When you think of opera, be honest, you start to nod off a little bit. Well, David Cronenberg is about to change all that. The director who made the more watchable of the two Crash movies has turned his 1987 cult classic, The Fly, into a full-blown opera. It's getting its US premiere this weekend at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and, for some reason, Cronenberg agreed to tell Defamer all about it. Join us after the jump as the notoriously oddball auteur opines on everything from the Oscar race to who's freakier, him or David Lynch.
DEFAMER: Mel Brooks and John Waters turned their old movies into Broadway musicals. How come you went the opera route?
CRONENBERG: As a kid I saw the original West Side Story and The Pajama Game in New York, and I have a fondness for musicals, but I've never really been attracted to them as something I would do myself. It makes sense for John Waters to do it. He's into that kind of stuff. But I'm much more snobby and elitist! Although truthfully, opera was popular in its time. It's only now, in retrospect, that it's become an elite art form.
DEFAMER: What did your agents and lawyers say when you told them you wanted to direct an opera?
CRONENBERG: They don't tell me what to do. Your agent is there to help you realize the projects you want. Sure, they're interested in money—they want to get their ten percent—but they work for me.
DEFAMER: Your work has been getting more and more critical acclaim lately. Do you care about winning an Oscar?
CRONENBERG: You have to remember, the movie I did in 1986 won an Oscar.
DEFAMER: Yeah, but for best makeup.
CRONENBERG: You know, everybody disdains the Oscars and wants one at the same time. And I think that's the right attitude. Many wonderful, creative people have won Oscars, so if you win one, you're in their company. And there are also some great filmmakers who have not. So when you don't win an Oscar, you're in that club. But that can never be your motivation. The Oscars are such a lottery. You don't know what films you'll be up against. You don't know what people's attitudes will be. It's foolish to spend two years of your life working on a movie on the off chance that you might win an Oscar.
DEFAMER: Who is it more important to please, yourself or an audience?
CRONENBERG: There's no difference. You are your own audience to begin with. I once met Oliver Stone and he said, "Do you mind being so marginal, with such a small audience?" And I said, "Well, how big of an audience do you need?" There comes a point where if you try to please too big an audience, you lose what was interesting about what you're doing. You have to achieve a balance.
DEFAMER: Why does it seem like all your movies are in some way obsessed with the human body?
CRONENBERG: People don't pay enough attention to the body. My understanding of life is very existential. I think that we are our bodies. There's nothing else, and when we die, that's it. No afterlife. I'm very anti-religious because religion tends to disembody you. There's an emphasis on your spirit, or where you'll be when your body's gone, and that's misleading. I think the world would be a better place if it we admit that's not the case.
DEFAMER: Did you see that BodyWorlds exhibit at the science center here? You of all people would love it!
CRONENBERG: That's what people tell me.
DEFAMER: I've heard you say that you are lazy, but you seem like such an obsessive guy. How is that possible?
CRONENBERG: I get other people to do work for me and then I take credit for it. I say it jokingly, but it's true. I have a desire to be creative, but that's not the same as obsession. I'm happy reading a book or riding my bike through the hills. I get up late, I stay up late. I'm not very well organized unless I'm plugged into a structure like the opera or a movie. When I'm doing that, I have to be organized. But left to my own devices, I like to laze around. I think that's a huge part of creativity. You have to let your mind relax and then another part of your brain suddenly connects with the solution you're trying to find. I nap all the time when I make movies. Often I give my cameraman a very difficult lighting set up so I can get a longer nap.
DEFAMER: What a great scheme. Alright, one last question. Who is weirder, you or David Lynch?
CRONENBERG: Oh, Lynch is way weirder than I am. That's obvious.
(From L To R: Composer Howard Shore, performer Daniel Okulitch, David Cronenberg and conductor Placido Domingo)
[Photo Credits: FilmMagic, Getty Images]