David Cronenberg: Hollywood actors are ‘desperate to assert their existence’


But Maps to the Stars director insists his new film, which premiered at the Cannes film festival, is not an attack on the movie industry
Andrew Pulver

David Cronenberg asserted that failure in Hollywood leads to “desperation … cruelty and viciousness” after the premiere of his new film, Maps to the Stars, which premiered at the Cannes film festival on Monday. Speaking to journalists at a press conference, Cronenberg said: “As a card-carrying existentialist, I can tell you [Hollywood] people are desperate to exist; they’re desperate to assert their existence.”

Referring to Maps’ central character, struggling actor Havana Segrand (played by Julianne Moore) he said: “She’s terrified she’ll cease to exist. As an actor she’s been discarded by the industry, and it is a living death, you know? That’s where the desperation comes from, and the cruelty and viciousness too. It’s a matter of existence or non-existence.”

Cronenberg has assembled an exceptional cast for Maps to the Stars, his 21st feature, and his fifth to be selected for competition at Cannes. Veteran actors such as John Cusack and Julianne Moore took to the podium alongside younger performers Mia Wasikowska and Robert Pattinson – the last named having become a serial collaborator with Cronenberg after starring in the director’s last film, the Don DeLillo adaptation Cosmopolis. Maps to the Stars follows the intertwined stories of Segrand, and her flailing attempts to be hired for a role in a remake of a film her dead mother starred in, and the Weiss family, whose youngest member is a successful teen star of a fictitious comedy called Bad Babysitter.

However, Cronenberg denied Maps to the Stars was an attack on the movie business itself. “I’m not being evasive here, but the movie is not only about Hollywood. You could set this in Silicon Valley, you could set it on Wall Street, or any place where people are desperate, ambitious, greedy, fearful. To see it as only as an attack on showbusiness and Hollywood is shortchanging it.”

Cusack elaborated on the idea, saying: “It is a very familiar ecosystem, a heightened myth of it perhaps, an ecosystem of fear and greed and desperation. There are all sorts of people within acting who feed it and enable it, and are predators. It could be Washington, or the financial district. But there’s something about LA, and fame, and the need for acknowledgement, which is very infantile.”

Cronenberg was also quizzed on his fondness for sex scenes set in cars, with one journalist pointing out it went all the way back to his JG Ballard adaptation Crash. Cronenberg replied, not entirely seriously: “Crash was suppressed by Ted Turner [CEO of TBS, parent company of Crash’s US distributor Fine Line] because he said it would encourage them to have sex in cars. I said: there’s an entire generation of Americans who have been spawned in the back seats of 1954 Fords. I doubt I invented sex in cars. You have to remember, part of the sexual revolution came about because of the automobile, because young people could get away from their parents, and that was freedom. I don’t think I’m breaking any new territory.

“I mean… why wouldn’t you? There are such great cars around.”



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