Twilight vamp Robert Pattinson plays a bloodsucker of an altogether different kind – the Wall Street kind – in his new movie Cosmopolis, on Blu-ray and DVD New Year's Day, and the film's director David Cronenberg tells ETonline that he was actually quite impressed with what Rob brought to the table, and that after the baggage of casting -- once you get to that point when you're on set and cameras are rolling -- "Twilight is irrelevant."
"He surprised me every day with good stuff," says Cronenberg. "I don't do rehearsals, and I try not to shape the actor's performance at first. I want to see what his intuition is going to deliver. And then if there's a problem then I start to shape it, nudge it, manipulate it a little bit. I did very little of that with Rob."
Based on the novel by Don DeLillo, Cosmopolis follows one day in the wild life of multi-billionaire asset manager Eric Packer, who travels aimlessly through the streets of New York City in his limousine while conducting investment trading from the back seat. As the day progresses, it devolves into an odyssey with a cast of characters that start to tear his world apart.
"He absolutely would say to you right now, 'I had no idea what I was doing at any time,' and he would mean it," says the veteran director of Rob's performance. "I think he really didn't realize how good he was. … He was surprising himself, but he was surprising me by his accuracy. It was just dead on. I mean, by the end of it we were doing one take. Honestly the whole last scene, the whole last shot in the movie with him and Paul [Giamatti] -- one take. And it's a long take as well. And it's very emotional, and very subtle. One take for both of them, it was so good. … In fact, we finished the shoot five days early, and a lot of that was due to Rob."
Of course, when Cronenberg first cast Rob, he had to overcome what he calls Twilight "baggage," explaining, "You often have to consider what we call baggage for an actor, and you have to decide whether it's a problem or not. I hate the idea of it because I know I'm going to be on the set with the guy at three in the morning shooting in the streets of Toronto, and none of that stuff is relevant. We're just two people trying to make the movie work. So his past performances, or his fame, or lack of it, or whatever the factor is, is at that point irrelevant. What's relevant only is what we can do creatively with each other.
"On the other hand, when you're financing a movie you have to have lead actors who have some weight and some substance and will attract investors so that you can get your movie financed, so it's a weird situation," he continues. "Aside from the fact that yes, he was an exciting and interesting, surprising choice in terms of how investors viewed it -- and it worked because we got the financing for the movie -- after that Twilight is irrelevant, you know?"
What mattered most to Cronenberg was that his lead could carry the scene and had the proper charisma: "It starts very simply with is he the right age, does he have the right look, does he have the right presence onscreen?" he says. "He is in absolutely every scene in the movie, and that's really quite rare. Even in a movie with Tom Cruise, you don't see Tom in every scene. But in this case you do, and so he has to have some charisma. You have to want to watch him for that long and that intensely, because I knew I was going to be crawling all over his face with the camera."
Of course, it wouldn't be a David Cronenberg film without a little oral or anal fixation – themes prominently placed in such films of his as Naked Lunch, Dead Ringers and Videodrome – and there's an especially amusing scene during Cosmopolis in which Rob gets examined by a doctor in his limo and discovers that he has an "asymmetrical prostate."
"Orifices are the entry and exit of our bodies, and that really talks about identity and where the boundaries of an individual identity end and where the environment begins," says a straight-faced Cronenberg, adding with a laugh, "I could do an academic analysis of my own movies, but that wouldn't help me create [my new] movies. … You could do that analysis and make those connections amongst the movies, and you'd be correct."