David Cronenberg: The film director on his fascination with the human body, ageing gracefully and disasters on set


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I got derailed by cinema for 50 years I've always wanted to be a novelist; my father was a writer and I used to fall asleep to the sound of his Underwood typewriter. I thought I'd be a novelist, too: at 16, I was writing stories for science-fiction and fantasy magazines. But it has taken me this long to finally write my first novel.

Critics examine the arc of my career but I don't When I make a movie I don't think about my old ones: it's what you are that influences the work, not the work that influences what you're doing.

Writing a novel is totally different to screenwriting The only thing that matters [in screenwriting] is your dialogue; the rest is mediated through the crew: props, casting and so on. The novel is a more intimate form of writing. Like Rick Moody, author of The Ice Storm, said, movies are in the third person, novels are in the first person; even if the writing is omniscient, the writer can get in the heads of the characters in a way films can't.

People talk about body horror in reference to my early films, but it's a term I've never used myself I don't believe in any afterlife, so for me, philosophically, the body is the fact of human existence; we are our bodies. And people do have a fascination with their own bodies: they are worried about disease and ageing and they are right to, as there's no fixing it later. So what people have construed as body horror for me is body interest and body investigation.

There's nothing more hideous or deformed than to kill people for religious reasons That's compounding atrocity on atrocity. I have a strong understanding of the complexity of human beings and to destroy that for something delusional is the worst crime.

I didn't ever want to be a tenant again after filming 'Rabid' I got kicked out of the apartment [we were filming in] by the old lady who owned the house, as the star Marilyn Chambers was also in porn and this woman, in her eighties, thought I was making pornographic films. But the sounds she thought she was hearing from my bathroom were me fixing the leaks in her tap!

You have to understand that ageing is part of life It requires a philosophical attitude, that it's not so horrible and there is a beauty to it; you just have to find a way to grasp that beauty. For me growing up, there were a lot of older men and women who were wise and accomplished, and I liked that weathered effect on their faces. Once you stop trying to look like you're 20, you can try to look like someone you admire; for me it's Bertrand Russell or Saul Bellow.

I might be 71 but I'm a tech geek My children and friends are immersed in [technology], too. Even my four-month-old grandkids now play on the iPad like it's part of their nervous system. What's interesting is that for some people, what makes them happiest is getting a new iPhone: you can see the joy on the faces of people who come out of the Apple Store. I'm not critiquing it, but is that real pleasure?

I don't do unreasonable – I'm Canadian Some people find being angry cathartic, but I don't enjoy it. When we were filming Crash, we had a remote-controlled Porsche Spyder that was supposed to crash; we had very little time to shoot it, but while they were rehearsing, the guys lost control and it went off a hill. They thought I was going to kill them, but I just laughed; it was ridiculous.

A film-maker and author, David Cronenberg is best known for films including 'The Fly', 'Crash' and 'A History of Violence'. His debut novel, 'Consumed' (£18.99, Fourth Estate), is out now