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David Cronenberg talks casting choices at the press confererence for A Dangerous Method

25 October 2011

As one of the principal films featured at the BFI London Film Festival this year, the big-names were out at the press conference for David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method.

The talented director himself was in attendance at the central London location – alongside writer Christopher Hampton, and leading stars Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen.

The film covers the birth of psychoanalysis, through the relationship formed between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud. However, things get complicated when patient Sabina Speilrein (Keira Knightley) becomes involved, as Jung begins an affair with his subject.

Despite having originally been a stage play, writer Hampton spoke of how the film came to be on the big-screen.

“This started life as a screenplay that nobody wanted to make, so some ten years ago it was turned into a stage play,” Hampton said.

“I was very much guided by David who had read the original screenplay and the stage play - which was more successful, so I think it’s actually closer to the stage play then it is to the original screenplay. And David is very comfortable with scenes that run longer than a page.”

The film, which centres mainly on the tribulations of Jung, being a pivotal role as the connection between the three protagonists, was originally going to focus more centrally on the character of Speilrein. However, Hampton admits that with female leads come issues with the funding.

“I have written films with central characters which are women before which have been very hard to fund particularly for that reason,” he continued.

“I wish films with female central characters were not still facing these absurd restrictions.”

However, these views were counteracted by Cronenberg.

“The main problem with financing this movie was because there is a lot of talk and it’s intelligent, and I think that in itself is a problem more than the gender of the lead characters frankly,” said Cronenberg.

“So that we don’t click into a stereotypical attitude here, Christopher and I were just talking about a movie called Salt which starred Angelina Jolie, and that lead character was originally meant to be male but they couldn’t finance it until they’d changed it to a female played by Jolie, so things are strange out there. It’s hard to just make a blanket statement that will apply to every situation.”

However, Knightley was still a key focus within the film, in what is a difficult role to adapt too – that of a psychopathic, emotionally unstable girl who is also highly intellectual. But Cronenberg was thrilled with his choice of actor.

“Casting is a kind of black art, it’s a huge part of being a director that’s rather invisible and you only have your intuition to guide you, there’s no guide-book on whether two people that have never met will have chemistry on-screen,” he said.

“I had never seen Keira and Michael on-screen together until we were actually shooting. That goes also for how well and how deeply an actor can play the role that you’re anticipating them for.

But for whatever reasons I was really fixed on Keira, she was the one to do this movie. By the time I had talked to her she was pretty much convinced herself that she should do it. She’s incredibly down to earth and incredibly bright and does a lot of research.”

A Dangerous Method Film Page