It takes dedication and persistence for David Cronenberg to make the intensely personal and idiosyncratic films which have marked his career–pictures that have required him to raise financing outside the studio system, even while he was being offered projects like “Top Gun” and “Flashdance.” In a Dallas interview he remarked that it took him ten years to get “Dead Ringers” made, and another six to mount “Naked Lunch.”
As for “eXistenZ,” the articulate, soft-spoken auteur said, “It was being developed at MGM, so it would have been my first studio movie, if it had actually happened there. But eventually they said they didn’t want to do it because they said it was not ‘linear enough.’ That was their reason. And I suppose that tells you a lot about Hollywood.” So once again he went the independent route.
As to why he was willing to bypass the ease of studio production to make pictures that are uniquely his, Cronenberg explained: “To me all my movies are very personal. Each is kind of like a documentary of what was happening when I was making it…. Movies are my way of talking to myself about everything–about what I think about life, and the human condition, and society and technology and all kinds of things–not forgetting that I am creating a drama, so, as George Bernard Shaw said, conflict is the essence of drama, and it heightens things and illuminates things to make things bang against each other, so the movies are very, in some ways, extreme and edgy and all of that. But nontheless it is exactly the way that I kind of figure things out. And I can see the development, the crystallization of my understanding of things happening [as I make them]. And I think as you get older, if you are really able to personally relate to the movies you’re making, then even your age and experiences in directing will be incorporated into what you’re doing. It’s hard to do that with movies, because it’s such a major [undertaking]. Most directors don’t do it, because they are ‘doing projects.’ For a lot of directors that isn’t even the game–the game is to be a good craftsman and make something really exciting that will make money–which is a fine thing to do. It’s just not exactly the thing that I’m doing.”
Cronenberg admits some concern about the future of the sort of truly
independent, challenging films that he’s committed to making. “The
‘Hollywood film’ is so successful all over the world…that there might
come a day when there is only one kind of film you can see, which is the Hollywood film,” he mused. “Now that would be a bad thing, because Hollywood has a very strong understanding of what moviemaking is, but it’s a very narrow thing–it includes approaches to character, music, cutting, everything–for example, the idea that you have to have a sympathetic character that you identify with, and all of that stuff…. There might come a time, I worry–I have to worry about these things–that I won’t have an audience, that there won’t be an audience that can understand what I’m doing, that they won’t actually even comprehend it, that there’s no way for them to access it. There always will be some people who could do that, but will there be enough to actually get your film financed, to make it financially feasible? That could happen. When I have Jennifer, in this movie, say, ‘The world of games is in a kind of trance; people are programmed to expect so little, but the possibilities are so great,’ I’m talking about Hollywood, about movies. People are educated into only one kind of movie now, and no other kind. And so it is a worry, and I do think about it.”