There seems to be a reflection of the Occupy movement in the film – what struck you about that group and how did they inform the film?
David Cronenberg: Well, they didn’t inform the film at all, because we really just stuck to the script – it just happened that what Don DeLillo [author of the original novel] wrote was prescient and clairvoyant, and it felt as if the world was just catching up with him. But for example, Paul Giamatti texted me and said ‘I can’t believe I just saw Rupert Murdoch get a pie in the face’, because we had just shot the scene where Eric Packer (Pattinson) gets a pie in the face! (laughs) It was certainly strange to be shooting scenes about anti-capitalist riots in the streets of New York and then to read about the Occupy movement. But there really are no anti-capitalists in this movie and it’s been noted that the Occupy Wall Street movement is not anti-capitalist; they want a piece of it, they want the 99% to be a part of the capitalist dream. Giamatti’s character Benno loves capitalism and investing and his complaint is that he’s been left behind by Eric, who’s destroyed the way Benno loved to work.
Well, there’s the paraphrasing of the Communist manifesto seen in the film, with banners reading ‘A spectre is haunting the world – the spectre of capitalism’, and you changed the currency that features heavily in the plot from the novel’s Japanese yen to the Chinese yuan…
David Cronenberg: That was just my feeble attempt as an ignoramus in terms of economy to make the film a letter futuristic. Since the book was written, the yen had collapsed, and then you had the tsunami that hit Japan, and suddenly they’re staggering. Now it’s obvious that Don’s ‘look to the east’ was correct but it’s China that will be the world power, and by 2015 the yuan will be a fully convertible currency and therefore might displace the dollar as the world currency.
And the heavy use of rats in the film has a symbolism related to the Chinese new year, if you want to talk about metaphors…
David Cronenberg: I never go into metaphor! (laughs)
There are reportedly plans for you guys to work together on Maps to the Stars – is that definitely going ahead?
David Cronenberg: Rob, did you find the financing? (laughs) (Pattinson: Ha! You’re probably going to know better than me, I want to do it, that’s why I started talking about it, to get some finance! (laughs) There’s a brilliant script by the novelist Bruce Wagner – in a way it’s like Cosmopolis because it’s just not an easy sell. It’s edgy in a nasty, disturbing way and it has emotion, but it’s a weird [sense of that]. By the end of the movie, Cosmopolis is weirdly sad and emotional, but that sneaks up on you, because you don’t ever think it’s going to go there.
There’s a sense in the film that Eric no longer has any knowledge to seek and a nihilistic aspect seems to take over his character – how did you approach the character, Rob?
Robert Pattinson: I don’t think I approached him as being a nihilist – I think there was an energy there. He’s not throwing things away consciously, he thinks he’s getting closer to something. Then everything just starts falling away. I don’t think he’s consciously destroying himself.
Do you look back at your previous films while you’re working, or either consciously or unconsciously develop ‘Cronenberg themes’?
David Cronenberg: I don’t actually think about my other movies. You’re asking me to be an analyst of my own movies, and I could do that – but I won’t, ‘cos it’s your job! (laughs) The joy for me is [being in] the middle of the night in the street with your crew and your actors and you’re not thinking about Twilight or Scanners – you’re thinking about Cosmopolis and Eric Packer. When I’m putting the movie together, I have to think about the star value of the actors, I have to think about Rob’s passport between it’s a Canada-France co-production, but that’s all irrelevant to the actual creative making of the movie. So I try to be pure that way.
The whole film is driven by a seemingly trivial mission – Eric’s desire to get a haircut…
David Cronenberg: But it isn’t trivial – he says in the movie ‘A haircut is what? It’s calendars on the wall, it’s a chair, it’s a neighbourhood’. So it’s his past. He’s going to his childhood where he was somehow purer and more innocent. And when he sits in [the barber’s] chair – and Rob probably didn’t even know he was doing it – he [became] a child and the old barber becomes his father or grandfather. And there’s a great moment where the barber says ‘You were four at the time…’, and Eric corrects him ‘Five.’
Rob – the film’s tagline is ‘prepare to be surprised’ – is that possibly aimed at your sizeable fanbase, and do you think they’ll like the film?
Robert Pattinson: I hope people come… (laughs) The Twilight fanbase are quite maligned, maybe because of their tenacity – we were in Germany yesterday and all these people were sat outside for ages and it was a miserable day, and everybody was screaming. But then you go down the line and… I mean, someone gave me a Lawrence Ferlinghetti book in Lisbon, and it’s not like giving you teddy-bears! For whatever reason, Twilight‘s attracted such a broad spectrum of people and they’ve all kind of been lumped together because it’s easier [for the press] when you have this images of people screaming, but it’s quite a strange spectrum of people, so maybe they’ll like it! A lot of people who’ve been coming to the premieres in Europe have seen it three or four times already and they all have quite interesting critiques.
Was that something surprised you David?
David Cronenberg: Well, a lot of those fans had copies of Cosmopolis for us to sign, and they’ve read it! And the website that those Twilight fans have made were actually gorgeous and really sophisticated. Ok, maybe they’ve only read Harry Potter andTwilight, but now they’re reading Don DeLillo! (laughs)