Crimes of the Future buzz builds ahead of Cannes bow

Crimes of the Future
Director David Cronenberg and producer Robert Lantos discuss the internet fervour surrounding the world premiere and the marketing strategy for its theatrical release.

The world is watching as famed Canadian director David Cronenberg gets set to premiere Crimes of the Future, his long-anticipated return to the horror genre.

In competition for the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, Crimes of the Future is Cronenberg’s sixth world bow on the Croisette, and his first time back in the director’s chair following 2014′s Maps to the Stars. The Canada/Greece copro is produced by frequent collaborator Robert Lantos’ Serendipity Films with producing partner Argonaut Films in Athens.

The film, which will world premiere on Monday (May 23), is considered a return to classic Cronenberg horror, and stars Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux and Kristen Stewart in a future where humans have evolved to live in a synthetic environment in which “surgery is the new sex.”

It’s the return to form that has attracted a heavy amount of attention for Cronenberg in the lead-up to the Cannes premiere.

“David and I have been doing this a long time, and I have never seen this much anticipation worldwide for a film that no one has seen,” Lantos tells Playback Daily regarding the online buzz building around the film. “The internet is going crazy over every photograph, every teaser, every trailer, every poster that drops.”

The excitement has built up in Canada as well. The North American premiere will be hosted by the TIFF Bell Lightbox theatre on May 30, with Lantos, Cronenberg and select members of the film’s cast in attendance. The event includes a showcase of props and objects from the Toronto International Film Festival’s permanent Cronenberg collection from its Film Reference Library.

Meanwhile, Bell Media streamer Crave will launch a curated Cronenberg collection on May 23 to coincide with the world premiere Crimes of the Future. The collection, titled From the Mind of Cronenberg, includes Crash, The Fly, Eastern Promises, A Dangerous Method, Cosmopolis, Dead Ringers, A History of Violence, Videodrome, and Maps to the Stars.

The anticipation complements the marketing strategy behind the film, which Lantos says revolves around attracting the indie-loving audiences with a prestigious Cannes premiere without alienating Cronenberg’s built-in horror fanbase.

“The obvious hook is that it’s Cronenberg going back to his roots and doing a genre picture again, which unfortunately is called body horror – not by me, but by others,” says Cronenberg. “But it’s evident when you see [the film] that it’s a lot more than that.”

Lantos says star Mortensen has also been hands-on in the marketing process, noting that it’s rare for an actor to be so involved right to the finish line. “[Mortensen] has comments on every photograph, on the poster, on the trailer or the teaser,” he says.

“There are some producers and directors who might be intimidated by that, but in fact, he’s so smart and he is so much of a collaborator,” says Cronenberg. “He’s really incisive and has an acute, analytical approach to filmmaking. He is totally committed… and that’s just part of [who] he is, it’s what you get when you work with Viggo.”

Crimes of the Future will have a wide release on June 3, less than two weeks after the world premiere, which includes more than 600 theatres in North America and over 200 in France, according to Lantos.

The producer says going the theatrical route with an independent film, rather than selling directly to a streaming service, was “tougher than it’s ever been” in terms of securing presales. “There are still some brave souls in the distribution business who believe in theatrical,” he says, noting that securing A-list talent along the way helped to finalize some of the financing.

To ensure a theatrical run, Lantos brought in a number of distribution partners ahead of production in Greece, including Montreal’s Sphere Films (formerly MK2 | Mile End) for Canada, Neon for the U.S., Metropolitan for France, and coproducing partners Argonauts Productions in Greece. Other distributors include Weltkino (Germany, Austria and Switzerland), The Searchers (Benelux), Front Row (Middle East), Capella (CIS/ the Baltic States), and Moviecloud (Taiwan).

Other funding partners include Telefilm Canada, Bell Media, the Harold Greenberg Fund, CBC, the U.K.’s Ingenious Media, France’s Coficine, Greece’s EKOME and the Greek Film Centre.

“Piecing it all together… that’s not for the faint heart and not something I recommend to anyone that I like,” says Lantos.

So, with all of the anticipation building for the film, is Cronenberg feeling the pressure to deliver in Cannes?

“My main pressure is not to fall down the stairs of the red carpet,” the director says with a laugh. “The rest of it is out of my hands, frankly.”