These interviews were translated roughly via google translate but they’re understandable. The interview is pretty spoilery so read at your own risks!
He knew the novel by Don DeLillo? No, I never read. Juan Paulo Branco and his son Paul have suggested that I adapt for the screen. Paulo came to me and said: “My son thinks you’re the only person who could draw a picture.” Knowing other books by DeLillo and the many great films that Paulo has produced, I thought it was worth a look. This is very unusual for me, because they generally prefer to work on my projects but the two contributing factors led me to consider Cosmopolis and start to read it. Two days later, after reading, I called Paul to tell him that I was there in, I made the film.
He wanted to write the screenplay yourself? Of course. And you know what? I did it in six days. And, for me, it could be unprecedented. In practice, I started writing down all the dialogue of the book on my computer, without modifying or adding anything. It took me three days. When I finished, I asked myself: “There is enough material for a film? ‘. “I think so,” was the answer. I then spent the next three days to fill the gap between dialogue and other things and I got the script. I sent to Paulo. At first, he has not appreciated, but then came back on his feet and we started production.
What convinced him to turn the book into a film to direct it? The amazing dialogues. DeLillo is famous for this but the dialogue of Cosmopolis are particularly brilliant. Some may be called “Pinteresque”, a la Harold Pinter, but we could also rename “DeLillesque”. Pinter is a playwright and his virtuosity by dialogue writer is more than obvious, in a novel but do not expect ever the expressive power of DeLillo’s work.
What was his opinion on the world of Don DeLillo? I had read his books: Libra, Underworld, Dog running … I really like his writing, although it is very American [American is intended for U.S., ndt]. I’m not American, I’m Canadian. A difference of no small importance. Americans and Europeans believe that Canadians are better educated version and slightly more sophisticated as Americans, but is much more complicated than that. In Canada, we have not had a revolution, slavery or civil war. We do not share all of the armed civil violence, we have only the police and army carry around weapons. We have a deep sense of community and we feel the need to guarantee everyone a minimum income, so that the Americans see us as a socialist country! I come from a different universe from that of DeLillo’s books but I understand his vision of America and I can rapportami to it.
Book and movie are set in New York but give a very different city. The novel offers geographical details as the film turns out to be more abstract. In the novel, Eric Packer’s limo through Manhattan from east to west along 47th street. Many of the places described no longer exist and that New York has become the imaginary part. In the film, however, New York has a much more impressive because it really is in the mind of Eric Packer. His version of the city is largely disconnected from the reality of people, he does not understand the people or the city itself. Therefore, I thought it was legitimate to settle for a more abstract version, although the real New York is visible through the windows of the speeding car.
Between the writing of the novel and the film has spent more than a decade. Have you ever thought that this could be a problem? No, the novel is surprisingly prophetic. And while we were shooting it describes many things have happened really, Rupert Murdoch has received a pie in the face and the movement Occupy Wall Street has accompanied the completion of filming. To make the story today, I had to change a few things: perhaps the only difference is that instead of the yen we had to use the yuan. DeLillo has had a very perceptive of what is happening now and how things will turn out. We can say without a doubt that while the book was prophetic, the film is contemporary.
Reads differently when they know that a book could be made into a movie? Yes, of course. Even if it had never happened before thinking of making a film while reading a book. My, usually I read a lot because I like to immerse myself in reading and wondering how I would obtain a movie would ruin any fun. In the case of Cosmopolis, however, I found myself to play two roles simultaneously: one was the classic player immersed in a good novel, on the other hand I was the director who wondered if there was enough material for a film. And when one takes an adaptation, it is as if you got the fusion of sensitivity between two authors, in this case between DeLillo and me (but in the past was the same thing with Ballard or Stephen King). Metaphorically, it’s like having a baby. Need two people and the film reveals itself as a son with whom to reckon. O as a continuous process of Marxist dialectics: Cosmopolis as I turned I could not think that Marx and his Communist Manifesto when you hear the phrase “a specter is haunting the world” …
Only in this case we are not talking about Europe but the world. Of course. For the first time taken an important topic that I never faced before: money. The power of money and the way it shapes the world. To address the question I have not had to do extensive research on the world of finance and staff, constantly present on television, in documentaries or in newspapers. They act and speak as DeLillo has described them, are all of Eric Packer. For me, the reference to Marx is not random. In the Communist Manifesto Marx speaks of modernism, an era in which capitalism has reached such a level of expansion that the company will go faster than the people and the impermanence and unpredictability will reign supreme. It was 1848, but the reality is that you get to see the film. I often wonder what Karl Marx would think if he had the chance to see the scene in the world he had expected.
What does he mean when he speaks of “filling the void between the dialogues”? After three days, my conversations were in a kind of limbo. I had to figure out how to fit them into the limo. So I investigated thoroughly and felt the need to find answers: where is Eric? Where to go? And the others? What is happening in the streets? In what context the attack occurs of the pie in the face? And so on. Then, it is in practical things, the choice of settings and objects in the scene, which will shape the film. I’ve never written a script for another director because when I write I always think of my directing. For me, a script is primarily a plan to be assigned to my team and my players, a production tool. Therefore, I think from time to time to the necessary information for designers, for designers of stage and costume designers, and economic consequences of my every desire.
Among the changes, there’s that scene at the end of the book, when Eric Packer finds himself on a movie set. Yes As soon as I read it, I immediately thought it was not really happening and it was only in the minds of Packer. I did not believe what I had in front of the eyes and imagined I decided to shoot a scene with the naked bodies on a street in New York. I’m generally suspicious of junction with film clips inside another movie, it may be interesting only if it has a role in history. This is one of the major cuts that I made, together with the figure of the homeless woman in the novel that Packer is in his limo on the way back from the rave party. I shot this scene revising but I thought that the situation was unlikely and that would have been artificial.
And, consequently, also cut the chapters in which Benno Levin intervenes in the story, before the finale. Would not work in the film. We needed a voice over or some other trick that often produces poor results. I postponed all meetings between Levin and Packer in the long final sequence: 20 minutes. 20 minutes of dialogue! This is one of those choices you make when you turn a book into a movie, even though being written, you never know what kind of work you’re going to achieve. I am often asked if the result is up to my expectations but I, as I turned, I do not have any expectations. It would be absurd to develop in detail a trail to follow and be followed closely: during processing, they can occur so many things that can totally disrupt a screenplay. This is also why it does not even work with storyboards: they seek to recreate just what you’ve drawn. And this is not my idea of cinema. I need to be constantly surprised, by myself and those around me. I also expect that dazzle both the actors and Peter Suschitzky, the cinematographer on my side since 1987. Working in this way is much more fun.
How did you choose the locations? Curious but 47th street in New York looks like a lot to some major streets of Toronto. We recreated the set putting together elements that recall New York with others taken from Toronto, where we were shooting the interiors. Failing to make filming in a real limo, we had to recreate a bit ‘of scenes in the studio so as to leave the room to move freely. Therefore, what you see in the foreground behind the windows of the car are taken retrospectively added. But the important thing is to consider the limo like a car but not so much as a mental space: get inside the car means getting inside the head of Eric Packer. This is what counts.
Inside the limousine “proustata”. The word appears in many of the translations of the novel, such as in French. Really? It lies in the novel, however, is a neologism created by DeLillo as a reference to Proust and his cork-lined room. DeLillo has invented the verb “proustare”. I’m not sure many people will understand the allusion, but I preferred not to explain where it comes from, giving way to curiosity, but also distortion. While the exterior is the common one of the limousines, the interior of the car is traveling Packer is the result of some major changes: his seat is the symbol of his power and direct it at a higher level than the guests. Many details are directly from the book, such as marble floor.
In the book, there are images in which Packer is seen projected in the future. And among these, in the end, there is that he sees his own death reflected in the glass of his watch. In the film, however, there is no trace. I also shot these scenes but the thought was fake, artificial. For me it was just a ploy narrative: if I had shown the visions of Eric Packer making them a feature of the character, I would have redone in some way the dead zone. Anticipations of the future, I have maintained a single sentence that is somehow connected to billionaire Packer: “Why do not I see things that are not yet happened?”.
How has chosen 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 wanted to Colin Farrell and Elise, his wife, Marion Cotillard. But Farrell had 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.
He thought right now Robert Pattinson? Yes I found interesting in Twilight, even though the work done falls under very special. I saw him in Little Ashes and Remember Me, and I am convinced that it could be my Eric Packer. It is a heavy role, appears in each scene and do not 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.
For this film, has called most of the people with whom he worked in the past. In addition to Peter Suschintzky, he wanted his side to Howard Shore, who wrote the music for all his films from Brood – The brood of evil, 33 years ago. He had special needs for the music? Howard Shore was one of the very first person I sent the script. There were two features of the script: first, the presence of many songs already in the novel, and secondly the large number of dialogues in which the music, never intrusive, must have the background. I needed so unobtrusive music but at the same time able to incisively point out the tone of the story. And the lyrics to music that DeLillo rap singers to sing. Howard has worked with the Canadian band Metric, whose lead singer Emily Haines uses her voice as an instrument in a gentle manner so as to meet all my needs.
She insists on the fact that his players should follow the lines of the script and recite them as they were written. Yes, I repeat. You can make movies that leave actors free to improvise. Many successful directors have done but I have a different perspective. I do not believe that it is up to the actors write dialogues. Much less in this case, where I wanted the dialogues were exactly those of the novel by Don DeLillo. Given this, the actors still had a lot of room for improvisation during filming, they decided the tone and rhythm of the beats. Interesting I think the effort required to Pattinson. Crossing into the limousine various characters played by different actors, has had to adapt to the acting of those who faced him.
He tried to shoot the film chronologically? As far as possible, yes. Were shot in a chronological scenes inside the limousine. As Paul Giamatti has arrived on the set filming almost completed, we shot the last scene of the final also. Sometimes there were some technical difficulties but I managed to respect the history better than in my previous films. As the story unfolds over one day and involves a complex evolution, I found it particularly useful to work in this way.
How did the idea of the film adaptation of Cosmopolis? I have nothing to do. In 2007, Paulo Branco in Portugal invited me to participate in the Festival of Estoril, coordinated by himself. He likes to have people on the jury are not strictly connected with the cinema, as writers, painters or musicians. Gather to talk about film in this way is an enjoyable and, in a conversation and the other, told me the project of adaptation of Cosmopolis, an idea suggested to him by his son Juan Paul. He had already optioned the rights and I, knowing his track record as a producer and the impressive list of the many great directors he had worked, I said yes. When we raised the question of possible director, Juan David Cronenberg and Paul suggested, in a short time, everything came to life very quickly.
You had read the script? Yes, of course. And I found it incredibly close to the novel. Of course, Cronenberg has cut some scenes on the screen that may not work but remained faithful to the spirit of my novel. When I read the script, it was my clear desire to say nothing and do nothing, Cosmopolis had become a Cronenberg film. It’s my novel but was also one of his films, I found not to affect his job properly. Last March, then I saw the movie already completed in New York and was very impressed: it is much more than I had imagined. I liked the beginning, the opening credits: I find that introduce them to finish them off with Jackson Pollock and Rothko is an incredible idea. And the final scene with Robert Pattinson and Paul Giamatti is simply appalling!
You had never thought about a possible adaptation? Over the years, there have been many proposals to adapt some of my books but in the end he never accomplished anything. I thought then that tailoring Cosmopolis was very difficult undertaking, given that most of the action takes place inside a car, not suited to the big screen. But then I had to think again about how Cronenberg has been able to shoot some scenes inside the limo, which I had originally set elsewhere. And I refer especially to the sequence with Juliette Binoche.
For his novels is almost a paradox: despite being chock-full of film references, seem impossible to transport to film. He’s right but I can not explain why. I always thought that Libra and White Noise could easily be turned into films, but apparently, it’s complicated. I do not know why. In any case, I think you never expect to write a screenplay or adaptation.
The cinema in his novels always plays a major role, although there is hardly any reference to a movie or a director in particular. It seems that more accounts the idea of cinema itself that the models or characters who proposes. What matters most is the feeling that some have compared to other films. I grew up in the Bronx, I used to watch westerns, musicals and gangster films. At that time, did not even know what a noir. Then, I moved to Manhattan and found Antonioni, Godard, Truffaut, the great directors of European cinema and Japanese, from Kurosawa. They were a revelation: the size of their films for me was comparable to that of the most important novels. Many people think that in 1960 I quit my job in an advertising company to write my first novel but it is not true: I stopped working to go to the movies every afternoon. Only then I considered the idea to start writing!
And then you wrote Americana, the story of a man who happens to leave his job in the media sector to direct a film …Exactly. Since then, living near New York, I discovered that some films are not distributed in any other cinema in the United States. At some point in my life, I found myself living in Greece for three years and I had run out of film: not many good movies coming up to there and I realized that the film was missing. And, then, are always careful to observe closely what happens in the film and I think that, ultimately, the horse in Turin by Bela Tarr, The Tree of Life by Terrence Malick and Lars von Trier’s Melancholia have been milestones.
In his novels not only are there many references to the movies but there’s just something from the level of cinematic storytelling. For example, the beginning of Underworld is comparable to a small sequence. This is because, when I write, I need to see what is happening. Even when it’s just two men talking in a room for me just to write the dialogue is not enough. I have to view the scene, understand where the characters, as they sit, what they wear and so on. I had never thought much of my needs but I realized recently writing my new novel, in which the hero spends a lot of time viewing many video files on a large screen. I am comfortable with abstract writing, with stories that seem wise: you should see what happens, I need to see!
You are Italian-American. Have you ever felt in tune with the generation of great Italian-American directors that have exploded in the seventies and which is contemporary? I loved Mean Streets. I grew up in the Bronx and Manhattan in the low Scorsese, Little Italy, but both speak the same language, we have the same accents and behave in the same way. Needless to say then that I was familiar with the rebels and troublemakers, such as Robert De Niro’s character, since I’ve known several. Although, to search for the film which are more consistent, we must go back in time. I was very young when I saw Marty, life of a shy Delbert Mann, who plays in the Bronx, the same neighborhood where I lived. The film was screened in Manhattan and I and 7 other guys we went on a car to go see it. The opening sequence took place at Arthur Avenue on my way! Recognizing corners and shops in a movie that belonged to my reality was an incredible experience. So I never thought someone could make a film in that area.
What was your reaction when you heard that David Cronenberg would take care of the adaptation of his novel? I was pleased. I miss some of his earlier films but also in the Ringers have seen them all. I am particularly fascinated by Crash, eXistenZ, and, of course, A History of Violence. When I heard that he picked Cosmopolis, I wondered if it was the type of material on which he used to work and I thought maybe he had an opportunity to tackle something new. However, I was sure he could make the most of the visual impact of the novel and that would sorpeso everyone, including me. I had no idea how he could but I knew that nothing would be conventional.
He never saw his version of The Naked Lunch? And it is awesome! Exactly the kind of surprise that I hoped for Cosmopolis.
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 shot mostly in Toronto and the main character but the actor we had in mind could not join the cast. When I heard that Paul had chosen Robert Pattinson, I thought that my fourteen year old nephew have finally looked at me with different eyes.
You visited the set? No. I was invited, but I was not considered essential. I’ve been several times on movie sets and find them boring. I spent most of the time waiting.
Speaking of sets, do not worry that most of the shooting were not held in New York because the city is so important in his novel? What matters is what happens inside the limousine. It is a world unto itself, with several intrusions of various kinds, visitors and an angry mob. This is what counts. Furthermore, the amounts taken elsewhere and not in New York gives the film a more general connotation, giving back the idea that what happens can happen in any other major contemporary metropolises.
The book was published in 2003. The film opens in 2012. He has no fear that this interval of time can be a problem for his understanding or to reveal old? No. When they were about to be completed filming, there was the birth of the movement Occupy Wall Street and striking coincidence, since it can also be connected to that which is spoken in the film. Vija Kinski in the film, tells Packer, his boss, the protesters are closely related to the actions of Wall Street and capitalism, and help to update and tweak the system. In a way, helping Wall Street to redefine itself in a new context and a bigger world. In my opinion, this is also what is happening with Occupy Wall Street has not changed anything, did not reduce the astronomical bonuses raked by corporate executives, but has allowed them to study alternatives to the protest.
What was your reaction when you first saw the film? He has found items that were not present in his novel? I was thrilled. There are also funny moments and I was impressed by the whole finale that brings the film to another level. What happens between Packer and Benno Levin is marked by mutual respect, in the book but even more palpable in the work of David Cronenberg. David has done well to cut the two interventions Benno previous meeting, made sense in the novel but not in the film.
The dialogue is almost all his own. How does it feel to hear them on the screen? It’s the strangest thing! I am my own words but taking another life. I wrote about art for example conversazine that Packer and the character played by Juliette Binoche, but somehow for me it was like discovering it (and understand) for the first time.
One of the most important aspects of the book is the way things – and the words used to refer to them – are becoming obsolete and abandoned after a process of accelerated obsolescence. Packer is constantly asks “this thing still exist?”, “What word we use for this?” … True. In the novel, Packer has a particular perception of time that projects it forward and see what happens next. This aspect of the film has disappeared. I paid close attention to the time and manner in which our perception of time is altered and shaped by money. It is said that “time is money” but in the context of Cosmopolis “money is time.” This idea is also in the film, it is only treated in different ways.
His name also appears in the credits, because of a song contained in the film. Yes, I’ve noticed. It is because of the texts that I wrote the book for the rapper and that Sufis were also used in the film. This marks the beginning of a new career for me … as a rap lyricist! I could not be prouder.