Cult hero filmmaker David Cronenberg and “Twilight” leading man Robert Pattinson rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange last week to promote their new psychological thriller, “Cosmopolis.” Both men agree that their visit was a bit strange. After all, “Cosmopolis,” based on the book by Don DeLillo, is a capitalist critique that, while having been published in 2003, speaks to the Occupy Wall Street movement and creates a disturbing portrait of the emptiness of the 1 percent.
The English actor and the Canadian director, who called us shortly after Pattinson made a much-hyped appearance on “Good Morning America,” admitted that their “Cosmopolis” experience has been odd at times and, much like their film, uncomfortable with a bit of irony. There’s the strangeness of the movie itself. Then there are the “Twilight” fans who love Pattinson enough to expose themselves to an R-rated film about the economy that involves an eccentric millionaire getting a proctology exam in the back of a limo. Adding to the weirdness is Pattinson’s involvement in a very public cheating scandal; his longtime girlfriend Kristen Stewart recently apologized for being unfaithful with Rupert Sanders, the director of “Snow White and the Huntsman.” After Stewart went public, Pattinson disappeared for weeks, was rumored to be hiding out at Reese Witherspoon’s house, then resurfaced, to the delight of the paparazzi, to promote “Cosmopolis” on the red carpet and elsewhere.
It’s been a strange trip, but Cronenberg and Pattinson seem wonderfully comfortable — at least with each other — amid all the awkwardness.
Q. You both have said that you filmed this movie in chronological order, and I know that with many movies, the last scenes are shot first. Was that a luxury — to film from start to finish?
Cronenberg: One of the trickiest things that I had to learn as a director was exactly that. I mean, suddenly you’re forced to shoot the last scene of the movie first. And it’s hard for the actors because they don’t know who they are yet and they’re doing their death scene. As an actor myself, I was in Clive Barker’s movie “Nightbreed,” and the first thing we shoot was my character getting killed. And I said a typical actor thing. I said, “How can I know how to die when I haven’t lived yet?” So it is kind of a luxury. I think Rob can talk about that.
Pattinson: I agree. (Laughs) I don’t think I can add to that.
Q. You have both been very candid in interviews about the fact that you didn’t necessarily know how this novel would translate to film and what it meant to you. Do you have a different interpretation of the text now that you’re finished with the film?
Pattinson: Well, I like it. I don’t think that confusion is necessarily a bad thing. We’ve done hundreds of interviews now and I still find myself coming up with new things to say.
Cronenberg: Those statements that we made, which were very candid, can be misinterpreted as meaning we were inept, incompetent. But not at all. You know, I don’t do storyboards, for example. I don’t really know what I’m going to do at every set up and every shot. It’s all very spontaneous and of-the-moment, even what lens to use. That’s what we’re talking about. We don’t have it all mapped out. We’re trusting the script and trusting the dialogue that is all 100 percent Don DeLillo’s and taken from the novel directly. We know that if we respond directly to that . . . the movie will have its coherence.
Q. You just rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. What was that like? And what do you think the people there would think of this movie if they saw it?
Cronenberg: All through the halls of the stock exchange they have these monitors built into the walls, and they were all showing clips of “Cosmopolis.” All of the people there who were marshaling us were incredibly excited about the movie and really wanted to see it. And they were incredibly friendly and sweet, and I was suddenly thinking, “This is the wonderful, friendly face of capitalism. I don’t know why I’ve been fighting it for so long. I think I’m going to buy some stock.” [Pattinson laughs.] And the stock exchange is about marketing. To link the starting of the day with some product that’s being marketed was a no-brainer. And the fact that it might be rather ironic that we were opening the stock exchange; I don’t think it occurred to them.
Q. Mr. Pattinson, what did you think of the visit?
Pattinson: I’m so clueless about anything to do with that world. I was kind of just terrified that I was somehow going to mess it up. And also to see people’s enthusiasm. It’s so alien. Even people’s attitudes there. It seems so alien to me. I mean, I’ve met traders before, but in their own environment — everyone’s extremely happy, which is not what I expected. It doesn’t seem stressful at all. They were all excited about seeing who was going to ring the bell this morning. They had the American gymnastics team closing it that day. It looks like a really fun place to work.
Q. You guys seem like you like each other a lot. You seem so close during this publicity tour. I was thinking, when I looked at pictures from the stock exchange visit, that you actually look like relatives.
[Cronenberg and Pattinson laugh.]
Cronenberg: We get along pretty well and we were kind of wearing the same suit. They were Gucci suits that were connected with the movie — the character wears them — and so, we were Tweedledum and Tweedledee at that point.
Q. Mr. Cronenberg, where do you most enjoy promoting your films? You don’t have to say America.
Cronenberg: I have a huge enthusiastic fan base in France. My first films were horror films and genre films, and in France they never had any prejudice against them, whereas in North America, in the old days when I started especially, there was prejudice against them. They weren’t taken seriously as good cinema. So I suppose I feel more comfortable, weirdly enough, in France releasing a film. The level of discourse there is very intelligent, very intellectual, sometimes humorously so, but I like playing that game there.
Q. Mr. Pattinson, how have you taken to the Cronenberg fan base? I imagine that it’s strange to see “Twilight” fans with people who love David Cronenberg movies.
Pattinson: Absolutely. We were in London and we did a Q&A and it was two very diverse groups of people who suddenly came into contact with each other for I think probably the first time. And, I don’t know . . . David’s horror film fans . . . and general “Twilight” female fans . . . are actually quite a good pairing. I think both of them didn’t see anything in each other first of all, but they’re quite a good, odd couple. When you see a bearded guy with long hair, who absolutely will weep [for Cronenberg] . . . and then a “Twilight” fan who will weep at that, they actually look like a couple.
Q. Mr. Pattinson, I have to ask, in reference to all of the talk show hosts who are asking you personal questions right now: I’m always fascinated by the ability of celebrities to just disappear during a controversy. How do you do that? Is there a tunneling system? Where do you go to hide when you’re so watched?
Pattinson: There is a netherworld where celebrities go. They’re the only ones that have access to it. A mysterious little network of boroughs. (Giggles.)