Cosmopolis Production Notes Released: Adaptation, Shooting the Film, Cast & MoreAbout the Production Filming Official Website Press
In anticipation of the Cannes Film Festival and the beginning of the openings for Cosmopolis, Telefilm Canada has released the production notes from the film. We’ve posted a few parts of these fascinating notes.
About the Adaptation
When asked how COSMOPOLIS came into his life, David Cronenberg smiles:
“COSMOPOLIS is one of those gifts that come out of the blue,” the kind one hopes for, but
which are rare. Paulo Branco—a recognized Portuguese producer whom Cronenberg knew
of but had never met—approached him with the rights to DeLillo’s Cosmopolis. Branco
thought David was perfect to adapt it: “I knew David’s artistry would balance the novel’s
sensitivity and violence on screen.”
David knew DeLillo’s work but not Cosmopolis. Within two days he’d read it and agreed to
write the adaptation and direct the film. David wrote the screenplay in an astonishing six
days. “Adapting COSMOPOLIS went so beautifully because Don’s book has a cinematic
core with the most amazing dialogue that stood on its own, so I spent the first three days
transcribing dialogue and the next three days filling in the descriptions of the scenes. And
that’s pretty much the script we shot with.”
However, Cronenberg acknowledges that in “reinventing the story for the cinema…in a
strange way I think you have to betray the book in order to stay faithful to it.” David explains
that some material in the novel wouldn’t translate to the screen: “Specifically, there is a lot
that goes on inside the heads of certain characters, and that’s not something a movie can do
without a voiceover, which to me is not the solution. I think the film should feel like the book,
so I was quite prepared to be brutal in cutting things out to preserve the essence of the
story.” Although David closely adheres to what Producer Martin Katz calls DeLillo’s “terrific
concentration on thoughtful, clever, stagey, theatrical dialogue,” the story had to be altered
for the screen. Because of the changes, David cautioned the actors against reading the
novel. Nevertheless, DeLillo was supportive throughout the filmmaking process and told
Cronenberg he approved of the script when they met at Paulo Branco’s Estoril Film Festival.
About the Casting
David Cronenberg and long-time collaborator, casting director Deirdre Bowen, have
assembled a remarkable cast, with talent from America, Canada, England, and France. The
script is character-driven—much of the plot involves short, intense encounters between the
protagonist and the secondary characters. The dialogue is central and often demanding.
Eric Packer’s personality and psychological journey unfolds in a series of close interactions
with the people of the cosmopolis—his employees, lovers and enemies. Choosing the lead
actor was crucial, of course, and because the rest of cast would have to work briefly but
intimately with the lead, supporting roles also required strong casting.
“Casting is a black art,” proclaims David Cronenberg. “You can kill your movie by making a
mistake before you’ve even shot film.” When Robert Pattinson’s name was proposed for the
lead role of Packer, Cronenberg watched much of his work—including the young actor’s role
as Salvador Dali in Little Ashes—and he was sold: “Rob was the most interesting and
exciting actor suggested for COSMOPOLIS, and I knew that he would bring something
wonderful to the screen—maybe even something he didn’t know he had.” Under David’s
direction, Robert delivers an edgy, understated performance. In fact, Robert notes that he
has never felt “utilized to this degree as an actor,” and fellow cast member Paul Giamatti
describes Robert’s casting as “genius.”
About Shooting the Film
COSMOPOLIS embodies the classical unities of action, time, and place. Although episodic
in many respects—it is, arguably, a halting road trip—the narrative is unified in so far as it
develops around Eric’s quest for a haircut. That is his stated single purpose, and all else is a
temporary diversion—at least to a point. The psychological journey is, of course, more
complicated, but the central action is unified.
Unity of place occurs in more than one way. The place is the journey that is solely through
Manhattan. In fact the story is named for a place—a cosmopolis. The term evokes
universality, and the story addresses globalization. New York is both specifically referenced
and acts as a “mythical, iconic city,” says Cronenberg, yet it is the world inside the limo—
Eric’s isolated, manufactured, luxurious space—which is the primary location of the film and
where much of the action takes place (though ironically he uses it to travel toward danger).
The veteran director felt it wasn’t necessary–or even desirable–to shoot in New York.
Instead, he had the controlled limo set created inside a Toronto studio.
About the Limo
Under the direction of Production Designer Arv Greywal, two pristine white limousines were
purchased to create the main setting of the film. The first is seen in exterior shots of Eric
getting in and out of the limo, driving through city streets, into a riot in Times Square. This
car is eventually vandalized, beaten and burned, generally mirroring Packer’s own
breakdown and descent into destruction.
The second car was promptly carved into eleven pieces. Each piece was customized and
modular so it would come apart to facilitate shooting from various angles within in the limo
against a green screen. In post-production, Mr. X. Visual effects team would transform the
green screen into Manhattan streets all the way across town.
Space limitations meant that Cronenberg couldn’t be in there with the actors. So, he listened
with headphones and communicated through an intercom system while watching the action
on a monitor. Of course, he was only a few feet away from them and spoke to them
personally a lot of the time.
The notes also include a description of Cronenberg’s directing style, the music, the costumes, the characters and bios for both the cast and the filmmakers.
To download and read the production notes in their entirety, please click here:
Telefilm.ca Cosmopolis Production Notes