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Production Designer Tamara Deverell On Working With David Cronenberg


A scene from Crash (Credit: TriStar Films)

Tamara Deverell has a keen eye for horror. Over the years, the production designer has worked with Guillermo del Toro on projects including Nightmare Alley and Cabinet of Curiosities. Presently, the two are collaborating on an adaptation of Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein for Netflix.

In the ’90s, Deverell collaborated with another force in the world of horror, the master of body horror, Canada’s finest, David Cronenberg. For Crash and eXistenZ, she worked as an art director, contributing to these decade-defining films that still generate conversation and speculation.

Recently, Below the Line spoke with Deverell about her elegant work on the Sofia Coppola film, Priscilla. In light of Halloween, we asked her about her time collaborating with Cronenberg. Funnily enough, she had just done an interview about eXistenZ, so that body tech thriller was very much on her mind. “I actually rewatched it,” she said, “and I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is such a crazy, kooky, interesting film.’ Because of our whole AI experience now, it’s actually relevant again, in a weird way.”

For the gaming store in the film, Deverell was responsible for all the graphics. “I was doing a lot of graphics then and making up all these weird games in the gaming store,” she added. “It was a big deal. And then the way David shot it, he shot it all in the backroom. And then Carol Spears, the production designer, and I, the art director, were very upset about that, but that’s one memory [laughs]. I have a lot of kooky, little memories from that movie.”

It’s only fitting that Deverell “had another kooky memory” from the experience of Crash – which, on the surface, characters aroused by car accidents. “That was a film that I was pregnant with my son,” she said. “So, it was a very weird film to be becoming a mom while doing that movie. I did a lot of crash image research. I was like, ‘I’m pregnant. I’m looking at this. This is going to affect my child.’ I was quite pregnant through the film. I actually had the baby while we were at the tail end of the movie. [‘The very charming’] David Cronenberg, every time I’d come in the room with my big belly, he would always be like, ‘What you’re creating is just everything. And what I do is nothing. You are the great creator! I am just a lowly filmmaker.'”

Now, there’s a quote that screams Cronenbergian.

Now, as for the great creator’s son, did the haunting masterpiece known as Crash have any affect? “He’s just recently learned to drive later than most kids,” Tamara shared, “and he’s a very careful driver. So, maybe that’s in his inner psyche.”

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