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The Reeler Blog

David Cronenberg Finds God

By Christopher Campbell

On the eve of the opening of their new film, Eastern Promises, director David Cronenberg and screenwriter Steve Knight dropped by the Director's Guild Theater for a screening and Q&A hosted by the Musuem of the Moving Image and Variety. The discussion began with the obvious acknowledgement that Eastern Promises makes for a great double feature with Cronenberg's previous work, A History of Violence. But because Knight had nothing to do with that film, the conversation turned towards the topic of the duo's collaboration.


Steve Knight and David Cronenberg at Thursday's preview screening of Eastern Promises in Midtown

"The great thing about working with David," Knight explained to the audience, "is that he has an eye for things that won't work and also an instinct for what would work. So when we first sat down to discuss the script, there were elements of it that David instantly knew would slow things down or wouldn't work. And as a result of David's sure-handedness, the meeting didn't have to be long. Really it's an ideal situation."

"I found the same," Cronenberg replied. "You can often have writers who are very protective of the material because it's theirs, and [for] no other reason. Not necessarily because it works. Then you get a whole ego thing going on; it can be quite messy. But Steve was not like that."

One specific example of the script's malleability is the spareness in the scripting of the now famous, soon-to-be-legendary moment in which Viggo Mortensen kicks ass in a bathhouse while completely nude (and uncensored). "In the original script, [Steve] never talked about the towel," Cronenberg said. "Where did it go? Was it on the body or was it not? So we had to figure that out. It was not too detailed a script. Really when you write a script it is broad strokes mostly, because to put in all the detail that it takes to actually make a movie would make an 800 page script. A script is not even a blueprint, because you can build a house from a blueprint, but you can't build a movie from a script in the same sense."

Knight does deserve credit for the film's underlying themes. "There's birth and death and renewal and Christmas and all of that," he said. "Those things are there if people want to look for them."

"Somebody actually came up with a very interesting religious interpretation of the whole movie," Cronenberg added. "With the baby being Moses in the bulrushes. I'm serious. And you know, it was convincing. I'm convinced. I've made a religious epic. I like Ben-Hur..."

A religious epic with nude fight sequences and acknowledged homosexual undertones (Cronenberg: "Of course there is") -- what else is new? If only Focus Features would sell it based on that description.

Posted at September 14, 2007 10:49 AM

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