Graphic of a two-headed lizard from eXistenZ

Transcript: A Dangerous Method: Research - Part 2

CHRISTOPHER HAMPTON: He does a lot of research and he did embark on a different kind of research. For example, I know that he looked at film of hysteria patients at the time, very old silent film. Keira did as well – for that early part of the film, where the symptoms are much more clearly displayed than we had attempted on stage. So that was a very fruitful and interesting avenue.

Aside from that, of course Viggo Mortensen is famous for his conscientiousness as a researcher. When I arrived in Germany, they had already started the shoot but I happened to arrive in Germany around the same time as Viggo. I discovered that he had been to a lot of second hand bookshops in Vienna because he had made a list of the books that Freud - were important to Freud and he knew that the Nazis – Freud had to flee from Vienna in 1938 and the Nazis had taken over his library. So he reasoned that a lot of these books might well have found their way into second-hand bookshops. So he bought a lot of books, which he brought to put on the set, which were on the set in the movie.

VIGGO MORTENSEN: (LAUGHS) I’m just imagining their faces. I could just… moments flash by where… I show up with strange things, “Maybe you could use these in the room of Sabina?” Or, “I found this book…”

No, but, it’s great, he has a wonderful team, David, you know. That core group that you mentioned, whether it’s Carol or Ron or Peter Suschitzky or, you know, so many others. They are like-minded. David has consciously assembled a group of people that think like him and I guess think like me, as well. No research is too much. There’s no such things as too many questions. It’s a great team to work with. I’ve never worked with a team as skilled, as single-minded about getting the most out of the opportunity to tell any particular story.

I was just laughing because I was just thinking of some of the things I probably brought to them that weren’t really relevant! (LAUGHS) I don’t know. But a lot have been relevant, I think. We have fun together.

With someone like Sigmund Freud, that there is a lot of material available that describes the way he spoke, his physicality, tone of voice, his sense of humour – which is something I didn’t know that much about until I started doing the research. And the way he interacted socially with his family and with others, how gregarious he actually was – which was surprising to me. In a way, it’s like getting to know David, there’s certain similarities there, I have to say. Sigmund Freud – oh, must be very serious, very intense, scholarly person. And then you get to know him, as with getting to know David, and you realize, oh they’re kind of pranksters, at times, and they have a sense of humour – very dry maybe but it’s there. I think they also have in common in their sense of humour, that, if you don’t get the joke, it’s no big deal, he’s not going to throw it in your face he’ll just move on. You may not ever get it. But if you do know him and you realize it, you really enjoy the subtlety of it. I think that was true of Freud.

It was just fun. It’s really fun to work with someone who thinks that way. You know, we had even less need to dissect things on the set. We could just get to work. He was particularly helpful to me because he already knew a lot about Sigmund Freud to start with, before the idea of making the movie even came up, probably, for him. It was a lot of fun, sharing all kinds of references and research that we were doing separately. Stuff about Freud with the world he lived in. The social, political climate in Europe at that time, at the beginning of the 20th century. About Jung, about anything. All other scientists, artists, politicians, literature, music... it’s a lot of fun.

I mean, I always – whether the director is inclined to dig as much as I am or not - I, on my own, the preparation for any movie, whether it’s with David Cronenberg or anyone else, is always a source of inspiration and enjoyment for me. Because, that can’t be bad, if that’s what you’re interested in. It’s enjoyable to do that work, that preparation.