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Movie Mom

Why Is There Only One American Actor in a Movie Set in NY?

posted by Nell Minow

Cosmopolis” is a new movie based on a book by American author Don DeLillo.  It is a story about Americans who work in the world of finance and takes place entirely in New York City.  It stars British actor Robert Pattinson, best known for another American role, Edward in the “Twilight” series.

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A number of British actors play Americans very convincingly, including Hugh Laurie in “House,” Tom Hardy in next week’s “Lawless,” and Christian Bale as Batman in the Dark Knight movies.  And Americans play Brits, too, like Gwenyth Paltrow in “Shakespeare in Love,” “Emma,” and “Sliding Doors” and Meryl Streep’s Oscar-winning role as Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.”

I’m in favor of casting the best actor for the role without regard to his or her native accent.  But there’s more to the story in the casting for “Cosmopolis.”  According to Slate, director David Cronenberg explained that the movie was a co-production financed by Canada and France, and so was limited to just one American actor.  He wisely chose Paul Giamatti for a small but crucial role.  Pattinson’s EU passport qualified as a part of the French component of the film.

I understand that compromise is a part of any project as expensive as this one.  But I am sorry to think that decisions so central to the quality of a film are being made for reasons that have so little to do with the quality of the film.

  • Kevin L.

    Was Cronenberg’s restriction contractual or tax-based? It may be the French and Canadian governments give out generous tax breaks to the producers, but with strings attached on the payroll. And, to be fair, while set in NYC, most of it was shot in NYC’s body double, Toronto.

    For an off-beat art house project, keeping the budget low is essential to the movie getting made. So credit to the French and Canadians for backing the project.

    The Canadian subsidy issue has been around awhile. When the SCTV series was around, it was filmed in Canada because it was licensed by the Toronto Second City troupe. The producers took advantage of the tax breaks, but the Canadian authorities pointed out a regulation stating they had to have 2-3 minutes of “Canadian content” per show. The producers asked, “If we put a couple of guys in tocques cooking back bacon in front of a map of Canada, would that satisfy you?” – and Bob and Doug McKenzie and the “Great White North” sketches were born

    • Nell Minow

      I didn’t know that about the McKenzies! I loved those skits. All kinds of compromises are made for reasons of finance. I was amazed to hear that the Japanese character in the television series “Revenge” was added as part of a deal to try to get the show picked up in Japan. And it worked! If you see the movie, Kevin, let me know what you think.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Linda

    So, what you’re saying is that Rob Pattinson got this juicy role, in part, because he carries a E. Union passport! My God! If Pattinson had filed immigration papers in the U.S., he might have lost out on this very savory part! I find all of this “behind the scenes” negotiating, interesting. I’ll just bet there’s plenty of stuff that gets negotiated that we never hear about!

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