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David Cronenberg

David Cronenberg

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: March 15, 1943 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Toronto, Ontario, CA Profession: director, screenwriter, actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

f the director's personal obsessions.Cronenberg turned to a legendary literary source and an early inspiration for his next feature, "Naked Lunch" (1991). Realizing that a faithful adaptation of William S Burroughs' hallucinatory novel would be impossible, he utilized elements of the author's own storied life to craft a meditation on the writing of the novel and its shaping of the writer. Easily Cronenberg's greatest critical success to date, "Naked Lunch" garnered awards from several major critics' associations (mostly for its screenplay), 11 Canadian Genie awards (including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Editing) and placement on many "Best of" lists. Cronenberg's surprisingly subdued direction of "M. Butterfly" (1993), David Henry Hwang's adaptation of his hit Broadway show that confronted issues of identity, gender roles, and ethnic stereotyping, met with mixed and disappointed reviews. Still, the filmmaker's move from grindhouse to art house was complete.Cronenberg again chose seemingly unwatchable material ¿ this time, J.G. Ballard's 1973 novel ¿ for "Crash" (1996), creating his most disturbing, sexually explicit and controversy-provoking film yet. "Crash" presented a...

f the director's personal obsessions.

Cronenberg turned to a legendary literary source and an early inspiration for his next feature, "Naked Lunch" (1991). Realizing that a faithful adaptation of William S Burroughs' hallucinatory novel would be impossible, he utilized elements of the author's own storied life to craft a meditation on the writing of the novel and its shaping of the writer. Easily Cronenberg's greatest critical success to date, "Naked Lunch" garnered awards from several major critics' associations (mostly for its screenplay), 11 Canadian Genie awards (including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Editing) and placement on many "Best of" lists. Cronenberg's surprisingly subdued direction of "M. Butterfly" (1993), David Henry Hwang's adaptation of his hit Broadway show that confronted issues of identity, gender roles, and ethnic stereotyping, met with mixed and disappointed reviews. Still, the filmmaker's move from grindhouse to art house was complete.

Cronenberg again chose seemingly unwatchable material ¿ this time, J.G. Ballard's 1973 novel ¿ for "Crash" (1996), creating his most disturbing, sexually explicit and controversy-provoking film yet. "Crash" presented a psychological futurescape populated by characters who, having lost the ability to connect on an emotional level, engage in fetishistic sex involving car crashes. Howls of protest decried his take on the depersonalizing modern world as pornographic and nihilistic; Ted Turner stalled its release in the U.S. until March 1997, while "Crash" narrowly avoided censorship for its June 1997 opening in England. But the film was honored as a modern masterpiece with the 1996 Cannes Special Jury Prize ("for daring and originality"). The director viewed the characters' desperate quest for feeling, despite their dangerous flirtation with death, as very human and ultimately life-affirming.

Cronenberg's "eXistenZ" (1999), his first original screenplay since "Videodrome," picked up right where that film left off: the orifice in the stomach that received video software was instead replaced by a "bioport" at the base of a person's spine to interphase with a virtual reality game. Inspired by the Fatwa against Salman Rushdie ¿ and perhaps a little by the furor over "Crash" ¿ the picture presented a futuristic world where game playing rules and its creators are society's superstars. Allegra (Jennifer Jason Leigh), whose "eXistenZ" effectively erases the boundaries between fantasy and reality, finds a $5 million Fatwa on her head and embarks with security man Jude Law on a synaptic road movie into the very heart of her game where nothing is as it seems. Once again addressing the consequences of radical bio-technology, Cronenberg imagined a Game Pod that was an organic creature grown from fertilized amphibian eggs stuffed with synthetic DNA ¿ in its way, analogous to actual ongoing experimentation with animal proteins to replace metals as the basis of computer chips.

Cronenberg veered into another experimental storytelling mode with his next film, "Spider" (2002), an adaptation of modern Gothic author Patrick McGrath's early novel. The director told the story of Spider Cleg (Ralph Fiennes), a released mental patient who is plagued by nightmarish recollections of his past filtered through his schizophrenia and unable to tell the difference between memory, nightmare, experience and fantasy. Cronenberg made bold choices with the film, including telling the story entirely from the subjective and utterly unreliable perspective of Spider, and casting Miranda Richardson in virtually all of the significant female roles to illustrate how largely Spider's mother looms in his mind. Many critics admired Cronenberg's efforts and Fiennes' unconventional performance, but felt trapped in Spider's claustrophobic world, as exemplified by Roger Ebert's assessment: "The story has no entry or exit, and is cold, sad and hopeless. Afterward, I feel more admiration than gratitude."

The director's next film was a significant departure from his usual fare, though not without instances of bloody violence and a macabre sense of humor. But it may well have been his greatest cinematic achievement and a complex, compelling expression of Cronenberg's Darwinian, survival-of-the-fittest ethos. "A History of Violence" (2005), adapted from John Wagner and Vince Locke's 1997 graphic novel, tells the story of Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen), a loving, rock-solid husband and father in small town Indiana who gains notoriety as a hero when he skillfully foils a violent robbery attempt in his diner. His actions, however, draw the attention of menacing and shadowy figures who claim to recognize Stall from a heretofore unknown dangerous and bloody past. Aided by a stellar cast that included Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris and William Hurt, Cronenberg skillfully explored questions of identity and the lengths a man will go to both safeguard his family as well as his secrets. The end result was a mixture of psychological character and drama and old fashioned pulp storytelling, easily on par with Hitchcock at his best, as the director found himself atop many lists as a potential contender in that year's awards derby.

Perhaps mellowing with age like a fine wine or simply willing to explore new genres, Cronenberg delved into standard crime thriller territory with "Eastern Promises" (2007), the story of a London-based midwife (Naomi Watts) who investigates the past of a Russian prostitute after she dies in childbirth, only to stumble into a police operation trying to expose a major prostitution ring ran by an Eastern European crime family. "Eastern Promises" also starred Mortensen, Cronenberg¿s new favored actor, who played the smooth henchman of a crime boss (Armin Mueller-Stahl) tasked with making sure the nurse does not reveal secrets inadvertently learned about the family. He soon finds, however, that his loyalties have divided once he realizes that the lies told on all sides might lead to violent retribution. After earning acclaim across the international festival circuit, his film received numerous award nominations, including a Best Picture nod at the Golden Globes. Cronenberg followed with "A Dangerous Method" (2011), an examination of the turbulent relationship between Sigmund Freud (Mortensen) and Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), and the patient (Keira Knightley) who comes between them. He next directed Robert Pattinson in "Cosmopolis" (2012), an adaptation of Don DeLillo¿s dense novel that depicted the "Twilight" star as a soulless billionaire who goes down a path of self-destruction while trying to traverse Manhattan in his limousine. Despite Pattinson¿s huge fan following, care of the "Twilight" franchise, the film was dead on arrival and reviewed as just too odd for the average viewer. Unbowed, the pair reunited for Cronenberg's next film, the Hollywood-based thriller "Maps to the Stars" (2014), also starring Julianne Moore and John Cusack.

undly moving performance from Jeff Goldblum that was central to its success.

Cronenberg's somber and deliberately paced follow-up, "Dead Ringers" (1988), a resounding critical and commercial success, seemed to refute the persistent sexual disgust interpretation. In this impressively accomplished work, Cronenberg's biological horror was almost entirely submerged within the psychological exploration of character and the director's precise command of color, decor and camera movement. A bravura performance by Jeremy Irons makes this grisly story of twin gynecologists who descend into drugs, madness and finally death, a chilling examination of masculine sexual dread and a powerful critique of the patriarchal control of the medical profession. In retrospect, much of Cronenberg's earlier work could be seen as an ironic critique of the fears and repression that have informed our apparently liberated society, rather than merely a visualization o

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

3.
5.
  Spider (2002) Director
6.
  Camera (2000) Director
7.
  Existenz (1999) Director
8.
  Crash (1996) Director
9.
  M. Butterfly (1993) Director
10.
  Naked Lunch (1991) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Body Art (2014)
2.
 Barney's Version (2010)
4.
 Sisters (2007)
5.
 Jason X (2002) Dr. Wimmer
6.
 Resurrection (1999) Fr Rousell
7.
 Last Night (1998) Duncan
8.
9.
 Stupids, The (1996) Postal Supervisor
10.
 Blood & Donuts (1996) Stephen
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Submitted fantasy and science fiction stories to magazines for publication as a youth; none purchased
1966:
As a college student, directed, wrote, shot and edited first film, the 16mm, seven-minute short "Transfer"
1967:
Wrote, directed, shot and edited the 14-minute 16mm short "From the Drain"
1969:
First feature and first film in 35mm, "Stereo" (produced, directed, wrote, shot and edited)
1970:
Completed second feature, "Crimes of the Future"
1971:
Traveled to Europe on Canadian Council Grant
1971:
While living in France, directed, scripted, and shot three fillers for television
1972:
Returned to Canada
1972:
Made six fillers for TV (directed, scripted, and shot)
1972:
Episodic TV directing debut, "Secret Weapons" for the Canadian series "Project X"
1974:
First commercial feature, "Shivers/They Came from Within/Frissons"; also wrote script
1976:
Cast Marilyn Chambers (the "Ivory Snow" porn queen) as a woman with an unsatiable thirst for blood in "Rabid"
1979:
Used Samantha Eggar's bodily-manifested anger in "The Brood" as a reflection of own anger over divorce from first wife
1980:
Wrote and directed the sci-fi horror flick "Scanners"; among film's assets were the noteworthy special effects; spawned a host of sequels (none of which Cronenberg directed)
1983:
Wrote last original screenplay for 16 years, "Videodrome"; starred James Woods in a dynamic performance as head of a soft-core TV channel mesmerized by bizarre, untraceable "snuff" transmissions that have a hallucinatory power
1983:
First feature directed from another's screenplay, "The Dead Zone", based on a Stephen King novel; first Hollywood film
1985:
Acting debut in John Landis' "Into the Night"
1986:
Scored commercial success with "The Fly," a reworking of the 1958 cult sci-fi movie starring Jeff Goldblum; made cameo appearance as a gynecologist
1988:
Directed "Dead Ringers"; starred Jeremy Irons in fascinating dual role as twin gynecologists who share each other's lives ¿ and lovers; based on the true story of the Marcus brothers
1990:
First major acting role in a feature, Clive Barker's "Nightbreed"
1991:
Brilliantly adapted William S Burroughs' supposedly unfilmable novel "Naked Lunch"
1993:
Reteamed with Irons for "M. Butterfly," a tame and disappointing adaptation of David Henry Hwang's Tony Award-winning Broadway play
1996:
Turned another unfilmable novel, J G Ballard's <i>Crash</i>, into an intriguing, disturbing, enigmatic motion picture
1999:
Directed first original script in more than 15 years, "eXistenZ"
1999:
Served as jury president at the Cannes Film Festival
2000:
Signed agreement with Internet studio ExFlix to provide content; announced plans to create "David Cronenberg's Film Skool" featuring a character called Rant Quealy
2002:
Directed Ralph Fiennes and Miranda Richardson in the psychological thriller "Spider"
2005:
Directed "A History of Violence," a film about an average family that is thrust into the spotlight after the father (Viggo Mortensen) commits a seemingly self-defense murder
2007:
Helmed the thriller "Eastern Promises," reteaming the acclaimed director with Viggo Mortensen
2007:
Directed and played a suicidal man in the short segment titled "At the suicide of the last Jew in the world in the last cinema in the world" featured in "To Each His Own Cinema"
2011:
Directed Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley and Mortensen in "A Dangerous Method"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Harbord College: -
North Toronto Collegiate: Toronto , Ontario -
Drewson Street Public School: -
Kent Senior School: -
University of Toronto: Toronto , Ontario - 1963 - 1967

Notes

"Roger, I had a very strange dream last night. In this dream, I found myself making love to a strange man. Only I'm having trouble, you see, because he's old and dying, and he smells bad, and I find him repulsive. But then he tells me that EVERYTHING is erotic, that everything is sexual. You know what I mean? He tells me that even old flesh is erotic flesh, that disease is the love of two alien creatures for each other--that even dying is an act of eroticism. That talking is sexual. That breathing is sexual. That even to physically exist is sexual. And I believe him. And we make love BEAUTIFULLY." --A monologue from Cronenberg's "Shivers" (1975), his first commercial feature, quoted in The Shape of Rage, edited by Piers Handling

"It's a small field, Venereal Horror, but at least I'm king of it." --David Cronenberg talking about "Rabid" (1976) in Monthly Film Bulletin, February 1987.

About Ted Turner's reaction to "Crash": "The film is a meditation on sex, death and technology, but it's beyond articulating. So somebody like Turner slips to the next available notch, which is about teenagers and cars and sex, or something silly like that--especially coming from a guy whose network shows 'The Dukes of Hazzard' all the time." --David Cronenberg quoted in Daily News, March 19, 1997.

"Kids have been masturbating and crashing cars for years; I don't think I'm going to contribute to that. It's ridiculous to think we are realigning society in order to trigger psychotics. People fasten their seatbelts after they see this film. I've probably saved lives." --Cronenberg quoted in the London TIMES, May 28, 1997.

"It's always amusing to me, and maybe a little sad, when people say to me, 'Why did you choose that to be your next film?' And I say, 'Because the money came together.' It's not as though I snap my fingers. People have this wonderful delusion, because your name is known, that you're rich, incredibly powerful, and can do whatever you want. None of these is true.

"When you talk about power, you can also talk about influence, and then it's the body of work, perhaps, that's an influence, and that's not for me to decide. The influence of my first couple of movies still resonates. They're still remaking 'Shivers' with parasites; even the influence it had on 'Alien' is obvious. So, in the sense of that kind of power, that's really more for the critics to decide than for me. It's not something I feel, except that I'm now at an age when people can say I inspired them." --David Cronenberg to Cinefantastique, June 1997

About why MGM (who initially developed project) dropped "eXistenz": "Their own demographics tell them this kind of movie is going to be attractive to young men--because it's sci-fi and about games--and young men don't want the lead to be a girl. They want it to be them. Suddenly you realize you've not written quite so commercially viable script as you thought. Feminist so-called paranoia about Hollywood is absolutely justified." --From Sight and Sound, April 1999

Cautiously hopeful about the reactions to "eXistenZ", he still worried: "It's depressing to think that it might be too much, too confusing, too complex, for people. One feels in danger of losing an audience. There might come a time when there is no audience who can inderstand what I'm doing. Then I'm no longer a film-maker--I mean you need an audience." --From The Guardian, April 1, 1999.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Carolyn Cronenberg.

Family close complete family listing

sister:
Denise Cronenberg. Costume designer, dancer. Has designed costumes for all her brother's features since "The Fly" (1986); studied ballet with the American Ballet Theatre and worked for years as a dancer before changing careers.
daughter:
Cassandra Cronenberg. Assistant director. Served as assistant director trainee on three of father's movies ("Naked Lunch" 1991, "M Butterfly" 1993 and "Crash" 1996); 3rd assistant director on "eXistenZ" (1999).

Bibliography close complete biography

"The Shape of Rage: The Films of David Cronenberg" General Publishing/New York Zoetrope, Inc
"Cronenberg on Cronenberg" Faber and Faber

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