Possessor director Brandon Cronenberg talks creating one of 2020’s most disturbing films

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He may be the son of an iconic Crash director David Cronenberg, but Brandon Cronenberg is carving out his own identity as a filmmaker.

Having created a stir with his body horror feature film debut Antiviral, the 40-year-old Canadian director has returned with a unique new science-fiction horror and espionage thriller entitled Possessor.

The film follows contract killer Tasya Vos, played by Andrea Riseborough, whose consciousness is placed into the bodies of other people to commit assassinations for her powerful paymasters.

However, when she is placed inside the body of Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott) with the goal of killing his girlfriend's industrialist father, John Parse (Sean Bean), Vos soon finds her dual identities and psyches blurring into one with dangerous consequences for both her and Colin's loved ones.

Brandon Cronenberg is releasing his second feature film, science-fiction horror Possessor
(Image: Signature Entertainment)

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The film also stars Jennifer Jason Leigh as Vos' employer, Tuppence Middleton as Colin's girlfriend, and Rossif Sutherland as Vos' estranged husband.

Speaking to Mirror Online, the film's talented director discussed his new film, its excellent cast, and where he sees his career turning next.

"The idea for the film I think started from a very trivial personal place," explains Cronenberg.

Andrea Riseborough stars as hit woman Tasya Vos in Possessor
(Image: Signature Entertainment)

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He continues: "I was travelling on a press tour for my first film feature Antiviral and when you travel with a film for the first time it's a fairly surreal experience because you're either consciously or unconsciously building a public persona and performing this alternative version of yourself, this kind of media self that quite often has this own life without you online.

"Between that and a few other things that were going on at the time, I was feeling like I was having a hard time seeing myself in my own life and I was sitting up in somebody else's life and constructing this character."

Vos plans to place her consciousness inside the body of the unsuspecting Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott)
(Image: Signature Entertainment)

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As with Antiviral, Cronenberg utilises some gory and disturbing body horror, but the director maintains that this is always in service of the story in the case of his new film.

"It's where my head is at right now. With Possessor it was very narrative, in the story it was about Vos the character and what she does," adds the director.

"I felt it was necessary to be explicit about what is happening and enable people to understand it in a physical way."

Tuppence Middleton stars as Colin's unsuspecting girlfriend, Ava
(Image: Signature Entertainment)

Sean Bean portrays Vos' target and Ava's father, industrialist John Parse
(Image: Signature Entertainment)

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The director was always keen to cast both acclaimed leads Riseborough and Abbott in the film, having been impressed by their previous work.

"When you watch them you can't help but get excited," he notes. "Every choice they make is interesting, nothing about their performance is lazy, they're so enthralling in everything they do."

Possessor is set in a dystopian world very close to our own but also one very different, but what is the director trying to say with this setting and subject matter.

Cronenberg thinks the technology displayed in Possessor may one day be a reality
(Image: Signature Entertainment)

Jennifer Jason Leigh appears in the film as Vos' superior, the ruthless Girder
(Image: Signature Entertainment)

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"The body possession stuff is a tool for exploring identity, I did do research into the neuroscience behind the technology and I think something like that will eventually be possible," states Cronenberg, though he is clear he is not making predictive science-fiction and this would be very far in the future.

Setting it in an alternate 2008 also "kept it in a close enough time so as to feel familiar".

As with many film releases this year, the release of Possessor has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, with its UK release now solely on digital.

Vos' psyche begins to unravel once inside Colin Tate's body
(Image: Signature Entertainment)

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"I don't feel like I'm releasing a film in a sense," explains the director, "I'm sitting down at a computer and doing press but I'm not actually travelling with it or being able to interact with audiences.

"It almost feels like a video game about releasing a film that I'm playing on my computer, it's a very strange experience that way."

Despite the unplanned digital release instead of heading to theatres, the director is not displeased.

"I don't really fetishise theatrical in the way some directors day, it's totally okay and probably advisable for people to see this at home," concludes Cronenberg.

"It is a different way to be releasing a film and tracking a film's success."

Possessor is not having the release that was planned thanks to Covid-19
(Image: Signature Entertainment)

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In the US, Possessor Uncut is the unrated cut of the film that premiered at Sundance Film Festival, but they also had to release an R cut of the film that has been edited for some platforms, which is edited from territory to territory.

Thankfully, the only version being released in the UK and rated 18 will be the entire uncut version.

Cronenberg does note, however, that this release style won't suit bigger-budget blockbusters like upcoming James Bond film No Time To Die, but a digital release is something he is comfortable with.

Will Vos succeed in her mission?
(Image: Signature Entertainment)

Could Colin once again take control of his body?
(Image: Signature Entertainment)

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Yet, speaking of bigger studio films, is this an ambition for Cronenberg's future?

He explains: "I don't think I would only like to make studio films because I like creative freedom but that said if someone offered me the opportunity to make an absolutely massive studio film it would be hard not to take that on even just to see what that kind of filmmaking is like and what it is like to work on that scale with those resources.

"But I get that that could be creatively frustrating."

But what next for the director after Possessor hits our screens?

Brandon Cronenberg, here on the set of his film Possessor, already has his next projects lined up
(Image: Signature Entertainment)

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"There are two projects that are very close to happening," teases the director.

"One is called Infinity Pool which is a tourist resort satire with some science-fiction horror elements, and a notorious space-horror film called Dragon.

"They're both written and on the verge, so I hope to make them both back-to-back."

We can't wait to see what mind-bending odyssey he has in store next!

Possessor is released on digital and video on demand on November 27, 2020.

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