INTERVIEW: Sarah Gadon talks Cosmopolis with Toronto Standard: “There has to be a willingness to see that humour” + MORE

Sarah Gadon (Elise) has been doing some great promotion for Cosmopolis and sat down with Toronto Standard and Monsters & Critics for these interviews about the book-to-film interpretations, the characterization of Elise, the humor of Cosmopolis and more!

Excerpt from Part 1 with Eli Yarhi for the Toronto Standard:

John Updike, reviewing Cosmopolis in the New Yorker, saw the book as “Nouveau roman meets Manhattan geography under sci-fi moonlight.” Nouveau roman places character at the feet of details in the surrounding world and the other people there. It’s like: sketch plot, pencil in character and drop them into their surroundings.

Sarah Gadon: But it’s troubling to categorize the book as Nouveau roman or sci-fi because that misses the mark. I see DeLillo removing his characters from their environment in order to call attention to that remove. It’s the lack that you have to focus on. He’s not weaving them into their environment so he can call attention to capitalism and its breakdown—it’s the opposite. David does the same thing in the film. He’s not trying to weave you into the narrative emotionally. He’s trying to create a distantiation where you can intellectualize the material on screen versus committing emotionally to some sort of narrative. You’re being provoked and frustrated into thinking about the system.

So what commentary does the film make? The book is pretty condemning—

SG: Yeah! This is for the one percent descending from their yacht at Cannes to watch a film that points to a gap in society. I think the movie lends itself to a meta-critique of the film industry. Take casting someone like Rob at the centre of this film. He is the symbol of pop cinema, the symbol of capitalism. The film is about the breakdown of that.

And his character’s so hubristic. He tries to tap into this technological system that’s supposed to order the world around him, the dollars and cents of his life, the free market. And we watch it all fall—really hard.

SG: When I read critiques of the film, I think people miss what you’re saying. They ask, “Why is Robert Pattinson in this movie?” Even for David to cast somebody like me who is blonde, blue-eyed and twenty-five and normally reads scripts where I am hyper sexualized or solve everyone’s problem with my smile. He cast me as a character who will not allow her romantic lead to project anything onto her that she will absorb, it’s kind of unheard of. And there is a difference between [Elise] in the book and the Elise that David wrote. In that the last scene between Eric and Elise, in the book, Eric projects onto an accepting Elise. For me, the best part about ending their narrative in the restaurant, in the movie, is that she ends it and she’s out and that’s it.

Click HERE to continue Part 1

Part 2 of Sarah’s interview with Toronto Standard:

You often hear that reading a book before seeing a film screws with your mind. You’re able to fill in details that are either poorly sketched in the film, or not elucidated at all. Which I think judges the merits of a movie and misses its singularity. How does this apply to Cosmopolis?

Sarah Gadon: Cinema is its own semiotic language, and you can’t really adapt literature because it’s two completely different mediums presenting a narrative in different ways. Cosmopolis the novel is in the film, for sure, but it’s going to be a different beast. You’re telling the story with images instead of words. DeLillo’s writing is dense. The way his characters think about themselves inside their own heads is something that you can’t necessarily express on film. Film is different from literature and I think people looking to find a connection will always be disappointed. It’s like comparing a photograph to a painting.

Yeah, I loved the movie that much. But in the movie, Coppola took his interpretation of a pulpy genre story and made it something different in its message.

SG: What I find people critique with Cosmopolis are the things that are closest to the book. For example, people say that the dialogue is theatrical and dense. But it’s word-for-word the dialogue in the book. I don’t understand.

I’ll admit that I get lost sometimes when I read DeLillo’s dialogue. I understand what’s being said, but I lose place of who’s saying what—the voices blend together. Translating that to film might fill in some blanks…

SG: I love the way his characters speak. I think it’s hilarious. I think there’s so much humour in Cosmopolis. There has to be a willingness to see that humour. I think David pulls that out, more so than what I think exists on the page. But when you hear two people saying these lines, you see how funny it can be.

Click HERE to continue Part 2

In this excerpt from Monsters & Critics by Anne Brodie, Sarah talks in more detail about Elise and Eric:

M&C: Your character’s relationship with Eric (Pattinson) her husband, is oddly straightforward – it’s love/hate.  It’s brittle, combative and sexual.  What’s your take on it?

Gadon: So often as a female actress you’re accustomed to reading material where the male character projects onto you exactly what you’re feeling and exactly what you’re working in and exactly what your actions are in a scene.

What I thought was so hilarious about the two of them is that he spent the entire time trying to project onto her – “I want to fuck you, I think you’re sexy, I want this. That, you’re sad, you’re happy”.

And she spends the whole time saying “No, no” until the end of the arc when he says “I’m not going to be the man you want me to be” and she says “Okay well, I’m out”.  It was so refreshing to me to read that also terrifying.  There is a charisma to the way she does it.  But there is no blazing moment where the screenwriter is saying “fall in love with this woman” because she’s a woman.

M&C: Was your purpose to dominate the indomitable guy?

Gadon: I think that’s why women are so responsive to the character.  Men say to me “So she’s really cold” [laughs] but that is what is so great about David is that as a filmmaker, he leaves so much open to interpretation and he allows for the female and male spectator.

He’s not assuming all audiences members are young men.   He’s saying “I’m going to give you a guy like this or a girl like this and then a woman and a sex scene like that”.  That’s what I find so stimulating about his work.   I’m speculating into the void now but I think he really does account for audiences that are both men and women.

Click HERE to read Monsters & Critics in its entirety