Motoring: David Cronenberg, director of the controversial film `Crash', talks about his enthusiasm for cars and racing

I've just finished a script. It's called Red Cars. I don't know whether it will be my next movie or not. It's about the Formula One Championship of 1961, which was won by Phil Hill, the first American to win the championship. He won it for Ferrari when his team-mate Wolfgang von Tripps was killed at Monza. It's really about creative dynasties, about fathers and sons, and it's about car racing. Enzo Ferrari is a major figure in the script. So it's quite a different thing from my movie Crash. It would be interesting to play them on a double bill. They're almost like two sides of a coin.

I'm a vintage racer myself. I race old cars from the Fifties and early Sixties in events for old guys who couldn't afford those cars when they were younger. I am certainly a car enthusiast, but Crash is not made out of that part of me. The only part of the movie that came out of my car- enthusiasm side was when I was working with the stuntmen.

Have I ever been involved in crashes myself? Yes, I have scars on my back from motorcycle crashes. And I have been in crashes in race cars. But a crash in a race car is a completely different thing. You're wearing a fire suit and a helmet. You've got a six-point harness. And everybody else on the track is a racer. There are fire marshals with fire extinguishers at the corner. There are no cars coming the other way because you're all going the same direction.

It's very unlike a serious traffic accident, which I have never had. But it all adds to your understanding and curiosity about velocity and impact, and I mean that emotionally as well as physically. I've never had the kind of crashes portrayed in the movie.

But one of the reasons for making the movie was to come to an understanding of what that can mean, what it can be like. Making the movie was my way of exploring those phenomena, including the one we all know of people slowing down to look at a traffic accident. Everybody does it. Everybody denies it or feels guilty about it.

One of the amazing things that happened when I first met J G Ballard, who wrote the book on which the movie is based, was that we had this instantaneous understanding of each other's art, even though we come from very different backgrounds. I felt when I read Crash that it was taking place in a strange phantom North America rather than in Britain - the cars he described were not Ford Anglias. They were 58 Buicks. That's what they felt like when he talked about the chrome and grilles.

North America looms very large in Ballard's imagination. It represents many things for him which are perhaps unfashionable. It represents freedom and expansiveness and generosity and open spaces. When I read the book I thought of Toronto. That felt to me like where the book was happening, even though he does mention very specific roads and motorways near London. Ballard felt the same. He felt that spiritually it was not happening in London.

One of the things in the book I dispensed with was the Elizabeth Taylor element. Twenty five years ago, when Ballard was conceiving and writing the book, Taylor was a Hollywood icon. Now she's become an old lady who does Aids benefits. That's what most audiences would know her for.

I replaced Taylor with the James Dean car crash, which is not in the book. He was safely dead as an icon, untouchable, and I felt that was much more useful to what I was doing in the movie - the idea that James Dean died of a broken neck and became immortal. How do you die and become immortal at the same time? That was what I wanted to ask. Since then, of course, I've moved on - to other heroes: Phil Hill, Wolfgang von Tripps, Enzo Ferrari; and to other pursuits: the challenge of the racing track.

David Cronenberg was talking

to Geoffrey Macnab

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

    £37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

    Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

    £25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

    Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

    £16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

    Day In a Page

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea