CANNES - When you have Julianne Moore, Robert Pattinson, John Cusack and David Cronenberg on a panel for thirty minutes you expect a lively and intelligent conversation. Maybe it was the mixed reviews for Cronenberg's "Maps to the Stars" or maybe it was just the always dicey prospects of the international press corps but, sadly, this was one press conference that was sort of a dud.
Pattinson, arguably the most popular star in the building (assuming Channing Tatum had departed the Palais by then), has the least amount of screen time among the principal cast so there wasn't much to ask (Even more disappointing since the press were robbed of a conference for his more intriguing midnight selection "The Rover"). Still, one reporter from Canal Plus was smart enough to recognize that in Cronenberg's last film, "Cosmopolis," Pattionson has sex with Julianne Binoche in a car and does so again with Moore in "Maps." That begged the question: Who was the better passenger? As the room breaks out in laughter Pattinson's sheepish grin can't hide the fact he's searching for a witty comeback.
"They are both 7's," Pattinson says. "Obviously Julianne was a wonderful experience. She's extremely sweaty."
Sex in automobiles is clearly a sensitive subject for the man who helmed the first "Crash" in 1996 (not the Oscar-winning one). He was asked about why it seems to have been a theme in a number of his movies and Cronenberg used the question to make sure everyone know he's still bitter about a release that took place 18 years ago.
"'Crash' was suppressed by Ted Turner because he was in control of the distribution of it. And he said if people say that movie they would probably have sex in cars," Cronenberg recalls. "There is an entirely generation of Americans who were spawned in 1950's Fords. Part of the sexual revolution came from the automobile. It was freedom, it was [kids escaping from their parents supervision] and going out on the road. I don't think I am breaking any new territory. [And] why wouldn't you? There are just such great cars around.
As for the film itself, Pattinson had such a rewarding creative experience with Cronenberg on "Cosmopolis" that when he was offered "Maps" it was simply a no-brainer. Pattinson admitted, "I said yes before I even read the script It's always extremely exciting thing and also I like being part of [David's] world."
Moore, who plays a desperate B actress with stereotypical Hollywood morals, knows that the opportunity to collaborate with someone like Cronenberg doesn't come along every day.
"David is truly one of the true auteurs. It was a privilege to work with him. You like to work with the big ones and that is what David is."
"Stars" is part movie industry satire, part David Lynch spookiness and part family drama. It's also something of a comedy (although many of the jokes fall flat). Some critics have remarked they can't believe Cronenberg took so long to make one. That reaction has puzzled the Canadian filmmaker.
"I think all my movies are funny and I think this one is no exception," Cronenberg says.
"People have said to me I should really make a comedy, but I've really made nothing else. THis could be the "divine" comedy. Every movie is different, but with Bruce [Wagner's] script there is a voice and it is his. I was really serving the script and his vision of LA and humanity in LA. Blame him, it's not my fault. It is playing all the tones. Playing all the notes and they vary in scene to scene and moment to moment. You gotta admit there are some laughs in the movie, come on."
Wagner, who is best known the seminal 1993 mini-series "Wild Palms" and the novel "Force Majeure," admitted the whole Cannes experience felt like a scene out of "Maps."
"In terms of this being surreal, I'm not even here. This isn't even happening. Writer's struggle to not exist," Wagner says. "No, it is quite bizarre and sublime. I think the cult of celebrity to Andy Warhol who said everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. I think in the future everyone will be famous all the time. In terms of desperation and need. These are timeless concerns and as long as there is the need to be seen and paid attention to."
Wagner succinctly added, "The Kardashians existed in the time of the pharaohs."