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Q&A: David Cronenberg on Sex, Actors and the Perfect Date Movie

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I wasn't sure how he'd react to it, but when I got to interview David Cronenberg during this year's TIFF, I decided to tell him that I thought his latest film, A Dangerous Method, was a perfect date movie. It does, after all, tell the true story of psychiatrist Carl Jung's treatment of Sabina Spielrein, a disturbed young woman who with whom he eventually has an affair with. His treatment of her is also deeply linked to his relationship with his mentor, Sigmund Freud, and their exploration of human behavior and treatment through psychotherapy. Charged with sexual and intellectual tension. Perfect for a first date. 

David: Well, that's wonderful. That's the best criticism I've heard of it.

Jamey: Really?

David: I like it. For a certain person it's incredibly exciting and stimulating and it's also very sexy, but it's sort of sexy intellectual - which is unusual. I don't think you get that in movies very often, you know. 

We've got five characters here who are incredibly well educated, incredibly articulate, and yet full of abstract passionate ideas. Their passion and their intellect go together. As I say, you don't usually see that and that's a perfect Freudian structure.

Jamey: Viggo [Mortensen] is your Freud and this your third film with him. How has your relationship with him changed and evolved?

David: It's been destroyed (laughs). No, if he were here we would go on for five minutes about that. It's fantastic. Once again, you know, you work with actors - and I hadn't worked with any of these actors before... well, I'd worked with Vincent Cassel - and it's always a comfort to have somebody on the set who's a key figure in the movie who you know very well.

Viggo and I have become very good friends and I had no doubt, even though it's not obvious casting, Viggo Mortensen is Sigmund Freud. But that's not obvious. We thought that we would deliver a version of Freud that is maybe more accurate than people had ever done before. Everybody knows the old 80 year old, frail, kind of cancer ridden old Freud. But this was a different one. He was 50, he was in the prime of his life and so on. Very strong, very charismatic and actually very witty. He could be quite funny and he could be very cutting in his wit.

And I knew that Viggo would do incredible research and do all kinds of things to the character - because that's what he does. And if an actor does that, you - the director - don't have to do that. You really give your actors whatever they need and different actors are more needy than others. Viggo is fantastically adept at doing that sort of thing. 

Once again it was a joy to work with him. And as it turned out he got along great, of course as I figured he would, with all the other actors and we had a lot of fun. It's hard work but when it's going well it's tremendous fun, it's the best fun. 

Jamey: Sarah Gadon, at the other end of the spectrum, is very new. She's also very young... and yet she didn't seem so young in the film. Can you tell me a bit about her?

David: Yeah, I consider her my discovery, it's my casting director who found her for me. I think she's absolutely a star. Not only is she beautiful and she's got a fantastic voice but she's really good. She's the female lead in Cosmopolis, my next movie, which I've shot already and she plays quite a different character - once again fantastic and I think you're going to see a lot of her.

Jamey: Robert Pattinson stars in Cosmopolis opposite Sarah and he's extremely famous right now but I doubt that's why you chose him.  What is the reason?

David: No, actually, the fame was a detriment. I mean, it's good for financing, but it's not necessarily good for when you're filming in the street and there are a lot of Twi-hards. I think people will be really surprised. I think he's a terrific actor and that's why I went for him.


A Dangerous Method opens in theatres across Canada today. 

Related posts:

VIDEO: Sarah Gadon on Working With Michael Fassbender and David Cronenberg on A Dangerous Method
VIDEO: David Cronenberg and Sarah Gadon on Working With Robert Pattinson in Cosmopolis

Watch the trailer: