david cronenberg

10 minutes with David Cronenberg

Award-winning Canadian director David Cronenberg has taken on a lot of different subjects over his nearly forty-year filmmaking career: Russian gangsters, small town violence, virtual reality, William Burroughs, exploding heads.

With his latest film, Maps to the Stars, he takes on something closer to home: movies. More specifically, Hollywood. With a searing performance by Julianne Moore (a conniving actress who is part Lindsay Lohan part Mommie Dearest), the movie is a cynical but always entertaining look at the self-serving, shrewd, sometimes monstrous people who can populate Los Angeles.

I was granted 10 minutes to speak with David Cronenberg about being a Canadian making a movie about such an iconic American place, his own experiences in Hollywood, and why he continues to love living in Toronto instead of Los Angeles.

Maps to the Stars often feels like it has an outsider-looking-in perspective on Hollywood. Despite the fact that the script is written by an insider, and directed by someone who has been working in movies for a long time. Do you think that outsider perspective comes from being a Canadian director?

I like what Marshall McLuhan used to say: that being a Canadian really gave him an immense perspective on America that Americans couldn't have. Sort of standing out of the river a little bit in the whack water is the way he described it. So I'm sure I have a perspective that an American director wouldn't' have. And certainly there wasn't any American director who wanted to make this movie.

This was your first film made in the U.S. Did you find your outsider perspective changed while working in the States?

Not really. I've spent a lot of time in America. The first time I went to L.A. was in 1971. I have a lot of friends there, and know it quite well, even though I've never ended up making a 100% studio film there. It was, however, kind of cathartic to shoot in America for the first time after all these years, and to shoot in Hollywood of all places.

Were there any particular Hollywood experiences of your own that made it into Maps to the Stars?

I can't say that, but I have had some very surreal meetings with studio executives that were equally surreal as the ones we have in the movie. But it was Bruce [Wagner's] script after all. He's said he's basically heard every line of the dialogue actually spoken over his years. So it was really his point of view. But I've had parallel experiences. I knew how accurate the script was.

Julianne Moore's character is constantly surrounded by gossip, casting news, and bad-mouthing. It made me think about exhausting living in Los Angeles must be. Is that why you prefer to stay in Toronto? So you can be outside that echo chamber?

Absolutely. There is a lot less noise. LA is a one business town. I knew right away when I first went there that if I was forced to move there to make movies, which I thought for a while I might really have to do in the early 70s, that my values and my standards for everything would change and shift hugely.

First, because it's America, not Canada. Second, because it's the business. The power, the pressure to get a better agent, or whatever it would happen to be, would be enormous because you couldn't get away from it. It's there every day, all the time, everywhere, whereas in Toronto it's just not there at all.

the equalizer movieThanks to the Equalizer, starring Denzel Washington, for sponsoring our coverage of TIFF 2014.

Photo by Jesse Milns

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