“All stereotypes turn out to be true. This is a horrifying thing about life. All those things you fought against as a youth: you begin to realize they’re stereotypes because they’re true.” (David Cronenberg, 2000’s)
David Paul Cronenberg (born March 15, 1943) is one of the world’s foremost known Canadian filmmakers, screenwriters and actors, and quintessentially Toronto. He is one of the principal originators of what is commonly known as the body horror or venereal horror genre. This style of filmmaking explores people’s fears of bodily transformation and infection. In his films, the psychological is typically intertwined with the physical. In the first half of his career, he explored these themes mostly through horror and science fiction, although his work has since expanded beyond these genres. He has been called “the most audacious and challenging narrative director in the English-speaking world.”
Born in Toronto, Canada, Cronenberg was the son of Esther (born Sumberg), a musician, and Milton Cronenberg, a writer and editor. His family has been described as “a nurturing middle class family.” He began writing as a child and wrote constantly. He attended high school at Harbord Collegiate Institute. A keen interest in science, especially botany and lepidopterology, led him to enter the Honours Science program the University of Toronto in 1963, but he switched to Honors English Language and Literature later in his first year. Cronenberg’s fascination with the film “Winter Kept Us Warm” (1966) by classmate David Secter sparked his interest in film. He began frequenting film camera rental houses, learning art of filmmaking and made two 16mm films (“Transfer” and “From the Drain”). Inspired by the New York underground film scene, he founded the Toronto Film Co-op with Iain Ewing and Ivan Reitman. After taking a year off to travel in Europe, he returned to Canada in 1967, graduating from University College at the top of his class.
Aside from “The Dead Zone” (1983) and “The Fly”, Cronenberg has not generally worked within the world of big-budget, mainstream Hollywood filmmaking, although he has had occasional near misses. At one stage he was considered by George Lucas as a possible director for “Return of the Jedi” but was passed. Cronenberg also worked for nearly a year on a version of “Total Recall” but experienced “creative differences” with producers Dino De Laurentiis and Ronald Shusett. A fan of Philip K. Dick, author of “We Can Remember it For You Wholesale,” the short story upon which the film was based, Cronenberg related (in the biography/overview of his work, Cronenberg on Cronenberg) that his dissatisfaction with what he envisioned the film to be and what it ended up being pained him so greatly that for a time, he suffered a migraine just thinking about it, akin to a needle piercing his eye. In the late 1990s, Cronenberg was announced as director of the sequel “Basic Instinct”, but this also fell through. The thriller “A History of Violence” (2005), is one of his highest budgeted and most accessible of his films to date. He has said that the decision to direct it was influenced by his having had to defer some of his salary on the low-budgeted “Spider”, but it is one of his most critically acclaimed films to date, along with “Eastern Promises” (2007) a film about the struggle of one man to gain power in the Russian Mafia.
Interestingly, despite having the priveledge of working with so many of Hollywood’s finest actors, Cronenberg laments that he has not yet been able to make a film with Burt Reynolds. Staunchly a Canadian filmmaker, with nearly all of his films (including major studio vehicles “The Dead Zone” and “The Fly”) having been filmed in his home province Ontario. Notable exceptions include “M. Butterfly” and “Spider”, most of which were shot in China and England, respectively. “Rabid” and “Shivers” were shot in and around Montreal. Most of his films have been at least partially financed by Telefilm Canada, and Cronenberg is a vocal supporter of government-backed film projects, saying “Every country needs [a system of government grants] in order to have a national cinema in the face of Hollywood”.
In 2012, his highly-anticipated film “Cosmopolis” competed for the Palme d’Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. Too bad there was not an eyewear awards somewhere, for with Cronenberg’s choices in eyeglasses and sunglasses, he would surely win …