"Promises" fulfilled at TIFF: Cronenberg III

Wrapping up the Cronenberg interview, a few notes on synchronicity, Soviet motorcycles, nepotism, Martin Amis and some gratuitous references to Russian literature.

PK: Have you had that happen before in other films, where the theme or some other elements of the film suddenly became reflected in real life.

DC: Yeah.

PK: Wasn’t there something with “Crash” that was going on then.

DC: Yeah, well, “Crash” — and then even “Dead Ringers.” Suddenly, there was all this twins stuff happening and there were five twins movies that came out. It was very bizarre. And with “Naked Lunch”there was suddenly all these writers writing and having characters from their books come to life. Yeah, it’s strange sometimes. It’s as though you’ve tapped into the zeitgeist somehow and it tends to reflect back on you.  

PK: Is that motorcycle in the movie yours?

DC: No, but it was certainly my motorcycling knowledge that got it to be a Ural. Originally he had written it as a Royal Enfield and I thought that for her father, who was Russian, he should have a Russian motorcycle and I knew about Urals. Sure enough, they still make them. You can buy a new one in England; in fact, that was a new one that we aged down to look vintage because we wanted it to start all the time. But no, that wasn’t my bike, but it is exactly what I wrote the line for Nikolai to say, “[Here Cronenberg recites in a Russian accent Nikolai’s line from the movie describing the motorcycle that, like in the movie, I found inaudible]”

PK: It’s almost a character in the movie. It’s the only technological item, really.

DC: Yeah, but you certainly see it’s lovingly photographed.

PK: Do you collect motorcycles

DC: I don’t collect them, but I still ride them. I favor Italian bikes, I have Ducatis.

PK: You also race cars, too.

DC: Well, I did. I haven’t done that for quite a while. But I have raced them in the past.

PK: All of your films tend to have a dissection of the family unit--and also, you’re family is part of your unit making the movies.

DC: That’s true.

PK: Have you ever thought about what this means?

DC: No. [laughs] Well, I mean, nepotism is great. It’s wonderful to have your family involved with you. Certainly movie business is not the only business where this occurs. It’s sort of natural that your family lives your business with you and that some of your kids or relatives are going to get into it just by osmosis. There was a time when there was no film business in Canada. When I started, it wasn’t like in L.A. where your friend’s father was in the business if yours wasn’t. But there was nobody around because there was no film industry, so it’s kind of sweet that it’s changed in Canada now. Of course, family drama is one of the dramatic cores--you can’t really get too far away from it, I think.

PK: This is your second largest budget yet?

DC:  Yeah, this is the second bigges budget. “A History of Violence” was 32 million and this was about 27 or 26 million.

PK: Having so much money invested, did you get a little bit of interference from people who put the money up?

DC: No, Focus [the studio] were great. And it wasn’t only Focus, but BBC films, of course. It was very intelligent support and collaboration and the one thing you want to be able to say, weirdly enough, is “If it’s bad, it’s my fault,” because nobody made you make it bad. I have to take the full brunt of it. Well, if you don’t like it, it’s my fault. That’s actually the best compliment I can give to my producers.

PK: So, next movies: “London Fields,” “Painkillers,” none of these came about.

DC: No, you have to be careful of imdb.

PK: Well, you told me a couple of years ago that that “London Fields” credits was a possibility.

DC: Actually, I had Martin Amis visit the set of “Eastern Promises” with his wife, but for various reasons, at the moment, that’s sort of in limbo. So I actually don’t know what I’m going to do next.

PK: Do you like that feeling better than knowing what you’re going to do next?

DC: Each one has kind of a thrill factor, so I’m okay with either one.

PK: Did I hear the name Vladmir Nabokov come up as the person who was providing the drugs from Kabul?

DC: It was Valerie Nabakov. He was initially called Valerie and I thought we should give him a last name so, yes, I did give him the Nabokov name.

PK: I think Nabokov would’ve been happy with that.

DC: I also gave Nikolai his last name, which was Luzhin. It’s only mentioned once when the cop comes looking to find him in the hospital, “Nikolai Luzhin, please,” he says and that’s an allusion to  his novel “The Luzhin Defence.” 

PK: Yeah, and that was made into a movie too, with John Turturro.

DC: Yeah, I think they just called it “The Defence.”

PK: No Dostoevsky references, even though I guess both of you have read “The Possessed.”

DC: Yes, well, we read the version called “The Demons.” I phoned Viggo and said, maybe you should be reading this new translation of “The Possessed” which is called “The Demons” and he said, “I’ve just finished it.”

PK: Yeah, it was my favorite Dostoevsky book. I wanted to be Stavrogin when I grew up, but it didn’t work out that way. 

DC: [laughs] That’s a good thing.

PK: I hope your film gets another fifteen minute standing ovation [as did “A History of Violence” when it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2005].

DC: Well, thank you very much.

[“Eastern Promises” won the audience award at the festival].



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