David Cronenberg ‘Maps’ his constellation of stars

February 25 22:23 2015

Hollywood really hasn’t changed much since David Cronenberg started making movies, and neither has the importance of choosing the right actors. “It’s a matter of intuition,” says the Canadian director, 71, whose Maps to the Stars is in theaters Friday. “Casting is a kind of black art — it’s pretty invisible to most people. But it’s hugely important because if you cast the film right, you can do minimal directing and if you cast it wrong you can destroy the movie irreparably.”635603947046274803-DAVID-CRONENBERG-COVER-71113782

Whether it’s for his dark comedy Maps, which centers on a family and others in Los Angeles willing to go to extremes to maintain their celebrity, or Cronenberg’s early horror films in the 1970s such as Shivers, Rabid and The Brood, doing homework on a potential star is where it all starts. “It gives you an idea of what their taste is in movies and how edgy they’re willing to be,” Cronenberg says. “These days, strangely enough, YouTube is extremely valuable for a director. You look at interviews that the actor’s done. You get a feel for what they’re like when they’re not playing a role in a film.

“By the time you meet that actor or speak to them over the telephone, you really have a very good feel for them.” Cronenberg has assembled an impressive constellation of stars over the years, and he gives some examples of great marriages between his movies and the right thespians. Finding actors often is a pragmatic exercise for Cronenberg: Getting Julianne Moore to play a woman obsessively trying to star in a remake of a movie that featured her late mother seemed like a no-brainer.

Then things got tricky. Moore has dual citizenship in the USA and Great Britain, which for any other movie production might not be important. But Maps was a Canada-Europe co-production, which meant Cronenberg could only have one American actor. So Moore’s dual citizenship allowed him to cast John Cusack and Moore as his leads. “Casting gets very complicated, much more than any normal moviegoer would expect,” says Cronenberg, adding that Moore’s status also helped to get the movie made for an efficient $13 million. “Which by Hollywood standards isn’t even a crafts-services budget. But nonetheless, I couldn’t have financed it with an unknown actress in the lead.”