Interview: Brandon Cronenberg
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Date Stamp: January 15, 2013
Caleb Landry Jones as Syd March in Antiviral
Thick: As a new filmmaker, did you consciously choose to delve into the sci-fi genre first?
Brandon Cronenberg: I didn’t really think about genre when I was writing it so much. It was an idea I thought was interesting. I just wrote what seemed to work. I like sci-fi. I’m really into Philip K. Dick. I’m into to but it wasn’t specifically an attempt to be a sci-fi filmmaker.
T: What do you think is the most faithful adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story?
BC: Do you remember Screamers?
T: I never saw Screamers.
BC: I forget if it’s actually good because it’s been such a long time but I think that is the most faithful adaptation of anything that he’s done.
T: There was another one from the ‘80s I hadn’t seen either.
BC: It’s probably terrible going back to it but at the time I seem to remember digging it, like it had some good stuff.
T: I just re-watched Total Recall because they put out a special Blu-ray package to capitalize off the new movie. It’s funny how different your perception of a film is when you are younger.
T: I checked out Antiviral last night so it would be fresh in my mind. First off, well done and congratulations. The movie definitely gets across the idea, it’s very visceral. Talk about the concept of the film.
BC: It’s sort of about a culture that fetishizes the body. So, I wanted the film to fetishize the body but it kind of a gross way; hence, the macro stuff. And also, there’s this kind of disconnect I think between celebrities as these inhuman theoretical media constructions and the actual animal bodies that the people are living with and dealing with behind that. So, I wanted to have that contrast. In terms of the needles, there’s an indirect eroticism. It’s a one-sided eroticism; it’s a one-sided obsession. So, there needed to be penetration shots.
T: How much of your upbringing with a famous father (David Cronenberg) plays into this film?
BC: Definitely, seeing the disconnect between his public persona and who he is. People do buy that stuff but a lot of people recognize what’s reported is fictional to a certain degree. But when you’re faced with how much is made up and how unrelated that character in the media is to any actual human being. It’s still sort of shocking sometimes.
T: Referring back to the first question, is there a specific next step for you or are you just after telling another good story?
BC: I think just a good story. I think the next one will probably also be another sort of horror Sci-Fi thing just because the stuff I’m thinking about lends itself to that. But until I write it, I won’t know for sure. I’m trying to stick with my interests but not really worry about labeling it.
T: What drew you to Caleb Landry Jones for the lead role? Was he the only choice?
BC: We were considering a lot of people. I had seen him in X-Men, but X-Men is such an effects movie that I hadn’t been thinking about it to draw from. It wasn’t until we got his reel, because his agent had worked with my producer and they just discussed actors. He said, you should check out this guy. We were all at the production office watching on this laptop and everyone got really excited because he’s done some amazing stuff.
T: I heard about his early stuff but I haven’t seen it.
BC: He was in The Last Exorcism. He was on of the kids at the end of No Country For Old Men on the bike. I think that was is first movie gig. So, he’s done some stuff but this is his first actual lead role.
T: Talk about the score a little. There was some good interplay between the visuals and the music, and silence occasionally too.
BC: Well, score-wise, I always wanted to do electronic mixed with acoustic instrumentation because I really like that. And then the composer, E.C. Woodley said, I have this friend who has this bank of old analog synths that I’ve been wanting to play with. So, that seemed really perfect. He showed me some tests he had done. I wanted it to be really bodily and atmospheric. It really was a very collaborative thing; it developed through a lot of discussion.
T: Your dad had said in an interview that superhero movies “cannot rise to the highest levels of cinematic art”, and from our talk I can tell superhero movies might be your bag either, but being from this generation that is so enamoured with them, what do you think?
BC: I’ve been pretty bored of superhero movies. I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with superhero movies. I collected comics as a kid so I may be more open to a Batman movie…is that what he was talking about?
T: I don’t remember specifically but I just remember him saying that they (superhero movies) are silly, and a lot of people say that. But I think it got the reaction it did because he had done such a good job of adapting a graphic novel (History of Violence).
BC: I keep hoping for a really good superhero movie. I’m definitely up for it. I’m willing to look past silly costumes because I think they’re iconic. But yeah, I’m the only person I know that didn’t like the Batman movies, especially the last one. Even the Avengers…maybe even more so. I like Joss Whedon but I couldn’t get into it. I don’t want to be an anti-superhero curmudgeon or anything.
T: I didn’t say it.
BC: Some of the most interesting superhero comics are the ones that get really weird, like The Killing Joke (Batman graphic novel written by Alan Moore) was amazing. But I don’t know if anyone would let anyone make a Killing Joke movie. All those things are such huge franchises, there’s so much money behind them, it’s hard to get weird with them. So, in a way, it totally makes sense that we have all these superhero movies because the technology has finally reached the point that we can do that. But at the same time, the industry doesn’t lend itself to weird spectacle movies. It’s just too much money is at risk.