If it’s a David Cronenberg jam, then you know it’s going to A. make your skin crawl, B. feature various bodily horrors, and/or C. examine the darker, decidedly more twisted side of the human psyche. Historically speaking, we can deduce that, if the master of bodily terror is making a television series, it may include all of the above — or not. People still have the capacity to surprise you, even — or especially — in their 70s.
Just take another famous David, for example: Lynch, who returned to the same TV system that burned him in the ’90s some 30 years later to deliver what is quite possibly his most enigmatic, surreal and profound piece of work. So when this other David, a similarly singular visionary who also happens to be in his 70s, says he’s working on a TV show…to say I’m excited would be something of an understatement.
Variety was on-hand at the Venice Film Festival over the weekend, where Cronenberg is being honored with a lifetime achievement award. There, the director of cerebral classics like Videodrome, The Fly and Crash participated in a panel discussion on the future of cinema. It was during that panel that Cronenberg revealed that he is working on his own television series, though he wasn’t able to reveal any further details because he “can’t talk about it just yet.”
It’s not the first time that Cronenberg has directed for television (he previously directed episodes of Canadian shows like Peep Show and Scales of Justice), but this new series will be the first time that he’s had total control over a television project from start to finish. As evidenced by the current number of prestige dramas on just about any given network, as well as the number of prestige stars flocking to the small screen (even Meryl is doing it!), television has become an increasingly attractive medium — one that can afford filmmakers like Cronenberg more freedom and flexibility, whether artistically (no MPAA, for instance) or commercially (more networks and platforms to choose from).
“Today TV screens are getting bigger and bigger and therefore the difference between theatre and domestic viewing has become really flimsy,” said Cronenberg at the panel in Venice. “The rule used to be that closeup shots were only done for TV, and not for movies,” he explained, citing one example. “But today that’s no longer the case.”
Cronenberg’s last feature film was 2014’s Maps to the Stars. Last year, he appeared in several episodes of the Netflix series Alias Grace, based on the novel by Margaret Atwood and directed by fellow Canadian filmmaker Sarah Polley — who also starred in Cronenberg’s eXistenZ.