The just-released horror-thriller also stars Léa Seydoux, Kristen Stewart, and Scott Speedman.
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A few years ago, producer Robert Lantos called legendary Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg and asked him to read a script — by David Cronenberg.

"He phoned me up and he said, 'You know, you haven't been making movies, and there's a really great script, you should read it, it's your own script that we tried to do 20 years ago,'" says Cronenberg, whose many directorial credits include The Fly and A History of Violence. I said, 'Well, it involves some technology and some sci-fi concepts — it must be totally irrelevant now, because technology moves on.' He said, 'No, no, it's more relevant than ever.' So I read it, and I thought, yeah, it's actually a movie I could get excited about making, and to my surprise, I said yes. It still took Robert three years to put the financing together. But that's basically how it happened."

Crimes of the Future
Léa Seydoux, Viggo Mortensen, and Kristen Stewart in 'Crimes of the Future.'
| Credit: Nikos Nikolopoulos/Neon

The "it" in question is the Cannes-screened and just-released Crimes of the Future, the director's first film since 2014's Maps to the Stars. Set in the near-future, the movie stars longtime Cronenberg collaborator Viggo Mortensen as a performance artist who grows superfluous internal organs which his partner, played by Léa Seydoux, surgically removes for the enjoyment of audiences. While the movie is packed with potentially disturbing images, including a sequence in which an autopsy is performed on the body of a boy, it is simultaneously a dense rumination on art, creativity, and our relationship with technology, among other subjects.

"When I read the script at first, I don't think that I understood everything, because it's very metaphorical and philosophical," says Seydoux. "But I like when I don't quite understand everything. I really wanted to work with David and Viggo as well. He has created a specific language, David. To me, he is a real artist. He created his own style and I wanted to be part of it."

The cast also includes Kristen Stewart as an official from the National Organ Registry, which tracks new organ growths.

"She did a couple of films with Olivier Assayas, Personal Shopper and Clouds of Sils Maria, and I thought she has evolved since her vampire beginnings into a really fine actress," says Cronenberg. I thought she could be really quite terrific in this role."

The director cast fellow Canadian Scott Speedman as the leader of an underground organization with its own agenda when it comes to humanity's evolution.

"I woke up one day with an email from Robert Lantos asking me to be a part of this movie," says the Grey's Anatomy actor, whose horror CV also includes 2008's The Strangers. "I was obviously thrilled that it was a David Cronenberg movie. I did grow up [watching his movies]. The Dead Zone was a big one when I was a little kid. When I started acting and getting more involved in film and falling in love with film as an actor, The Fly jumped out to me as a major movie, especially by a Canadian."

Crimes of the Future
Viggo Mortensen and Kristen Stewart in 'Crimes of the Future'
| Credit: NEON

Cronenberg shot the film in Greece last summer and fall.

"It was so special," says Seydoux. "We shot in Athens, and as soon as I came on set, I was drawn to this world, you know."

"He has a gift for that, David, doesn't he?" says Mortensen. "As an audience, when you watch his movies, you don't realize it, and suddenly you're in for the ride. But for actors, too, you're there and you're like, wow, this is what we're doing."

"What I love about David is, for me, he's like a philosopher," adds Seydoux. "It's really what's underneath, and the meaning you get out of the strange visuals."

Crimes of the Future
Kristen Stewart on the set of David Cronenberg's 'Crimes of the Future'
| Credit: NEON

The movie is certainly filled with weird sights, from a bucking futuristic chair which aids digestion to a character whose face is covered in ears. So which shooting day sticks out in Mortensen's mind when it comes to out-and-out strangeness?

"Well, some of the things we could see," he says. "I like that he does that. Some of them are real practical effects, things you see in the moment, and then other things he adds later. But having it not be all added later, it's not so smooth, it's not cartoon-like, there's something organic, there's something visceral about it in the finished product. As far as the things that were strange, there were many strange things that we saw and did. [Laughs] One of the the things that was real and sort of disturbing was when we first saw the boy, his body, that's been dead for a while. They did such a a great job — it looked so real. That was disturbing, to see this little boy."

Crimes of the Future has been warmly received by many critics, and the process of making the movie seems to have inspired Cronenberg to continue working, coming out a period of semi-retirement. Last month, it was announced that Cronenberg is set to direct The Shrouds, about a grieving widower who builds a device to connect with the dead inside a burial shroud.

"Vincent Cassel will be in the lead role," says Cronenberg, who previously worked with the French actor on the 2007 film Eastern Promises. "You're never sure with independent filmmaking. Financing can fall apart. Who knows [with] the world economy. But that would be my next movie, all things being equal."

Watch the trailer for Crimes of the Future below.

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