Were you already familiar with the novel by Don DeLillo?
No. But I had read some of his other books. I first read the script sent to me by David Cronenberg and only after the novel. The script is so faithful to the book that seems almost incredible, especially considering that Cosmopolis was deemed impossible to adapt. Even before reading DeLillo's work, I was struck by the pace of the screenplay was agitated and the relentless tension.
What was it about this film that has attracted your attention?
Cronenberg, without a doubt! I shot a few films and I could not imagine how it would work with him. I was not disappointed ... I knew he would play with his creativity and that this experience would have scored. I left the script involving the same way you can be fascinated by a long poem, a poem very mysterious. Usually, when you read a script, you quickly understand what it's about, where it will go and how it will end, although there are unexpected twists and sophisticated solutions that address the course of history. With the script of Cosmopolis, however, was completely different: the more I read and I could not understand how it would be more evolved and pushed me to think of wanting to be part of the film. Would not it be like shooting a movie any, but a separate and unique opportunity.
The first time he read the script we have seen in the role, you imagined how it would be?
Not at all. The first time I spoke with David I have explained that I could not prefigurami nothing and he reassured me that was a good sign. Since then, I have asked many questions and I left all the text to evolve in a progressive and organic, in transforming visual choices that would form the film. It was a living process, although during the first week of filming we were all still wondering which way he took everything once finished shooting. Everything was very charming, it was as if the film was modeled step by step.
Now it is ready, the film is very different from the script or, conversely, has stuck to what was on paper?
Hard to say, the film moves on several levels. I've seen it twice so far. The first I was amazed by its farcical side: while touring knew what they were seeing on the screen but the tone was alienating. The second time, however, has taken over the weight of what they had been involved. It has been two private screenings to test the reception of the public, whose reactions were varied and wide ranging, from smiles to the tension.
Despite its complexity, I was amazed at how Cosmopolis was able to cause such a wide range of emotions.
In your opinion, who is Eric Packer? As you describe it?
For me, Eric feels like a person who belongs to another world, living as if he had been born on another planet and then tries to discover who really should live. Very simply, Packer does not understand how the world works and how.
However, it has enough knowledge of the world he lives to be able to create a fortune.
Yes, but in a very abstract. Banking, brokerage and speculative activities are unconnected. If managed well in all it is not because it is an industry specialist. If anything, it is very rare with an instinct, something very mysterious and profound, which can treat the algorithms as if they were spells. In the film, as in the book, you can see that his approach to financial data tends to show it again in the future, as they do not know how to live the present. Perhaps, somehow, manages to capture the mechanisms of the world around him but only in a particular way and obscure.
Has discussed this with David Cronenberg?
A little, yes. But he liked when I was looking for answers to something inexplicable. In particular, appreciated as I began to pray without really knowing what I was doing and, as soon as he realized that I was giving birth to the sequences of cause and effect, I froze. It was a very strange way to direct, based entirely on feelings rather than ideas.
How did you prepare for the role?
David does not like tests. We have not talked much about the film before it began to spin. During production, I only met the other actors on the set and only there I discovered how would literally appeared in the limo of Eric Packer. And it was quite pleasant.
Since the beginning of filming, it's as if I had lived through the film and the machine: I was always there, had become my home and in my space I welcomed all the other actors, came to visit while I remained seated on the kind of throne. Feeling all one with a velvet that environment was comfortable enough and all the others had to practically adapt to what was my world.
You had signs on the appearance of his character, or on clothing?
Yes, the important thing was that Packer had a neutral appearance. We then sought to avoid the most obvious features and stereotypical business people. The only discussion was only on the choice of sunglasses to wear at the beginning, I tried a couple that were anonymous and that they said nothing of the character.
Make much difference shooting the scenes in the same chronological order of the script?
I think it was very important, it creates a cumulative effect that shapes the entire film. At the start of filming, no one knows what will be the final tone...Well, perhaps only David but he has never suggested. For the crew, the identity of the film you constructed as Packer revealed something more about himself. Also, let me turn in order to capture the full essence of Packer when his life is gradually falling apart.
One of the peculiarities of his role is that, one after another, he finds himself having to meet and interact with different actors. How does it feel?
When I agreed to do the film, the only actor Paul Giamatti was already engaged, I've always considered a great. Then, it was quite magical and frightening to see Juliette Binoche, Samantha Morton and Mathieu Amalric transformed into their characters. Each of them brought a different tone on stage and has not been easy being in a short time as David had asked of them. They had to transform their acting and be guided by the context. I was inside the world of Cosmopolis long but they had been accustomed to that reality and tune into its rhythm. While we were shooting, Juliette Binoche was also very involved in the creative process, suggesting different hypotheses of acting then put in place.
This means that there are various styles of acting, dictated mainly by the different nationalities of actors? Or all the actors have complied with the provisions of Cronenberg?
There are different feelings and I think David wanted no more. Paradoxically, this diversity is underlined by all the celebrities who are allegedly American, except the one by Mathieu Amalric. This diversity is connected to the city of New York, where everyone seems to come from different places and where the mother tongue of many people is not English. Of course, the film does not aim to recreate the effects of realism: it takes place in New York but never insist on a particular location. Having actors with different backgrounds that mirror those of the city contributes, if anything, to give to Cosmopolis strangeness and abstraction.
For its part, had in mind some model or actor for inspiration?
On the contrary. Actually, I just tried to avoid any possible reference. I did not want the audience in front of Cosmopolis is reminded of other films with Wall Street in the center, the financial world and the rich bankers. I had to find my own approach rather than relying on attitudes and acting in effect already seen.
Remember if Cronenberg has ever had special requests while you working with him?
He insisted that pronunciassimo every word of the script to the letter, the dialogue would be those already written. Would not tolerate any change. The screenplay is based largely on the pace and had to be careful with the words. But David's approach was very positive, few were clinched take, and this seemed almost scary. Paul Giamatti just arrived on the set had to recite a monologue in one breath, and David was able to shoot it without any interruption. I was fascinated by both the performance of Paul that the readiness and the safety of David.
Have you enjoyed working in this manner and strictly adhere to the dialogues written?
It was something that still does not know and that was one of the main reasons why I agreed to do Cosmopolis. I had never done anything like this, usually the scripts set the stage to follow, and each actor gives his contribution, sewing on itself the character. In my earlier films, the dialogues were flexible. This time, however, was how to act in the theater: when you take Shakespeare on stage, you certainly can not change directions.
Somehow, the limo is a bit like a stage.
Of course. And, since this framework lends itself to different types of scenes, you must always be ready to change the registry. After many years of my early plays, I found myself having to learn all the jokes. You live in constant tension, you have to be careful but always know that you'll get a better result. Even if I was forced to live as a recluse during the filming - I know the part to perfection, studying dozens of pages a day and put everything in focus - it was worth it: I left a good feeling, than that experienced on most of the set where everything is divided.
What was the major difficulty while filming?
The most disturbing thing was playing a character that does not pass through a clear evolution and does not follow a predictable path. In fact, Packer changed, has evolved from hell, but it's not like the public is accustomed to seeing. David has kept everything under control. I had never before worked with a director who, taking care of every aspect of his films, is also considered responsible for everything, every little step. At first I found it disturbing but then, little by little, I gained confidence in his methods and I let myself go.
check out DAVID CRONENBERG, AND DON DELILLO interviews here