Not many directors catch their second wind at age 62; not many directors could yield such diverse flicks as "A History of Violence," "The Fly" and "Naked Lunch." Then again, not many directors are on the same level as David Cronenberg.
With the awards-season momentum of "Eastern Promises" continuing to grow as it debuts on DVD, we caught up with the iconic auteur to get his thoughts on neck-slicing, the perceived stages of his back catalog, and whether he and James Woods predicted the Internet way back in 1983.
MTV: David, some people are calling "Promises" an unofficial sequel to "A History of Violence." Was that your intention?
DAVID CRONENBERG: Well, I can see why they would. It's actually sort of like a mirror image in a way, because of the nature of concealed identity. In one case, you have a bad man who appears to be good; in the other one, you have a good man who appears to be bad.
MTV: Would you like to see them linked together in the years to come?
DC: I can see how they might be fun on a double-bill together. But really, it's just by accident. There were several other projects that came my way, and I almost did one or two of those, but that didn't happen. It wasn't planned, let's put it that way.
MTV: Your fans have elaborate theories on how "Shivers" and "Rabid" came from a period when you were obsessed with scientists modifying human bodies, "Scanners" and "Videodrome" are linked in their personal chaos plotlines, and "The Fly" and "Dead Ringers" are about scientists instead using themselves as guinea pigs. Do you go through periods, like a painter?
DC: I don't, no. It's interesting: It's a different part of your brain that you use when you're being analytical about, let's say, any artistic work. I can be articulate about that. At one point I thought I might have a career as an academic, teaching at a university. So I can do that; I can be a critic. I can be an analyst of my own work. But when I'm doing that, I am using a different part of my brain than when I direct. I sometimes have to remind critics, and film journalists, not to confuse their process with mine. In other words, what they're saying is not necessarily wrong, but it's not what I use to make a movie.
MTV: So, you shut off that part of your brain?
DC: It doesn't really help me in trying to make "Eastern Promises," to look at how it might connect to the characters in "A History of Violence." That doesn't help me at all. It wouldn't help Viggo [Mortensen], nobody. Creatively, it's not fruitful. After the fact, analytically, it can be very interesting to take that approach. But I take it as a compliment, because it means that the films are interesting enough and complex enough and have enough texture that they can support that kind of analysis.
MTV: In your early movies, you depended more on gore. Do those old muscles allow you to be more accurate than most directors when you need to, say, portray a man in "Promises" getting his throat slit?
DC: Well, you'll have to tell me about "Sweeney Todd." I haven't seen it yet, but I have a feeling there are a few throat cuttings in that one, too. All of my experience making movies has helped me make other movies.
MTV: But your violence still feels more real than virtually anyone else's.
DC: You can see somebody getting their throat cut on your computer, any time of the day or night that you want; that's a new thing. It's true that most people maybe won't look for that - but it's there, it's accessible. And that's unique now. That has never happened before, in the history of the world ... I think we're in different times now. Everything's shifted slightly.
MTV: In that whole voyeuristic, snuff-film regard, did "Videodrome" predict where we are now with the Internet?
DC: People have been saying that movie was prophetic; they've been saying it for years. It seems that that continues. I think people see the "Videodrome" interactivity as being in anticipation of the Internet, and I suppose, in a metaphorical way, it really was.