David Cronenberg's powerful psychological thriller, Spider stars leading British actor Ralph Fiennes (The English Patient) as Spider in the title role, with 10-year-old newcomer Bradley Hall playing Spider as a young boy. The stellar supporting cast includes Miranda Richardson (Damage, Chicken Run), Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects, Enemy of the State), Lynn Redgrave (Gods and Monsters, Shine) and John Neville (The Fifth Element). Acclaimed novelist Patrick McGrath (The Grotesque) adapted the screenplay from his own novel.
David Cronenberg says, "Spider is an austere psychodrama with a profound human mystery at its heart. It has the feel of Samuel Beckett confronting Sigmund Freud. "
Spider is set in the East End London in the 1960s and '80's. A deeply disturbed boy, Spider (Bradley Hall), 'sees' his father brutally murder his mother and replace her with a prostitute, Yvonne (Miranda Richardson). Convinced they plan to murder him next, Spider hatches an insane plan which he carries through to tragic effect. Years later, Spider (Ralph Fiennes) is released into a halfway house, where he receives little care or attention from the landlady Mrs. Wilkinson (Lynn Redgrave). Unsupervised, Spider stops taking his medication and starts revisiting his childhood haunts. His attempts to sustain his delusional account of his past begin to unravel and Spider spirals into fresh madness.
Producer Catherine Bailey says: "Spider is an intriguing story with universal appeal which I believe everyone will relate to in some way. It draws us into the workings of a disturbed mind and gives us insight to the human condition. David Cronenberg is very passionate about this project, as is Ralph Fiennes. "
Cronenberg collaborated again with Cinematographer Peter Suschitzky, who has received Canada's Genie Award for Best Achievement in Cinematography for three of Cronenberg's previous films: Dead Ringers, Naked Lunch and Crash; Composer Howard Shore (Lord of the Rings, eXistenZ, Silence of the Lambs); Editor Ron Sanders, who received a Genie Award for Best Achievement in Editing for eXistenZ, Crash and Dead Ringers, and Costume Designer Denise Cronenberg. Andrew Sanders (The Sheltering Sky, Sense & Sensibility) is Production Designer.
Spider filmed on location in and around London for three weeks, followed by five weeks in Toronto studios.
Spider is produced by Catherine Bailey, David Cronenberg and Samuel Hadida. Spider is financed by Capitol Films, Artists Independent Network and Grosvenor Park together with Metropolitan Films and Helkon SK. Executive Producers are Luc Roeg, Charles Finch, Martin Katz, Jane Barclay, Sharon Harel, Hannah Leader, Zygi Kamasa, Simon Franks and Victor Hadida. Helkon SK Film Distribution will release SPIDER in the UK on 3rd January 2003.
When screenwriter/author Patrick McGrath began writing the novel Spider in 1988, he planned to write a dark comedy about a plumber who murdered his wife in order to move his girlfriend, a prostitute, into the house. "I thought this was going to be a straightforward yarn about murdering plumbers and blousy prostitutes, but the deeper I got into the story, the more complicated it became. "
The question arose, "Who should tell the story? I decided that the plumber's young son, who was present for all these terrible events as a child, should tell the story in later years. From there it was a short step to arrive at the question, what if Spider's memories are all wrong? What if he is remembering his childhood in a very distorted and skewed way? Why would he be distorting his memories? What if he isn't able to get access to the truth of his childhood? And the more these questions began to intrigue me, the more I realized that what I was dealing with was a schizophrenic mind. And what I had started out writing, this merry yarn about a murdering plumber, was in fact, turning into a full-scale investigation of the schizophrenic mind, and thus did Spider develop. "
McGrath is well equipped to deal with the fragilities of the mentally disturbed. Raised on the grounds of Britain's largest institution for the criminally insane, Broadmoor Hospital where his father was the Medical Superintendent, McGrath reveals that his pram was pushed by axe murderers and psychotics. And later, as an adult, he worked in a mental health centre in Canada before turning to writing.
The novel was called Spider for various reasons: there was certain physicality about the boy that was spidery. As McGrath began to develop the complexities of his story - the evasions, denials and distortions - he began to see Spider had woven a web of falsehoods around himself in order to disguise from himself the truth about his childhood and his mother's death. He continued to weave these webs into his manhood.
Cronenberg sees Spider as a nickname that his mother gives him because he's a boy who's fascinated by the story of spiders spinning webs. "It's the traditional metaphorical use of the web as something that ensnares you but that is also beautiful and that you can weave one of your own as well as being caught in somebody else's.
"The idea of a child who believes that his father has murdered his mother and replaced her with a surrogate, who looks like her but is not her, is brilliant and chilling. It also resonates strongly in that ever-potent Freudian way - a child's ambivalence in the presence of his parents' sexuality, and his inability to distinguish sexual acts from violent acts. Young Spider's unique bizarre and yet somehow disturbingly logical response to those ambivalent feelings in himself is rare and powerful stuff. It's also just close enough to the sexual dynamics of any family to be really unnerving. And adult Spider must be played by Ralph Fiennes, because he is an actor who can play a disconnected character, who at the same time generates empathy and sympathy in an audience, a character who seems transparently simple and yet is profoundly complex, a character who is vulnerable and gentle and yet extremely dangerous. So strange, this unique Spider, and yet oddly familiar, and even more so these days when the streets of the world are filled with 'the homeless', each of whom has a very specific story to tell about 'home'. "
Although the novel was set in the 1930's and 1950's, the creative team decided to push the film forward to the 1960's and 1980's, one of the reasons being that Spider's plight is that of a man who has been discharged from a mental hospital prematurely, a man still too fragile to handle the demands of the community, of a city, of life itself outside a sheltered environment. This fragility is what will eventually condemn him to unravel once he is back on the streets of London where he grew up.
Explains McGrath, "Our feeling was that we could refer to the problem of the mentally ill who are being discharged, and have been for more than 10 years now, from mental hospitals before they're ready for life on the street. Spider is like many of those men who we see wandering around our cities mumbling to themselves and we tend to shun. So this is a story of one such man. "
Producer Catherine Bailey, the driving force behind the project for the past six years, agreed. "You see guys just like Spider walking around talking to themselves. There is always a reason and they all have a story. The thing about this film and this story is that it helps you understand what goes on inside that man's mind. I think that anything that gives you knowledge and understanding of the human condition is enlightening. We all feel that what's scary about Spider is that we're not that far away from being him. We're all close to madness at some point in our lives and it can just tip over at any point. I think that's what intrigued me. The story is very powerful and insightful. "
Ralph Fiennes was equally intrigued. McGrath's wife, actress/director Maria Aitken, who encouraged him to write the screenplay, passed the script on to Bailey in 1995. At the time, Bailey was producing "Man and Superman" for BBC Radio, starring Fiennes. She gave the script to Fiennes who phoned back the very next day saying he wanted to play Spider, recalls Bailey. "He made an immediate commitment. "
"The script struck a chord with me," says Fiennes who responded strongly to the character. "It wasn't so much that he was a schizophrenic, but his journey, his mind, what's going on inside his head and his perception of the world that intrigued me. "
Cronenberg interjects, "It's definitely a subjective film. You are in Spider's head when you're watching the movie. "
Fiennes observes, "The London that Spider sees is his own quite strange take on things. He's been in an institution for most of his life, since he's been a boy of 10. In that time I think what he's remembered has become embellished and expanded by using his imagination. And it's all rooted in something terrible he's done. I think in order to not face that, he's had to create this other unhappy childhood to protect himself. He is the victim of something appalling that was done to his mother, but it's not what Spider's created in his memory. He's trying to repress something horrific. "
Bailey points out that Fiennes preparation for his role was remarkable. "And it paid off. He became Spider. "
During his research, Fiennes met with people suffering from schizophrenia at a rehabilitation centre in London. "Although we're not doing a documentary on schizophrenia, it helped me to get a better understanding of what it is clinically. But really sometimes research is not a help because the book and the film are works of imagination. I found what I read and learned was helpful up to a point. Schizophrenic behaviour covers a huge spectrum from people who are, to all intents and purposes, pretty normal, to those who to look at and to listen to, are clearly not what we would call normal. In fact, I was told by one of the nurses in one of the places I visited who said, 'you've really got a huge palette to work from. You can choose what you want in terms of mannerism and physicality and vocal oddness'. "
"The danger with this sort of role is that you can be so full of oddities, it becomes distracting. So I felt it was more important to pare away and to get inside Spider's head. Although Spider doesn't say much, there's an ongoing monologue in him. He talks to himself under his breath and mutters to himself all the time. But these are not articulate words or sentences. It just a sort of murmuring that comes and goes. He's not stupid, but his ways of expressing himself are very disturbed and repressed. "
When Spider does speak, it takes an enormous effort. Fiennes explains, "If you're Spider trying to speak, your words have to find their way through a whole lot of weird barriers and little precautionary mental blocks he's created to protect himself. To speak to someone and look them in the eye and to talk to them is a huge effort because his whole life has been to hide behind a screen that he's created. "
McGrath observes, "Ralph is able to summon an enormous charge of internal passionate emotional and intellectual activity and transmit that, often inarticulately, but transmit it with enormous vividness. And this, of course, is precisely what Spider is all about - a man who is essentially in hell, but unable to communicate that hell. With this seething internal cauldron of passionate emotion within him, Ralph is the perfect man to communicate the experience of a schizophrenic in torment. "
When Cronenberg was sent the script in 2000, he admitted that he read it mainly because Ralph Fiennes was attached to it. "Normally when I'm reading a script, I don't really want to think of a specific actor in a role because I want the character to grow organically without thinking of what the limitations or style of an actor might be. So this was quite different because here I was reading a script and very definitely thinking of Ralph. By the time I finished reading it, I really couldn't imagine anybody else doing it. Once I thought of Ralph in the movie, all kinds of things sprang to mi-nd. On one level the movie is a kind of intense family psychodrama with strong Freudian overtones. On another level, it had very bizarre resonances because of the unique and shifting character of Spider. It was so prismatic, that all the colours came out of him. It was perfect for Ralph. "
McGrath echoed the same sentiments when Cronenberg came aboard. "David's perfect for this project. We share a fascination for the wild frontiers of the human psyche. There are elements in David's earlier work that would attract him to a story like this. His appetite for material as dark as this is legendary. His way of manipulating reality and fascination with the multi-dimensional aspect of human experience is very much what Spider is about. "
Cronenberg reveals, "I totally identified with the lead character Spider, thinking of myself as a sort of vagrant who has been let out of a mental institution and is very confused about his past. I completely was Spider," he laughs. "Of course it's not literal. My childhood and background couldn't have been more different, but somehow I just really related to this character and what he was going through.
"That's why I mention Kafka, Dostoevsky, Pinter and Beckett. It's a feeling of the old 20th century alienation, which is not so old and not so new and still exists. It's about the difficulty of creating yourself as a human being in society.
"I don't see Spider's character as pathetic or psychotic. Somehow he's very human and universal. Although he goes to extremes, his story is one that is within the realm of human experience. To illuminate what is universal, you often have to have a character that pushes to extremes. It's a wonderful script written very much with the novelist's sense of texture but very cinematically done. "
McGrath responds, "It is well within the realms of human experience that this sort of illness, or disorder would take a perfectly ordinary childhood as Spider has, and turn it into this nightmare world of paranoia and violence and twisted sexuality. This can and does happen. "
Fiennes relates, "Spider initially had a very close innocent relationship with his mother which then becomes corrupted by sexuality. This awareness of sexuality was, as it were, the engine for his imagination. "
Cronenberg had a hand in refining the screenplay, but much less than McGrath had anticipated. "It took me a morning to write the adjustments," smiles the author. In the novel, the premise is you're reading Spider's notebook. The major change Cronenberg made to the screenplay was getting rid of the voiceover. " Says Cronenberg, "It's a different Spider in the movie because he barely speaks. It's almost a pantomime. The movie is a projection of Spider's mind. "
"McGrath wanted whoever made the film to be faithful to the concept. What David has so cleverly done is made it so we can see through Spider's eyes. We can actually see the world from within that head. "
"To get inside somebody else's head is always an enlightening experience," says Bailey who notes that when Cronenberg came to London to meet with her in the Spring of 2000, "we believed we had the perfect package. However, early in 2001 the financiers pulled out as production was underway. Executive Producer Luc Roeg was instrumental in helping me get the financing back together. He approached Capitol Films, who stepped in at the last minute and made the film possible. "
One of the challenges in casting the film was to find a child to play the demanding role of Spider as a boy. But not simply to show a boy's life in his East End home, but to be a boy who is already showing signs of a severe disturbance as well as be a plausible younger Ralph Fiennes. Newcomer Bradley Hall filled the bill.
Discovered in Bognor Regis by a local agent, 10-year-old Hall makes his screen debut in Spider as young Spider. Hall auditioned for the role in late March and auspiciously, was called back on his 10th birthday on May 8th to perform scenes from the film for Cronenberg and Bailey. After his third recall, he was offered the part. He heard the news while on a school trip on the Isle of Wight and shortly thereafter, he studied under a dialogue coach to learn an East London accent before beginning work on July 31st.
Bailey points out, "Although the role was written for a 13-year-old, David and I felt that the younger, smaller and frailer he was, the more powerful he would be. So we ended up casting a 10-year-old boy. We felt instinctively that he could do it. "
Their instincts were right, as it turned out. "Bradley's a pro," remarks Cronenberg. "He had no professional experience and he just blew everybody away. He was a dedicated, hardworking, focused but funny member of the cast. The other actors were impressed by him. " Fiennes agrees, "Little Bradley seems to be a natural to me. He has amazing focus and concentration. I'm really impressed by him. " Richardson reports that Bradley "can go across time. He doesn't have a very modern face. Often the trickiest things to do are the tiniest and demand the most concentration. He's certainly got that in spades. " Bradley picked up set behaviour right away and is extremely disciplined," observed Bailey. Hall picked up on-set jargon too. In Toronto, his voice could clearly be heard at the end of a scene passing on the news to the 1st AD, "The gate's clean Walter. "
Gabriel Byrne is a big fan of Patrick McGrath's novels and David Cronenberg's films. "It seemed to be a perfect meeting of like minds," recalls Byrne. "I thought it was an irresistible project. It's a complex film to describe. It's a film about madness. And the notion that madness can often times just be a perception is a very interesting sub-theme in this film. What you perceive to be sane and what I perceive to be sane can be very different things. What is defined as aberrant or deviant behaviour can just be a perception," observes Byrne. "It's also extremely complex in terms of its structure because it's about the recall of a traumatic event that happened in childhood to a man whose memory of that event is infected or poisoned by the trauma itself. So what we're watching on the screen are two separate realities: the reality of an infected mind and the reality of the events as they actually occurred. "
Byrne continues, "There are no small moments in the script. The dialogue exists in this film much in the same way as a very fine pen might underline a sentence. It's really to emphasize points in the story as opposed to expose characters. So the dialogue is minimum. And the way that Cronenberg, in my opinion, has chosen to tell the story, is by magnifying what seems to be totally inconsequential events. There's a banality in the dialogue that's really interesting, that plays against the enormity of what the film is about. One of Harold Pinter's great strengths was to use banal dialogue in a poetic way. Beckett does the same thing where he uses absolutely prosaic and mundane conversations to illuminate really interesting ideas. And this is a film about ideas and concepts and reality, what is reality and what is delusion. "
Byrne admits that Bill Cleg was probably the most difficult character in the entire piece to play. "Miranda plays two extremes - a timid mouse of a woman and then she's a blousy tart. Bill has no such extremes. He has to play a reality all the way through the film. And yet, at the same time, boy Spider perceives him as a demon, but I can't play him as a demon because that gives a lie to the end of the film. So it's a very difficult thing to tread the line between being a bad man in the eyes of a child and being real for the audience so that they understand the story. It's actually very slippery and probably the most difficult role I have ever played in my life. "
Richardson had previously worked with Producer Catherine Bailey on a radio play, had been committed to the project for two years, ever since Bailey invited her to do a reading with Fiennes. "I was delighted when it all came together," smiles the actress.
"Miranda is one of the very few actresses who has the range to produce these two completely different opposing types-the loving, doting, gentle compassionate perfect mother, Mrs. Cleg who transforms, in Spider's own eyes, from this perfect ministering angel into this great rampant, blousy, loud, promiscuous, hard drinking, vulgar hooker," says McGrath
The combination of working with Cronenberg and Fiennes plus the opportunity to flex her acting muscles by playing opposing roles appealed to Richardson. "It's a chance to play several facets of one character but treating them as individual characters because that's the best way I think to approach it. Mrs. Cleg is a fairly gentle soul and someone who young Spider clearly idolizes, someone whose always stood up for him, thinks he's special, always patient, caring and just trying to run a home with limited resources.
"Yvonne is like the alter ego of the mother character. So she's the dark side of the mum. As you might think, his mum is really a good girl and Yvonne is quite a bad girl in the world's eyes. She's a strumpet, a prostitute, dresses in a really tacky fashion and uses her sexuality to attract Spider's father away from his mother. She's the antithesis of Mrs. Cleg's character, visually and mentally. But in Spider's world, the person he's actually seeing comes to have the face of his mother. So he is projecting this person that he doesn't consciously recognize as his mother onto the call girl and is convinced that his father is having a relationship with Yvonne and has dispensed with his mother.
"I play a third character, Mrs. Wilkinson, who is an amalgam of Yvonne and Mrs. Wilkinson who runs the halfway house where Spider has been sent to rehabilitate. "
Lynn Redgrave, who plays the formidable Mrs. Wilkinson, verifies, "During the late '80's, there was suddenly a big movement to let out all the mental institutions and jettison the inmates into the public. They obviously had to go somewhere. So a woman like Mrs. Wilkinson would receive money from the government for each person that she took in.
"Interestingly, Mrs. Wilkinson, who is a cockney East Ender, has only male residents. Perhaps this is a little key to her character. Why doesn't she have women? She runs a tight ship. Everything's got to be done in a certain way. You can't make mess. You've got to eat up your porridge. It's a depressing house," says Redgrave who was attracted to the project by the combination of the script and a chance to work with Ralph Fiennes and David Cronenberg. "You wouldn't dream of saying no to an opportunity like that. "
Production Designer Andrew Sanders discusses his design concept. "The story itself is minimalist. It's so much a portrait of this one man and his madness, we were thinking it read like a piece of theatre. We talked a lot about Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter and that particular generation of English playwrights, from the 60's and '70's.
"Because the film starts with Spider walking through the streets of London, what was required were these streets as seen through the eyes of someone who was living an isolated disturbed life. The important thing in London for those locations was to strip away everything that wasn't exactly necessary: people, cars and all modern details. It all worked much better when everything was empty. You actually had Spider on his own in these streets rather than being part of a crowd. "
"The streets of London as we portray them are not realistic," says Cronenberg. "The more we took away and left only Spider and the architecture or the streets, the more it seemed absolutely right. "
To create the look he was trying to achieve, Sanders referred to such painters as Lucien Freud and the photographer, Roger Mayne, whose bleak post-war images of London were shot in the '60's. "Freud's subject matter is quite monochromatic. His very intense psychological portraits are usually in very seedy surroundings.
"This film, in fact, could have been shot in black and white, but we are using a very special color stock and keeping the predominately browns and ochres of the palette very subdued. It has to be subdued in order for the central character to take shape in front of it. It's a background to this portrait of a psychotic, a portrait of somebody who has schizophrenic delusions, so, to tell the story, we don't want to have an intrusive background," say Sanders.
The director explains that "The look of the film really bounces off the script's obsession with texture, and Spider's obsession with texture. What's very Samuel Beckett about this movie is that Spider is a character who has pared himself down to bare essentials. Basically the clothes on his back, what he has in his pockets and in one small suitcase is his whole life. He's really pared down to the essential strangeness that is a human being. And I think that is reflected in the textures which are very emotional, emotive and evocative and Spider interacts with them in a very emotional and provocative way. "
Gabriel Byrne notes, "It's a hard film to make. Each scene takes a long time to set, to light, to block. Peter Suschitzky has created a kind of fake warmth about the movie which is at variance with the subject matter. "
Richardson remarks that the production design created an undercurrent of dread. "Every object and the placement of objects leads you into Spider's mind, into this nightmarish world where everything is potent. The framing, the composition of the scenes and the lighting. Everything compounds the effect that just off screen - for me anyway - something is about to intrude on our vision and unsettle us, that in a moment, something possibly awful is going to happen. It's that constant feeling of putting the audience on a precipice so that you're pitched into the same tunnel as Spider is. "
Spider filmed the exteriors in London for three weeks and the interiors were shot in a studio in Toronto for a further five weeks.
The exterior of Mrs. Wilkinson's boarding house was shot in Kennington, south of the River Thames. "We had to make it look as if Mrs. Wilkinson's had a large central staircase and large rooms rather than being a tenement block, so we altered it a bit," explains Sanders. Spider's childhood haunts were represented by the gasworks at The Oval. His parent's working class house had to have a yard and a back alley. Sanders found a row of railway cottages, circa 1860, in Acton, alongside disused railway yards.
A railway viaduct a half mile out of Eton provided Bill Cleg's allotment underneath the arches. St. Pancras station doubled for Waterloo for the opening scene. As most London pubs have been modernized, finding period ones proved difficult. The Salisbury was found in Haringey, and the other pub, The Dog and Beggar, in Deptford.
To recreate the Cleg's backyard and cottage exterior in the Toronto studio, moulds of the Acton location were taken of different brick surfaces in addition to window and door mouldings, and air freighted to Canada where the Toronto art department replicated the structure. Sanders also created Mrs. Wilkinson's dingy and gritty London halfway house with meticulous detail, down to the faded and bubbling wallpaper to the chipped paint, zinc bathtubs and pull-chain toilets.
Wallpaper was sent from England to Canada for the interior sets. Notes Cronenberg, "This was not only realistic and accurate for the time period the film is set in, but is also very timeless and universal in what it exudes. Spider is acutely sensitive to sounds and to the bubbling of the old wallpaper in the room. "
Costume Designer Denise Cronenberg found all her key vintage costumes in London after consulting with McGrath, who pointed out that poor people were often given hand-me-downs from grandparents. Therefore the wardrobe dated back to the mid-50's, especially in the Cleg's house, as they are impoverished East Enders. Mrs. Wilkinson is the only character who has '80's garb.
Her colour palette featured sombre subtle tones of browns, greens, beiges, blues and dark greys. The one colourful exception were the outfits worn by the women in the pub.
Cronenberg points out, "Spider is very obsessed with detail. How he buttons his coat and the four shirts he wears is not a casual thing. You get to see the essence of a human being because there's no technology, no possessions, no obsession with fashion or pop culture. "
Spider marks a departure for Cronenberg, in that there are no special effects (although one could say, there are 'mental effects'). "My cast is the only special effects I need along with Peter Suschitzky's lighting and camera work and Andrew Sanders brilliant production design," applauds the director.
Another Cronenberg alumnus is Special Makeup Effects expert Stefan Dupuis who designed the mugwumps for Cronenberg's Naked Lunch and also worked on The Fly, which won an Oscar for Special Makeup Effects. Dupuis was charged with creating character makeup for the key actors in Spider in collaboration with the director.
Dupuis totally transformed Fiennes into a pathetic-looking street person. "Because he's been wandering in the streets, Spider is dirty and has major 'ring-round-the-colour'. He doesn't have very good skin, it's red and blotchy. He smokes so much that there is a nicotine line inside his lip, tar in the corners of his mouth and his teeth are nicotine stained as well as his fingers," relates Dupuis who did such a convincing job on Fiennes, that a female fan, who met Fiennes on the set remarked, "It was thrilling to meet him, but he has terrible teeth!" To complete the picture, Dupuis added a red line inside Fienne's eyelids topped with messy eyebrows and hair. (His hair was reputedly inspired by Samuel Beckett's). Stresses Dupuis, "He's not revolting. You just feel sorry for him. "
To establish Miranda Richardson's three different characters, Dupuis describes Mrs. Cleg as mousy, with a no-make up look. "She only adds lipstick when she goes out. In complete contrast is Yvonne, the 'Queen of Tarts'," smiles Dupuis. Yvonne has exaggerated breasts and vulgar makeup which he describes as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre look. When Yvonne and Mrs. Wilkinson amalgamate, she has the made up face of Yvonne topped by a Mrs. Wilkinson wig.
Working with Cronenberg and vice-versa
Remarks Fiennes, "The danger I've learned in working with David is if you want the film to be socially and anthropologically accurate, it doesn't work as he creates his own (I call it Kafkaesque) world of a halfway house for psychiatrically afflicted people. And the London is a very specifically designed London - no cars on the streets, only very rundown bits of the East End, framed in a very particular way. David's one of the most relaxed and at the same time, assured directors I've worked with. So l love that. I love feeling that the director of the film is confident. "
"That Ralph has not been pursuing the Hollywood dream, but looks for roles that will satisfy him artistically, psychologically and emotionally makes him wonderful to work with and allows him to really go the distance in terms of his acting. He holds nothing back, so it's been fantastic working with him," says Cronenberg.
Byrne opines, "Cronenberg is one of the most original directors in cinema. I think he's very provocative. People walk out of his films saying I hate it or I love it. But maybe that's enough to provoke and to annoy and to anger and to disgust people. Maybe the function of what a great filmmaker is, not necessarily to display any answers, but just to stir up the hornet's nest so that people begin to question their own reactions. We need people like Cronenberg to explore artistically and emotionally who we are as people. "
Cronenberg, who tries to create a comfort zone for his actors, says "Gabriel said playing Spider's father, Bill Cleg, was the hardest role he's ever had to play. The reason it's the hardest role to play is that most of the time he's an expression of Spider's perception of him. It's a very courageous kind of role to play because the usual underpinnings that you have as an actor are not there. Next to Yvonne, who is a chatterbox, he speaks more than anyone in the movie, and, in a strange way, he really grounds the movie. Narratively he's an extremely important character who has some great moments of revelation in the film. "
Notes Richardson, "Working with David is sort of relaxed excitement. He seems to be very trusting of what his actors can do and is very clear about what he wants and what he doesn't want. To be able to work with somebody who has a vision and is working with the same people who are cognizant of that vision, is very comforting. "
"Only an actress who is such a brilliant chameleon as Miranda, could pull of three separate roles she plays," says Cronenberg. "She's really playing one character confused in the mind of another character. But nonetheless, it's three separate roles and she does it absolutely brilliantly. "
Redgrave opines, "David has an extraordinary insight into human behaviour. He misses nothing. He sees absolutely everything that you do, which is very comforting. He's a wonderful actors' director and doesn't put such a strait jacket on that he isn't open to the actors' contribution. His ideas are so good and so clear and so imaginative and he has such a vision of what he's after. And he has a lovely sense of humour. "
"Lynn is an English acting icon, so it was a great thrill for me to have her agree to play Mrs. Wilkinson. The role doesn't show her off to her glamorous best, but being the trooper that she is, she was delighted to put on the grey wig of Mrs. Wilkinson. She is a complex character because she is perceived as a jailer and a spy by Spider and the other men at this halfway house. But really she does have an inner life. The trick with her role was to show both sides at the same time - a delicate balancing act," says Cronenberg.
"The role of Terrence was invented for the movie, a character who allows some interchange between Spider, the outside world. He's a gentle, understanding, sensitive shy alter ego for Spider and is not exactly a projection of Spider's. John Neville gave the role a lovely and beautiful texture. I couldn't have asked for anybody better for that role. "
Redgrave states, "I think that we are all perhaps walking a fine line between what the reality we think is real and the other reality. Which one is the truth? I think people may well identify with this film in a very odd way. "
Fiennes concludes, "It's hard to tell the story without giving it away. Basically it's how Spider perceives his childhood and his mother and the mistress of his father. He's created this whole past but you don't know what's created and what isn't until the end. So the audience is not going to know what is real in Spider's memory or what's not until the end. And I think in David's version, the level of ambivalence will be quite strong.
"In the six years I spent trying to get Spider made into a film, I never dreamed I would end up with such an excellent cast and the perfect director for it," says Bailey. "I hope that people will be intrigued by the story as it unfolds and that they will feel they know a little bit more about the human condition at the end of it. "
Cronenberg sums up, "Spider is small in some ways in terms of the number of characters, its range and physical scope. But internally, it's got a huge landscape. The layering and incredible density is what I love to do in movies. It's a movie you can see over and over again; each time it becomes a different movie and reveals different things, depending on where you are in your life.
"Yes, there is a murder, yes, there is a mystery as to who committed this murder, and yes, that mystery is solved by the end of the movie, but it's done in a very unconventional way. " It's clear that Cronenberg has put his own unique vision on the picture. "And Spider, delving into his own past and appearing in scenes from has past as an adult with himself as a young boy is pretty unusual. I think it should be pretty striking and effective on the screen.
"Although Spider is very extreme in his anti-socialness and shuts you out in terms of his experience, I really feel very strongly that people will be Spider by the end of the movie," concludes Cronenberg.
Young Bradley Hall says it all. His face lit up as he said, "It's a dream come true. "
ABOUT THE CAST
RALPH FIENNES plays SPIDER, a tormented soul, institutionalised and unfit to be released unsupervised into the community. His emotions have been kept suppressed by medication, but once 'outside' his memories become a confused mix of fact and distorted beliefs.
Fiennes has emerged as one of the leading actors of his generation. After making his big screen debut in the leading role of Heathcliff in Peter Kosminsky's Wuthering Heights, Fiennes starred in Peter Greenaway's The Baby of Macon followed by Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List opposite Liam Neeson. His role as a sinister Nazi won the New York Film Critics Award, the Boston and Chicago Film Critics' Awards, the National Society of Film Critics' Award, the London Film Critics' Award as best British Actor of 1994 and Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations in addition to winning a BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor. The same year, he starred in Robert Redford's Quiz Show which opened to universal acclaim. He next completed the lead role in Kathryn Bigelow's futuristic thriller, Strange Days and earned his second Academy-Award nomination for his performance in The English Patient, directed by Anthony Minghella from the Booker prize-winning novel by Michael Ondaatje. He played the title role in Gillian Armstrong's Oscar & Lucinda opposite Cate Blanchett and went onto film the role of John Steed in The Avengers and starred in Eugene Onegin, directed by his sister, Martha Fiennes. He next filmed Sunshine for Istvan Svabo followed by End of the Affair opposite Julianne Moore, directed by Neil Jordan.
Fiennes made his television debut in a small but telling role in the award-winning original Prime Suspect. David Puttnam cast him as T. E. Lawrence in the two-hour film A Dangerous Man: Lawrence after Arabia, and he played the lead role in the BBC 2 Drama, The Cormorant
Born in Suffolk, Fiennes graduated from RADA in 1985. By 1987, he made his mark in the British theatre with his Royal Shakespeare Company performances as "Henry VI," "Troilus & Cressida," Edmund in "King Lear and Berowne in "Loves Labor's Lost. " In 1994, his sell-out performance of "Hamlet" for London's Almeida Theatre Company, which moved from London to Broadway, won Fiennes a 1995 Tony Award. He played the title role of "Ivanov", another London success which went on to play in Moscow to huge acclaim. In 2001, Fiennes played the title roles in "Richard II" and "Coriolanus", in London, New York and Tokyo.
BRADLEY HALL plays the Child Spider, a lonely child, living in a rundown district of London. His parents are poor and work all hours to improve their lives. Spider lives within his fantasies and creates a ghastly myth that leaves him alone and institutionalised.
The 10-year-old newcomer who was discovered in Bognor Regis by a local agent, Hall's only previous experience was voicing-over a tissue commercial. But he became a consummate professional on the set of Spider. When he wasn't on set, Hall was making a scrapbook about his four-week sojourn in Canada, assigned by his schoolteacher in England, where he was missing only two weeks of school before returning in September. The scrapbook contained souvenir items ranging from the flight plan from London, given to him by the pilot of his plane, to the obligatory visit to Niagara Falls, to information on museums, baseball games right down to the TV listings, weather reports and news clippings.
Prior to auditioning for Spider, Hall demonstrated a keen interest in his craft at age 8, taking tap dancing, singing and acting lessons at The Bognor Regis' Art of Dance and Fitness classes twice a week after school, following in his older sister, Jade's footsteps. The local agent signed Jade, and shortly thereafter Bradley, who almost immediately was called in for an audition for Spider at the end of March in London. He was called back on his 10th birthday on May 8th, where he was vetted by Director David Cronenberg and Producer Catherine Bailey. After his third recall, Hall was offered the part. He heard the news while on a school trip to the Isle of Wight. Shortly thereafter, he studied under a dialogue coach to learn an East London accent and began working in his first film on July 31st, 2001.
Hall lives with his family in Bognor Regis where he attends junior school. His favourite subjects are science and writing original stories.
MIRANDA RICHARDSON plays three characters in SPIDER: Mrs. Cleg, a young wife and the mother of Spider. Worn down by drudgery, the spark has gone from her life; Yvonne, the antithesis of Mrs. Cleg, bold and brassy, afraid of no one, she has her eyes set on Spider's father and is out to take the place of his mother; and an amalgam of Yvonne and Mrs. Wilkinson, the formidable women who runs the halfway house where adult Spider lives.
Richardson first startled audiences in Mike Newell's Dance with a Stranger, in which she played Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in England. Subsequent roles confirmed her as an actress of consummate ability and consistency. In 1992, she garnered rave reviews for her performances in Neil Jordan's The Crying Game, Mike Newell's Enchanted April and Louis Malle's Damage. The New York Film Critics cited her work in all three films in naming her Best Supporting Actress; she received a Golden Globe for Enchanted April and was nominated for an Oscar for Damage. In 1995, she received a second Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Vivienne Haigh-Wood, the wife of poet T. S. Eliot, in Brian Gilbert's Tom and Viv.
Recent films include Get Carter with Sylvester Stallone and Michael Caine; Sleepy Hollow for Tim Burton and the animation film, Chicken Run, in which she voices Mrs. Tweedie for Nick Park and Peter Lord. Other credits include The Apostle with Robert Duvall, The Designated Mourner by Wallace Shawn, directed by David Hare; Robert Altman's Kansas City and Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun.
On television, recent exploits include three for Hallmark Hall of Fame: Merlin, Alice and Snow White; Showtime's The Big Brass Ring and BBC's A Dance to the Music of Time. She displayed her comedic talents in Absolutely Fabulous and three Blackadder television series, including playing Elizabeth 1 in the second season and film.
The UK actress trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theater School and subsequently performed in many plays, the highlights being Mamet's "Edmond," Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," Terry Johnson's "Insignificance," Sam Sheppard's "A Lie of the Mind" and the one-woman piece "Orlando" working with Robert Wilson.
GABRIEL BYRNE plays Bill Cleg, a working-class man who loves his wife and enjoys a visit to the pub. Young Spider views him as his archenemy and believes he is going to murder his mother and replace her with Yvonne.
Byrne has starred in more than 25 films including End of Days, Stigmata, Man in the Iron Mask, The Usual Suspects, Into the West and Miller's Crossing. He is also a producer (In the Name of the Father, Into the West, Last of the High Kings).
In 2000, he was nominated for a Tony Award for his portrayal of James Tyrone in the acclaimed Broadway revival of O'Neill's "Moon for the Misbegotten. "
LYNN REDGRAVE plays Mrs. Wilkinson who runs the halfway house in which Spider is lodged on his release. She seems to have no medical or psychological training and offers the residents little care of support. She is strict on house rules and treats inmates with very low regard.
Among Redgrave's many movies are Tom Jones, The Girl with Green Eyes, Smashing Time, The Happy Hooker and the Academy-Award® winning Shine for which she was nominated as Best Supporting Actress at the British Academy Awards. Redgrave was the winner of the 1999's Golden Globe® for her performance in the film Gods and Monsters. She was also nominated for the Screen Actors Guild Award, and won the Independent Spirit Award and the London Film Critics Circle Award. On television, Redgrave co-starred with her sister Vanessa in the remake of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? During the filming of Spider, Regrave commuted between Canada and the UK where she was starring in Anita and Me.
Redgrave represents the American branch of her proud family tree, embracing as it does more than five generations of actors. Youngest child of Sir Michael Redgrave and actress Rachel Kempson, sister to Vanessa and Corin, she is one of today's seven living members practicing their craft. After her apprenticeship as a founding member of Britain's National Theatre, where she worked for such luminaries as Laurence Olivier, Edith Evans and Noel Coward, she came to front and center attention with Georgy Girl in 1966 winning the New York Film Critics Award for Best Actress, a Golden Globe® Award, and an Academy Award® nomination.
Since then she has filled the intervening years without stopping, happily moving across all fields of the performing arts as actress, teacher, author and director, collecting many awards along the way. Intermittently she revives her one-woman show "Shakespeare for my Father," which opened to Tony-nominated acclaim in 1993 and later played London's Theatre Royal, Haymarket.
JOHN NEVILLE plays Terrence, who has lived in Mrs. Wilkinson's halfway house for a long time. He has been institutionalized and has little hope of fully rejoining society. He sees Spider as a kindred spirit.
Neville, a distinguished actor, whose career spans 50 years, was awarded an OBE in 1965 for his extensive work in British film, television and theatre. In film, he is probably best known as the Baron in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Other motion picture highlights are Little Women, Road to Wellville, The X Files, Urban Legend, The Fifth Element, Water Damage, Regeneration, Swann and more recently, Dinner at Fred's and Goodbye, Lover.
Among his numerous television credits are BBC and PBS' The First Churchills, BBC's Paradise Regained, and, in Canada, where he has lived since the early '70's, the series Emily of New Moon and Peter Benchley's Amazon as well as such telefilms as The Song Spinner, Stark, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Dieppe and Grand. He made guest appearances on Viper and Star Trek: The Next Generation.
His theatre credits notably include "The Dance of Death" and "School for Scandal" at the National Theatre, "Ghosts" alongside Liv Ullman on Broadway, and an American tour of "My Fair Lady," among many others.
In the UK, Neville was artistic director of the Nottingham Playhouse and the Fortune in London and for the Canadian theatres The Citadel in Edmonton, the Neptune Theatre in Halifax and The Stratford Festival in Ontario. Theatre credits as a director include "The Rivals" at Canada's National Arts Centre, "Twelfth Night" and "Henry V" at the Old Vic, and "Hamlet" for the Grand Theatre in London, Ontario.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
DIRECTOR DAVID CRONENBERG'S reputation as an authentic auteur has been firmly established by his uniquely personal body of work including the films for which he wrote the screenplays: Shivers, Rabid, Fast Company, The Brood, Scanners, Videodrome, The Fly, Dead Ringers, Naked Lunch, Crash and eXistenZ. The films he directed from other screenplays are The Dead Zone, M. Butterfly and, most recently, Spider.
His films have won him awards and recognition around the world, among which is an Honorary Doctor of Law Degree from the University of Toronto, which he received in June 2001. He was invested with "Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters," bestowed by France in 1990 and upgraded in 1997 to "Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters. " In 1999, he presided over the Jury at the Cannes Film Festival.
Born on March 15, 1943 in Toronto to a journalist father and pianist mother, early on, Cronenberg submitted fantasy and science-fiction stories to magazines. Although none was accepted, he received encouraging letters from editors urging him to keep writing.
He entered the University of Toronto Science faculty, but after a year switched to English Language and Literature, graduating in 1967. While at university, he became interested in film and produced two shorts in 16 mm, Transfer and From the Drain. His first films in 35 mm were Stereo and Crimes of the Future, both shot in the late '60's. In these works, Cronenberg established some of the themes and preoccupations that would characterize much of his later work.
In 1975, Cronenberg shot his first commercial feature Shivers (aka They Came From Within or Parasite Murders), which became one of the fastest recouping movies in the history of Canadian film. His next feature, Rabid, starring Marilyn Chambers, went on to
make $7-million on a production investment of little more than $500,000, providing Cronenberg with an impressive track record after just two pictures by 1977. He then directed the drag-racing film Fast Company, inspired in part by his own passion for cars and racing.
He moved on to direct The Brood in 1979, starring Oliver Reed and Samantha Eggar. The film was psychologically intense rather than action oriented, with well delineated characterizations and remarkable imagery that caught the attention of many critics. The film was an artistic breakthrough for Cronenberg and led him to larger-budgeted and more ambitious films.
Scanners, which centred on the telepathic powers of an underground element of society, was aimed at a wider audience than his earlier horror/fantasy films and became his biggest hit yet, prompting Newsweek to comment, "a 37-year-old Canadian. .. climaxing his five-year rise to the top of the horror heap. " The week it opened, Variety listed Scanners as the number one box-office film in North America.
Cronenberg's next film, Videodrome, starring James Woods and rock star Deborah Harry, released in early 1983, was hailed by Andy Warhol as the Clockwork Orange of the '80's. " In 1993, Videodrome moved out of the cult realm into the mainstream cyberpunk market. The film delves into the clandestine operations of a highly secret underground organization that uses television as the ultimate weapon. Blurring the boundaries of reality and consciousness, the film is a high-tech, nightmarish satire involving violence, sexuality and biological horror, all by now familiar Cronenberg themes.
The Dead Zone followed in 1984, based on the best-selling novel by Stephen King. Financed by Dino de Laurentiis, released by Paramount and starring Christopher Walken, Brook Adams and Martin Sheen, the film is an allegorical good-vs-evil story revolving around the fate of a man cursed with power to see into the future of those he touches. The most mainstream of Cronenberg's films, The Dead Zone'still retains the director's identifiable style and design and went on the earn three out of the five Avoriaz Film Festival prizes of that year as well as seven Edgar Allen Poe award nominations in the U. S. A.
Mel Brooks then approached Cronenberg to direct The Fly for Twentieth Century Fox, starring Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum. The Fly was a huge popular and critical success for Cronenberg, earning many accolades, including an Oscar for Best Special Effects/Makeup and a shared jury Prize at the Avoriaz Festival. A remake of the 1958 horror classic, Cronenberg's The Fly was a reconceptualization of the original, detailing the story of a scientist whose genes and molecules become fused with those of a common housefly during an experiment in matter transmission. The film was successful as both a horror-fantasy film and as a compelling love story. It also marked Cronenberg's second cameo appearance as an actor (the first was in John Landis' Into the Night). In The Fly he played a gynaecologist who appears in a central horrifying fantasy sequence featuring Geena Davis.
Gynaecology surfaced again in Dead Ringers starring Jeremy Irons and Genevieve Bujold, a psychological thriller about inseparable twin brothers who work as gynaecologists and love the same woman, with tragic results. The film was a departure for Cronenberg.
"Dead Ringers is not science-fiction and the fantasy element which is in most of my films is not there. The film is much more naturalistic," stated the director. Nonetheless, Dead Ringers continued Cronenberg's fascination with the darker side of human psychology and behaviour. Dead Ringers won accolades from the L. A. film critics for Best Director
In 1989, Cronenberg returned to acting as the lead in Clive Barker's Nightbreed. In the horror fantasy, Cronenberg played a psychiatrist who convinces a man that he is responsible for a series of brutal slayings, while at the same time hiding the dark side of his own personality. During this period, Cronenberg began writing the screenplay for his version of William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch.
For artistic and practical reasons, Naked Lunch was not a literal translation, but a fusion of Cronenberg's own work with that of Burroughs'. Drawing on Burroughs' counterculture novel and other Burroughsian sources for the script, Naked Lunch is about the act of writing something dangerous and complex and how it affects the person writing it. Shot in Toronto in 1991, the film starred Peter Weller, Judy Davis, Ian Holm, Julian Sands, Monique Mercure, Nicholas Campbell, Michael Zelniker and Roy Scheider.
In 1992, Cronenberg directed M. Butterfly, starring Jeremy Irons and John Lone, adapted from the Tony-Ward winning Broadway hit based on the true story of a French diplomat, who, for 20 years, was so obsessed with a Chinese diva from the Beijing Opera, he could not discern that the object of his love was really a man. But when they were arrested for espionage, he was forced to face reality. M. Butterfly" took Cronenberg abroad for the first time to film in China, Hungary, France as well as Canada.
The same year, Naked Lunch won eight Genie Awards including Best Motion Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. In addition, The National Society of Film critics voted Cronenberg Best Director and his script, Best Screenplay. The New York Film Critics' Circle awarded him Best Screenplay and Naked Lunch earned a third Best Screenplay award from The Boston Society of Film Critics.
Cronenberg next adapted Crash from J. G. Ballard's cataclysmic novel, Crash, starring Holly Hunter, James Spader, Elias Koteas, Deborah Unger and Rosanna Arquette. A film about technology and eroticism, Crash created international controversy, went on to win the Jury Prize in Cannes Film Festival, 1996 for "audacity and innovation" and collected five Canadian Genies for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing and Best Sound Editing. In addition it won the Golden Reel Award for the Canadian film with the highest Canadian box-office gross.
In 1995, Cronenberg wrote eXistenZ, inspired by an interview with author Salman Rushdie which triggered the idea of an artist who suddenly finds him/herself on a hit list and forced to flee into hiding. He made the hero a game designer thinking that game design could possibly ascend to the level of art. Jennifer Jason Leigh stars as the game designer opposite Jude Law as a novice security guard who links into Leigh's world. Willem Dafoe, Ian Holm, Sarah Polley, Don McKellar and Callum Keith Rennie play various heroes and villains who weave in and out of the game.
eXistenZ went on to win a Silver Bear at the 1999 Berlin International Film Festival for Outstanding Artistic Achievement and a Genie Award for editing in addition to Golden Berlin Bear, Catalonian International Film Festival Best Film, Saturn Award and Golden Reel nominations.
On television, Cronenberg directed two docu-dramas for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's series Scales of Justice, which recreates true criminal cases. He also directed a controversial commercial for NIKE and a short to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Toronto's International Film Festival.
The Toronto International Film Festival was the first to honour Cronenberg with a retrospective in 1983. Simultaneously the Academy of Canadian Cinema published The Shape of Rage -- the Films of David Cronenberg, a comprehensive anthology of critical essays about his work which was updated in 1990 by the Quebec Cinematheque for distribution in Europe. Most recently, the University of Toronto press published the 2001 edition of The Artist as Monster: The Cinema of David Cronenberg, by William Beard, and Les Cahiers du Cinémas published a collection of interviews in 2000. UK documentary filmmaker Chris Rodley edited the 1991 edition of Cronenberg on Cronenberg, published by Faber and Faber of London, England. The second edition was updated and published in 1993 upon the release of M. Butterfly. Rodley also made two films on Cronenberg: Long Live the New Flesh and the making of Naked Lunch.
The most comprehensive retrospective of Cronenberg's work was mounted in Japan in March, 1993. Sponsored by Tokyo's Seibu department store, the governments of Ontario and Canada and Toronto's Cinematheque of Ontario/International Film Festival, the two week event included screenings of all Cronenberg's motion pictures, television films and commercials. Accompanying the films was an exhibition of 300 artefacts, props, stills and posters and special effects puppets including 16 mugwumps and the "sex blob" from Naked Lunch. In May, 1998, New York's Thread Waxing Space Gallery hosted a two-month exhibition entitled "Spectacular Optical," featuring a group of visual artists who share thematic affinities and were influenced by various phases of the artistic production of David Cronenberg's films. The exhibit included film elements, props and drawings from Cronenberg's work.
Recent retrospectives were held in Paris by The Festival d'Automne and the Canadian Cultural Center in 2000 and in Sao Paulo, Brazil at the 2001 Carlton Arts Festival. New York's Museum of the Moving Image held a retrospective of Cronenberg's films to coincide with the release Naked Lunch in early l992. Other retrospectives have been held at the Fantastic Film Festival in St. Malo, France; Rome's Fourth International Exhibition of Fantasy and Science Fiction; the Edinburgh Festival, France's Metz Film Festival; the Cinematheque Francaise and the Fantasporto Film Festival in Portugal.
During the past several years, Cronenberg has acted in a number of other films. "When I'm being a writer, I start to feel disconnected from the set, as if it's just a sort of weird fantasy that I'm actually a director. Acting is an easy way to reconnect with being on a film set. " He had a cameo role as a Mafia hitman in Gus Van Sant's To Die For; played a moonshiner in Moonshine Highway for Andy Armstrong , appeared in Trial by Jury with Armand De Sante and in John Landis' The Stupids. . He appeared in the Canadian films Henry and Verlin, Blood and Donuts and most recently, Don McKellar's Last Night after playing the lead in McKellar's short film Blue. He also appeared in Russell Mulcahy's Resurrection, Mike Garris' The Judge and James Isaac's Jason X.
SCREENWRITER PATRICK McGRATH adapted Spider from his novel, published in 1990. McGrath has written many screenplays, including an adaptation of his novel The Grotesque, produced in 1995 starring Alan Bates, Theresa Russell and Sting. It was released in North American under the title Gentlemen Don't Eat Poets, and went to video with the title Grave Indiscretions. He had a number of scripts produced on American television. In addition, the film rights of his best-selling novel, Asylum have been purchased by Paramount Pictures, who have commissioned a script by Stephen King.
He has written six books of fiction, the story collection Blood and Water and Other Tales, and the novels The Grotesque; Spider; Dr. Haggard's Disease; Asylum and Martha Peake. His work has been translated into 18 languages and has been critically acclaimed all over the world. He also edited the fiction anthology, The New Gothic, published by Random House in 1991.
He has also written three books for children, and reviews regularly for The New York Times Book Review. His current projects include a non-fiction book about New York, commissioned by Bloomsbury, and a libretto for the composer Peter Eotvos, who is writing an opera based on The Grotesque.
McGrath was born in London, England, and grew up on the grounds of Broadmoor, Britain's largest top-security mental hospital, where for many years, his father was Medical Superintendent. He moved to Canada in 1971 and worked in Oakridge, the top-security unit of Penetang Mental Health centre in Ontario. He later spent several years in British Columbia, first in Vancouver and then in the Queen Charlotte Islands where he built a primitive log cabin and began to write fiction. In 1981 he moved to New York, where he stills lives. He is married to the actress and director Maria Aitken.
PRODUCER CATHERINE BAILEY formed the production company, Catherine Bailey Ltd. (CBL) in 1992. Under her company's banner, Bailey works as producer and director for radio and television. CBL has produced programmes for BBC Television, Channel 4 and is now one of the main independent suppliers of drama for BBC Radios 3 and 4. Spider marks Bailey's first feature film.
Bailey's production output in the short time since her company was founded is second to none. For BBC Radio, she has worked with the cream of world acting talent on works by leading authors. Her productions include "Sea Urchins," by Sharman Macdonald, which won a Sony Radio Award for Best Drama; Joe Orton's "Loot;" Samuel Beckett's "Happy Days," William Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying," David Hare's "The Judas Kiss," Bernard Shaw's "Man and Superman" and Chekov's "Ivanov" (both starring Ralph Fiennes). She has also directed a number of classic serials including: Charlotte Bronte's "Villette" and the children's classics "High Wind in Jamaica" and "Swallows and Amazons. " Recently she directed Timberlake Wertenbaker's "Dianeira" which she commissioned and Ingmar Bergman's "Autumn Sonata. "
Bailey's television credits include the following. She produced Great House Wives and Safari Strife for Channel 4's Cutting Edge. For the BBC Late Show, she made Drama in Salzberg and Truly, Madly…Alan Rickman. In addition, she directed the documentary, SS John Barry and, following Spider, produced Iris Murdoch's The Sea The Sea for television.
Born in London, Bailey graduated in stage management at RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art). She stage managed in London's West End and at the National Theatre for before becoming production manager at Hampstead Theatre, London's leading new-writing theatre (dedicated to working with new plays), before launching CBL.
PRODUCER SAMUEL HADIDA founded Metropolitan Film Export in 1978, on graduating from the University of Paris, through which he has distributed hundreds of films in France; from his first film Evil Dead, through to David Fincher's Seven - the Number 1 box-office hit in France in 1996, and the much anticipated Lord of The Rings.
In 1990, Samuel Hadida set up Davis Films to produce genuinely international projects such as Tony Scott's True Romance, written by Quentin Tarantino whose debut feature Reservoir Dogs he had distributed in France, and Roger Avary's Killing Zoe starring Julie Delpy and Jean-Hugues Anglade. Samuel Hadida is the executive producer of Roger Avary's new film The Rules of Attraction - an adaptation of the Bret Easton Ellis novel .
Other films produced by Hadida include Christophe Gans' Crying Freeman, Sheldon Lettich's Only the Strong, Christophe Gans' co-directed H. P. Lovecraft's Necronomicon, Steve Barron's The Adventures of Pinocchio, Matthew Bright's Freeway, and Michael Haussman's Rhinoceros Hunting in Budapest.
Hadida recently produced the epic fantasy blockbuster Brotherhood of the Wolf, directed by Christophe Gans, a Number 1 box-office hit in France.
Samuel Hadida has just completed production on Paul Anderson's Resident Evil - an adaptation of the famous video game starring Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez, and Sweat - an action thriller adventure set in Morocco starring Jean-Hugues Anglade and Joaquim de Almeida, directed by famous advertising director Louis Pascal Couvelaire.
Future Davis Film projects include an adaptation of James Ellroy's Suicide Hill, and Christophe Gans' Nemo, an account of the early life of the Jules Verne character Captain Nemo as featured in the classic fantasy novel.
Spider marks DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY PETER SUSCHITZKY's sixth film with Director David Cronenberg, three of which won him Genie Awards for Best Cinematography: Dead Ringers, Naked Lunch and Crash. In addition he photographed eXistenZ and M. Butterfly.
Most recently, Suschitzky shot Anthony Hoffman's Red Planet; Tim Burton's Mars Attacks starring Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Benning, Pierce Brosnan and Danny DeVito; and Randall Wallace's The Man in the Iron Mask starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jeremy Irons, Gerard Depardieu, John Malkovich and Gabriel Byrne. His other credits include Immortal Beloved starring Isabella Rosselini and Gary Oldham, filmed in Prague under the direction of Bernard Rose for Columbia Pictures. He earned plaudits early on in his career working on the cult hit The Rocky Horror Picture Show directed by Jim Sharman, and on the classic The Empire Strikes Back directed by Irvin Kershner, both for 20th Century Fox.
Suschitzky has photographed numerous other features films in Europe and North America working with such eminent directors as John Boorman for whom he lensed Leo the Last and Where the Heart Is which earned him a Best Photography vote by the National Society of Film Critics. Some of his other credits include Privilege, Charlie Bubbles, Ken Russell's Valentino; Falling in Love, directed by Ulu Grosbard for Paramount; and The Vanishing, directed by George Sluizer starring Keifer Sutherland and Jeff Bridges.
Born in London in 1940 of a Hungarian mother and Austrian father (Cinematographer Wolfgang Suschitzky), Suschitzky was raised in London. Although music was his passion, he decided that cinematography would become his profession. After studying his trade in Paris at l'IDHEC , he became a clapper boy at age 19 and a cameraman at 21, spending a year in South America shooting documentaries before shooting his first feature film at age 22-- the youngest cameraman ever to shoot a feature picture in Britain (It Happened Here. ) Since then he has worked on more than 30 films.
PRODUCTION DESIGNER ANDREW SANDERS graduated in Theatre sturdies at Manchester University. He began his career as a stage designer in various theatres including the Royal Shakespeare Company, Nottingham Playhouse and the Royal Court Theatre. He has lived in London since 1973.
Andrew was production designer in Nic Roeg's "Castaway" and "The Witches", Hugh Hudson's "I Dreamed Of Africa" and James Ivory's "The Golden Bowl" for which he received the Evening Standard Award for Technical Achievement in 2001.
COSTUME DESIGNER DENISE CRONENBERG created the costumes for six previous David Cronenberg pictures: The Fly, Dead Ringers, Naked Lunch, M. Butterfly,eXistenZ, and Crash.
Most recently she designed the costumes for Avenging Angelo, starring Slyvester Stallone, Madelaine Stowe and Anthony Quinn; Bless the Child, with Kim Basinger; The Third Miracle starring Ed Harris and Anne Heche directed by Agnieska Holland and Dracula 2000 with Christopher Plummer.
Her addition features include 20th Century Fox' A Cool, Dry Place starring Vince Vaughn, Monica Poetter and Joey Lauren Adams; Warner Bros. ' Murder at 1600 with Wesley Snipes, Diane Lane, Alan Alda and Dennis Miller and three HBO movies: Rebound starring Don Cheadle, Forest Whittaker and James Earl Jones; Mistrial with Bill Pullman, Robert Loggia and Blair Underwood and Sugartime, starring John Turturro and Mary Louise Parker. Additional credits include Moonlight and Valentino starring Whoopi Goldberg, Elizabeth Perkins Kathleen Turner and Gwynth Paltrow.
Cronenberg studied ballet training with The American Ballet Theatre before joining the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Switching careers to design her own line of clothes for adults and children for five years. She moved on to costume design in 1983, training as wardrobe designer on Videodrome and working as wardrobe mistress on The Dead Zone. She was also costume designer on The Caveman's Valentine starring Samuel L. Jackson.
Spider marks EDITOR RON SANDER's eleventh film for David Cronenberg. Previously he edited eXistenZ, Crash, M. Butterfly, Naked Lunch, Dead Ringers, The Fly, The Dead Zone, Videodrome, Scanners and Fast Company.
Most recently he edited Norman Jewison's Dinner with Friends for HBO; Iain Paterson's Hidden Agenda and Sturla Gunnarson's Joe Torre. Among his Feature film other credits are Johnny Mneumonic, Firestarter, Perfectly Normal and The Gate II.
For television Sanders edited episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Phillip Marlow Private Eye, the mini-series Mariah State, HBO's A Month of Sundays, The Park is Mine and, more recently Lamont Johnston's All The Winters That Have Been for CBS and Daniel Petrie Jr. s' Dead Silence for HBO.
Born in Winnipeg where his father was a projectionist, Sanders was imbued with film from an early age. After graduating with a B. A. from St. John's College, University of Manitoba, he moved to Toronto where he edited documentaries, and began working on feature films as a sound editor.
SPIDER marks COMPOSER HOWARD SHORE's 10th film for David Cronenberg, in a collaboration over 20 years which began with Cronenberg's The Brood in 1979 followed by Scanners (1980), Videodrome (1983), The Fly (1986), Dead Ringers (1988), Naked Lunch (1990), M. Butterfly (1993), Crash (1996) and eXistenZ (1999). Shore has recently composed the score for J. R. R. Tolkien's trilogy, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
Shore has composed the scores to more than 50 films, including The Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia, directed by Jonathan Demme, Ed Wood, directed by Tim Burton, Seven and The Game, directed by David Fincher, Dogma, directed by Kevin Smith, and After Hours, directed by Martin Scorcese. He also composed the scores to Mrs. Doubtfire, directed by Chris Columbus, Big, directed by Penny Marshall, and Analyze This, directed by Harold Ramis. Shore's most recent film scores include The Score from director Frank Oz, The Yards, from director James Gray, the French production, Esther Kahn, directed by Arnaud Desplechin, and The Cell, directed by Tarsem.
Shore has been honoured with a Los Angeles Film Critics Award, a Grammy Award nomination, and a BAFTA Award nomination in Great Britain. He has also received a Gotham Award in New York, the Saturn Award for Science Fiction and a Genie Award in Canada.
Shore's newest commissioned work "Orbit" had it's world premiere in October 2001 at the Melbourne Festival in Melbourne Australia, performed by the Australian Art Orchestra. His chamber music has also been featured on Arbesque Record's "Reel Life -The Private Music of Film Composers Vol. 1".