The son also rises
With his first feature Antiviral, Brandon Cronenberg is living the maxim ‘like father like son’. “Dad has had a very long and varied career,” he tells DONALD CLARKE. “Almost anything I did would generate comparisons”
Eight months ago, sitting on a windy balcony in Cannes, I asked David Cronenberg what he thought when he heard his son’s first feature had made it into that festival’s Un Certain Regard competition.
“It took me 20 years to get to Cannes and he did it with his first film,” he said through comically gritted teeth. “No, as a father, I was, of course, delighted.”
Brandon Cronenberg – a neat, dark young man with a stoner’s hesitant delivery – laughs shallowly when he hears this story. “Yeah, I think he was proud,” he says. “Actually, We have a pretty good relationship. I’m sure he didn’t really mind.”
If Brandon cares about putting clear blue (or bloody red) water between himself and his father, then it doesn’t show in that first film. Antiviral imagines a universe in which obsessive fans willingly seek out diseases recently contracted by their favourite singers, movie stars and TV personalities. Shot in the director’s native Toronto, the picture carries traces of early Canadian horror movies by David such as Shivers, Rabid and The Brood. Sticky bodily fluids adhere to cold blue surfaces. Desperate maniacs bleed angst in a godless urban hell. You know how those things went.
Anyway, Brandon clearly didn’t feel the need to make a quaint period drama as a way of distancing himself from dad.
“But he just made a period drama.”
True. David released A Dangerous Method last year. But that was hardly a typical Cronenberg project.
“There are echoes, and some of those comparisons are fair,” Brandon says. “But most are overstated. He has had a very long and varied career. Almost anything I did would generate comparisons. But if I actively tried to avoid copying him, then I would still be defining my career by his.”
Was the senior Cronenberg able to stop meddling in his son’s production? He did not, I hope, turn up to make constant criticisms of the framing.
“He wasn’t even in Canada at the time,” Brandon says. “He was shooting overseas, so, no he never showed up on set. Hang on! What kind of parent is that? Ha ha!”
Son to David’s second and current wife Carolyn Zeifman, Brandon was born in 1980 and has spent most of his life in and around the increasingly hip environs of Toronto. (Making a slightly unhappy face, he notes that style watchers are forever declaring that city “the next Seattle”.) As a youth, he did make some attempt to avoid taking up the family business. His earliest ambition was to be a writer. Then he had notions of becoming an illustrator.