Along Came a Spider

David Cronenberg Adapts Patrick McGrath's Diary of a Madman

PM: I think it was a good idea to not make it a schematic, oedipal setup, because the film isn't about that. It's more about the process of repression and the breakdown of that process. Spider has managed to construct an entirely alternative set of memories as to why and how his mother died.

DC: Well, of course, since I've read Why Freud Was Wrong, I don't believe in repression either—

PM: Some of us are clinging to it.

Arachnophiles Cronenberg (left) and McGrath
photo: Robin Holland
Arachnophiles Cronenberg (left) and McGrath

DC: I know. It's a desperate thing, especially in New York. [glancing up] Oh, you have a bat!

PM: Yes.

DC: I have butterflies and moths but I don't have a bat.

PM: No bat? Fangoria will probably give you one.

JH: . . . in appreciation for those eels that Spider's "bad" mother, Yvonne, cooks up for dinner.

DC: The eels. The eels. Yeah.

PM: He took out the bleeding potato.

DC: There were some very horror-film elements in Patrick's original script. In particular, there was this bleeding potato—and it makes perfect hallucinatory sense. We had the special-effects guys make the bleeding potato—and it exploded, as usual. Which always happens. When you go to see effects stuff, don't wear your best clothes. And they finally got it to not only bleed but to glow. They were very proud of it and then I didn't shoot it. By that time, I felt that the movie was somewhere else. Yvonne was our main hallucination.

PM: Early on in the filming, you asked me to classify every scene as to what sort of zone of reality we were in. We had Spider in the present day, Spider in reliable memory, Spider in what we called "infected memory"—

DC: It's interesting to see the movie a second time because what you're seeing is completely different. It's a trip down memory lane. For most people, there's a revelation later in life about what was really going on with your parents that they couldn't tell you because you were a child, and now you have to re-think and re-remember all of that stuff—now you find out that your father was having an affair with that woman in the asylum that you wrote about.

PM: Not my dad, no.

DC: Exactly. That's what they all say—your dad but not mine.

JH: A number of people at Cannes compared Spider to A Beautiful Mind.

DC: If you see that movie, you're going to say, wow, let me be a schizophrenic—

PM: Yeah, exactly! Shuffling around Princeton half your life.

DC: I've got this really beautiful chick who I have no trouble sustaining this relationship with, I have fun with Ed Harris when I'm bored, I win the Nobel Prize, then I have a movie made about my life starring Russell Crowe, and then we win Oscars. So let me be a schizophrenic.

Related Story:
J. Hoberman's review of Spider

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