COSMOPOLIS SUPPORTING CAST – As everyone knows by now that Robert Pattinson plays Eric Packer in David Cronenberg‘s Cosmopolis. What they might not know is who is Rob’s supporting cast. From the masterful Paul Giamatti, and the fresh talents of Sarah Gadon and Jay Baruchel to French luminaries Juliette Binoche and Mathieu Amalric, Cronenberg has assembled an impressive cast. Pattinson sums up the ensemble cast: “All the actors come from different backgrounds, have different personalities and have all done completely different kinds of movies. They didn’t know a lot about the film, but everybody wants to work with David and that’s why they’re here.”
Eric Packer is protected by seen and unseen forces. Kevin Durand plays Torval, Eric’s head of security. At 6’6” he is an intimidating presence, and his character is armed and dangerous. Torval is constantly warning Eric away from his journey, especially as he receives information about “credible threats.” But Eric ignores the warnings and subverts his own security.
Durand sees his character “as a frustrated, ex-Military, father-figure to Eric.” He likens Eric to “his teenage son; I can try to guide him in the right direction, but he will ultimately do what he wants.” Torval’s assistants are Kendra (Patricia McKenzie) and Danko (Zeljko Kecojevic), whose intense encounters with Eric function to further reveal his emotional emptiness.
Enroute to his haircut, Eric meets with his business advisors. First to visit the limo is Shiner (Jay Baruchel), Packer’s trading partner and Chief of Technology. Packer depends on his electronic interface with the world and his expectations are high. Shiner is charged with delivering on those expectations, but the character is more casual and less business-like than we might expect. Or would we? Baruchel describes his character as “One of the dot com kids… a slacker who became a millionaire.” He is entrusted with Packer’s technical security, and it has made him rich, but he doubts the meaning of it all.
Vija Kinski (Samantha Morton) is Packer’s Chief of Theory. Specifically, Vija theorizes about the philosophy of finance, one devoid of humanity. Morton embodies a woman so much in her head that she barely notices the riot going on outside the limo as angry protesters spray graffiti and bounce around the limo. Reality and theory are at odds all around her, but she is unwavering.
We meet Packer’s Chief of Finance, Jane Melman (Emily Hampshire), as the single mother diverts her jog—on her one day off—to meet with Eric in the limo about a crisis with the yuan. His disregard for her personal life and preoccupation with his own concerns exasperates Jane, yet there is an odd excitement between them. She talks to him in the limo—and confirms his dangerous financial position—while he has his daily medical tests, even during his prostate exam.
Knowing Eric is a fan of artist Mark Rothko, Didi Fancher (Juliette Binoche) visits Eric in his limousine to tell him that she’s found a painting she thinks he should buy. After they make love, Eric tells her he’s not interested in a single painting; he wants to buy the entire gallery. Binoche notes that “Didi is conflicted because she is obviously attracted to Eric and wants his business, but offended by his vulgar greed.” When asked what Binoche brings to the role, Cronenberg smiles: “She brings her French-ness, talent, humor, sensuality, all the while illuminating a side to our lead character that we may not otherwise see; that he is someone who’d be involved with a mature, strong, opinionated woman.”
Sarah Gadon, the Toronto actress who played Carl Jung’s wife in Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method, appears in Cosmopolis as Eric’s new wife Elise. She is a contemporary New Yorker with rich parents and a boarding school drawl, but she isn’t all about money. “Elise has a veneer of an Upper East Side woman and talks a lot about sex, but underneath she’s very much an intellectual and artist,” Sarah observes. “I think Eric and Elise are just young kids trying to be so much more evolved than they actually are; Elise loves Eric, but he’s very much a symbol of wealth while she is more a symbol of art and intellect—or she thinks she is—and the two together create friction which is exciting… but can’t last.” As for resemblance between the character and the actress, Pattinson affectionately notes: “Elise is kind of an ice queen, but Sarah’s really funny and sweet.”
Mathieu Amalric’s anti-capitalist activist Petrescu delivers a pie in the face to notoriously ultra-capitalist Eric, in a rare unprotected moment on the street. This scene was shot just days before an activist and comedian gave Rupert Murdoch a similar treatment in a British parliamentary hearing, an intriguing example of art anticipating life. Amalric acknowledges the humour of his role but also the disturbing element: “It’s a funny but scary moment that only David Cronenberg can master.” Paulo Branco describes this same moment as “terrible but real.”
K’Naan appears on screen in an open-air hearse. He plays the murdered rap star Brutha Fez, a spiritual musician who is treated as a god by the masses. Off-screen the Somali- Canadian collaborated with Howard Shore on the single for which his character Brutha Fezis remembered, entitle Mecca, based on DeLillo’s own lyrics from the novel.
Benno (Paul Giamatti) is a mysterious character ultimately revealed to be a bitter former employee of Packer. He has been quietly stalking Eric with complicated motives and intentions. When they finally meet, Benno provokes a vulnerable side to the billionaire that was barely glimpsed before. Cronenberg describes Benno as “the conscience of Eric Packer. Benno confronts him over his ultimate lack of humanity and remorse and his sole concentration on pursuit of wealth.”
Giamatti has long wanted to work with Cronenberg, and he agrees with the director about his character: “Benno’s a kind of moral compass—even an alter ego—to Eric, who shows more emotion in this scene than any other in the film.”