the actor is always on the screen. The choice of an actor is a matter of intuition, there are no rules or instructions.
Interview with Don DeLillo:
When did you meet Cronenberg?
He too was at Estoril and we met on that occasion. But, contrary to popular belief, after we talked a lot of adaptation, I preferred to stay out of the project. We talked a little ‘just that it was to be shot mostly in Toronto and the main character but the actor we had in mind could not join the cast. When I heard that Paulo had chosen Robert Pattinson, I thought that my fourteen year old nephew would finally look at me with different eyes. (Kate: I’m thinking this should be niece not nephew, but whatever)