TORONTO — Considering filmmaker David Cronenberg's body horror oeuvre, it's perhaps no surprise that he's taking inspiration these days from a prosthetic corpse made in his likeness.
The silicone cadaver is from the new season of the Ontario-shot series "Slasher: Flesh & Blood," in which Cronenberg plays the wealthy patriarch of a dysfunctional family rocked by murder at a reunion.
Its mouth agape, its skin a pallid grey, and featuring white hair styled like his, the life-size fake body was "very accurately done," says the Toronto auteur behind sci-fi horror classics including "Shivers" and "The Fly."
Cronenberg says he was so impressed he hired the company that made the body — Toronto-based makeup and soft props company Black Spot FX — to make prosthetics for his upcoming sci-fi film "Crimes of the Future," which he just finished shooting in Athens, Greece.
And when his photographer-daughter, Caitlin Cronenberg, suggested he dip his toes into the world of so-called "crypto-art" with a short film, he thought of the cadaver.
The body features prominently in the one-minute "The Death of David Cronenberg," where the real Cronenberg crawls into bed with the corpse and envelopes it in an embrace. The film hit the digital art marketplace SuperRare as a non-fungible token (NFT) in mid-September and sold for 25 ether, or about $90,000.
Having the cadaver in his attic for the shoot was "strangely comforting, kind of weirdly cozy," he says.
"I really felt a connection with it. I felt protective of it. It's the strangest thing," the 78-year-old, whose other films include "Crash," "A History of Violence" and "Eastern Promises," said in a recent phone interview.
"I suppose the illusion is that in some way you're controlling your own death by taking care of your own corpse," he said.
"But I had a real relationship with this corpse."
Asked if that means he's comfortable with the idea of dying, Cronenberg said while he "might rage against the dying of the light, as Dylan Thomas put it," he considers himself philosophically an existentialist.
"I'm not religious, I'm an atheist. I don't believe in an afterlife," he said, noting "it's almost impossible" for human beings to imagine non-existence.
"Inventing fantasies of an afterlife and so on, I guess that's a solution for some people. It is not the solution for me. So it is to grasp the reality of it to your bosom, to accept it, to embrace it. That's literally what I do in this NFT."
The fourth season of "Slasher: Flesh & Blood," a psychological thriller anthology series created by Aaron Martin,premieres Monday on specialty channel group Hollywood Suite's 2000 channel.
Cronenberg plays a cunning business mogul who tells his family he's close to death and wants them to battle each other in a cruel game, with the winner inheriting his fortune. The situation turns deadly when a mysterious masked killer starts stalking them.
Cronenberg said he was attracted to the foul-mouthed role in part because the character is drastically different from himself.
"He's really nasty. He gets sadistic and he gets to yell at a lot of people, which is really a lot of fun. I don't do that much in my own life," he said. "So it was fun to be a guy who does that."
The series also offered a chance to see how COVID-19 protocols unfold on a set, which helped him plan and budget for pandemic protocols on "Crimes of the Future," about a not-so-distant future in which humankind learns to adapt to synthetic surroundings.
"It was successful, nobody got sick and nobody got sick on my shoot in Athens either," he said.
Cronenberg said he was in Athens for 100 days to direct stars including Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux, Kristen Stewart and Scott Speedman. He wrote the script in 2000 — his first original screenplay since "eXistenZ," released in 1999.
"Crimes of the Future" is Cronenberg's first directorial effort since his 2014 satire "Maps to the Stars." Since then he's been in front of the camera, with other acting roles including the series "Alias Grace" and "Star Trek: Discovery," and the films "Disappearance at Clifton Hill" and "Falling."
"I really thought that 'Maps to the Stars' would be my last movie and that I would perhaps write another novel, I've written one novel," he said, referring to 2014's thriller "Consumed."
"I just wasn't sure that I had the heart for it anymore. But I missed being on set and being with my colleagues of every kind. And so one way to keep in touch with that, with filmmaking, was to be an actor."
But when the idea for "Crimes of the Future" re-emerged, he found himself back behind the camera after "a long, agonizing process to get the film financed."
"There I was in Athens directing again, wondering if I would remember how to do it actually, because it had been about eight years since I directed anything, except small things like the NFT," Cronenberg said.
"But I did remember. It is like riding a bicycle after all, and so I could still do it and I enjoyed it. I've been currently enjoying editing, too, because I almost forgot how much fun editing is."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2021.
Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press