Cronenberg had looked forward for several years to working with JENMFER JASON LEIGH, with whom he had already established a rapport long before the project was green-lit by Alliance Atlantis
Cronenberg had looked forward for several
years to working with JENMFER JASON LEIGH, with whom he had already
established a rapport long before the project was green-lit by
Alliance Atlantis. "I wanted someone who was believable as
a brilliant but moody and philosophically oriented game designer
who could really convey obsessiveness. It's her obsessiveness
that drives the whole movie. The game is her art form and her
life. Knowing that the two are the same, she is willing to risk
her physical life in order to save her creation."
After Leigh read the script, her agent let it be known that she
was extremely passionate about it. When they met to talk about
it, Cronenberg discovered that Leigh had not only recently gotten
into computers, but was an Apple Master. "The idea of combining
those things that she loves - the acting and her new obsession
- was perfect," comments Cronenberg.
He explains, "computer freaks are involved with gaming and
the concept of artificial life and intelligence, because a computer
is a kind of artificial intelligence. A computer with a keyboard
burdens one with a lot of baggage. The movie deliberately strips
that away so people can interact with the film directly without
preconceived ideas. Jennifer recognized the dynamics of the movie
as dealing with things she'd become very passionate about."
Agrees Leigh, "I'm a big computer nerd and I've always wanted
to work with David Cronenberg, so eXistenZ worked for me
on many levels. As an Apple fanatic I understand the kind of fanaticism
people have toward their computers." Commenting on how games,
television and the onslaught of media affect one's psyche relative
to the film, she observes, "They're living a fantasy, but
it feels very, very real. The game you choose is your reality."
Leigh describes her character, Allegra Geller. "I play the
game designer who's much happier when she's playing the game than
when she's not. She's a bit of a neurotic in her regular life
and not very comfortable with people." Her appearance reflected
this attitude. When she was in the game, Leigh looked more bold,
sexy and beautiful. "Geller's whole point is a much more
organic approach to gaming than the arbitrary rules of the classic
games that one plays. Part of the fun is also that everything
in the movie is not what you think."
To star opposite Leigh, Cronenberg chose JUDE LAW because he was
looking for a fresh face as well as someone who would complement
Jennifer. Jude is a really brilliant young actor who's caused
a lot of excitement and is highly sought after in the business.
I thought he would be a terrific sort of 'My God, who was that
guy?' kind of guy. That was our take on him," comments Cronenberg.
Responds Law enthusiastically, "I wanted to work on eXistenZ
because the script was like nothing I'd read before. It was an
opportunity to work with David Cronenberg, who makes films like
no one else, and a chance to work with Jennifer Jason Leigh, who,
I think, is brilliant. It's not often you get to make a film which
is so unique and brave."
Law's take on the picture: "It's about a game that uses your
memories and your past, your present emotions and psychological
state to put you into an alternate world that then creates challenges
in a realer than real experience. The overall theme of the film
is how individuals perceive rea
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