As Eric, Pattinson is in every scene of the film, portraying a character unlike any he’s tackled before. And in our exclusive interview in support of Cosmopolis’ theatrical release by eONE Films, writer/director Cronenberg explained why Pattinson was right for the part of Eric and how he went about tackling the adaptation of DeLillo’s novel.
In casting Robert Pattinson, it’s kind of a double-edge sword, isn’t it? You have his Twilight fans anxious to support him in whatever he chooses to do and then you have the people who dismiss him because he is ‘that guy from Twilight’.
“Yeah. In a weird way, on the one hand of course I’m completely aware of all of those elements and also of course when you’re making a movie that for an independent movie was relatively expensive, you have to have a leading character who is very charismatic and who can carry the weight and has the star quality and so on, because you’re going to be looking at him. He’s literally in every scene in the movie, and that’s pretty unusual. I mean even in Tom Cruise movies, Tom is not in absolutely every scene of the movie – but Rob is. So he has to have that. But at the same time, you want to forget the movies, you know? You want to forget his movies and my movies because we’re creating this completely new thing and you don’t know what audience you’re going to get. You can anticipate it, you can think about it, but really you don’t know. So ultimately when you’re making the movie you’re saying, ‘Okay, I’m here with these actors. They’re wonderful actors, I cast them because they’re terrific and they will bring great stuff to the script,’ and then at that point you’re just making a movie and you’re not thinking about any other movie.”
Needing an actor to carry the film by being in every scene, how did you figure out Robert Pattinson was the right guy to play Eric?
[Laughing] “Well, this is the magic of casting! I think as a director, it’s part of your job. It’s a really important part of your job. I think a lot of people don’t even realize that the director’s involved in casting. Some people say, ‘Did you choose your actors?,’ and I say, ‘Yes. You’re not a director if you don’t.’”
“Of course, you’re juggling many things, like I say. You’re juggling, for example, their passports. This is a Canada / France co-production and we were limited to one American actor. Most people of course don’t know that – nor should they. Paul Giamatti is the only American in this movie even though it takes place in New York City. So from that kind of aspect to just finding the right guy…of course he’s got to be the right age, there are a lot of things that are just basic. And then after that, though, there are no rules. You as a director just have to intuit that this actor will be able to carry off this role.”
“We often talk about chemistry, for example, in movies between actors, let’s say. When I was doing A Dangerous Method, Keira Knightley and Michael Fassbender – how do I know they have chemistry together because I had never seen them in a movie together? They’ve never been in one; they’ve never met each other. I don’t see them together until I’m actually directing them, so I have to be this kind of dating master who can anticipate that this couple will be good together. It’s a strange kind of thing. So you give yourself credit when it works, and you have to berate yourself when somehow it hasn’t worked. That’s basically where you’re left.”
It strikes me with Cosmopolis that the chemistry actually needed to come between you and Robert more so than between Rob and any of his co-stars.
“There’s truth in that too. That is the unspoken thing is the chemistry between the director and the actors is the key. And at a certain point I think Rob would…you know, he’s a serious actor and he didn’t want to be the one who was going to blow this movie. He was kind of thinking, ‘Well, I’ll be alone in that limo because I won’t have one person who is always playing opposite me. It’s really a one-man show with a lot of day players coming in.’ And I said, ‘No, you won’t be alone because I’ll be there. I’ll be with you every moment.’ And so that is a real element.”
Do you think that you view the character of Eric the same way that author DeLillo did? Or do you think that you two don’t necessarily agree on how an audience should look at him?
“I think we actually illuminate things for each other. I’ve been on the road doing publicity with Don in several countries and I think he was pretty intrigued by seeing what would happen. Because, after all, once you put Rob Pattinson in that role, that’s a very specific thing. You’ve got a particular face and a particular voice and a body, and that’s something that the novel can not have. That’s one of the things that movies can do that novels can not do, and so it immediately shapes the character in a way that he wasn’t shaped in the novel. So, there are differences, I think, but it’s not a major split or divergence. It’s just really shading and shaping things. It’s just really hearing the dialogue spoken, which was something that when I read the novel, I thought, ‘Yeah, I really want to hear this spoken by really great actors.’ Just doing that immediately changes your reaction to the characters and to the words. So there is a difference, definitely.”