The director is making a sci-fi spy movie with Andrea Riseborough.
When you share a line of work with your parents, the comparisons can be frustrating but inevitable. When Brandon Cronenberg unveiled his first feature, Antiviral, six years ago, he obviously dealt with being judged against his legendary father’s filmography. And to be fair, the David Cronenberg correlations weren’t totally unfounded, given Antiviral’s premise of chilling body horror based in infection and obsession.
Yet in many an interview during the film’s promotional cycle, the younger Cronenberg asserted that he and his father are dissimilar directors. Taking this quote from Women’s Wear Daily as but one example, Cronenberg said, “I didn’t turn to filmmaking to become a carbon copy of my father.”
Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen. According to Deadline, Cronenberg has decided on his next feature. Titled Possessor, the film will star Andrea Riseborough (Black Mirror) and Christopher Abbott (It Comes at Night). Cronenberg will direct from his own screenplay about a woman named Tasya Vos (Riseborough), a secret agent who uses brain-implant technology to possess bodies and carry out assassinations for high-paying clients. However, a routine job goes awry and Tasya ends up stuck in the mind of a suspect (Abbott). She soon finds out that he is a very violent figure in his own right.
Already – though it may be unfair to keep the comparisons coming – hints of Scanners can be spotted in the premise for Possessor, given the overarching theme of mind control. Furthermore, there is something Cronenbergian in the plot line involving the involuntary invasion of human minds in order to carry out dangerous and vicious acts. Much like how Antiviral paints a dire picture of celebrity culture as outrageously toxic, Possessor could have a “moral” in its own right with its narrative of violence begetting itself.
However, the potential espionage angle in Possessor could really be where the younger Cronenberg finds more distinctive footing as a director. David Cronenberg’s extensive filmography has made him a quintessential voice in horrific sci-fi — look no further than at Videodrome and The Fly. His more mainstream dramatic offerings, such as A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, have also been sharply made and critically praised. Still, he’s never really done something with such a deliberate espionage angle. Interestingly, though, the older Cronenberg had in fact been prepping his own spy thriller years ago, set to star Denzel Washington and Tom Cruise, but those plans ultimately fell through.
The spy genre has received a ton of attention in recent months, and especially so when they happen to feature female protagonists. Hollywood is thankfully going all out in pitching and greenlighting both original and rebooted women-led spy movies, and the climate is ripe for more. Couple that kind of excitement with the sheer potential of Possessor‘s star, the formidable Andrea Riseborough, and it feels like the film has locked in on a recipe for success. Riseborough is outstanding, able to play softness in Battle of the Sexes as well as unnerving, unguessable energy in her Black Mirror episode, “Crocodile.” Tasya seems like a role that’s tailor-made for her capabilities.
In truth, Brandon Cronenberg may have started out his burgeoning filmography with a strong, undeniable throwback to his father’s legacy by recalling the diseased human soul in the most blatant of fashion. But besides Possessor, Cronenberg is also developing the sci-fi thriller Dragon – he’s working on this one with Marvel Comics writer Dan Abnett – which is a cosmic sci-fi movie that tracks a captain and her crew in search of intergalactic alien biochemistry that will be turned into highly profitable opiates. From the scope of both these projects, Cronenberg could flourish into a director with his own passions and narrative focal points.