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Netflix Execs Turned Down David Cronenberg’s ‘The Shrouds’

Netflix Execs Turned Down David Cronenberg’s ‘The Shrouds’

David Cronenberg has opened up on putting his film The Shrouds to Netflix executives as a television series, who greenlit writing a first episode before rejecting the director’s project.

The sci-fi drama, which aired in Cannes to a three-and-a-half minute applause before Cronenberg spoke to the audience, follows Karsh (Vincent Cassel), a prominent businessman and widower who, inconsolable since the death of his wife (Diane Kruger) invents a revolutionary and controversial technology that enables the living to monitor the decomposition of deceased loved ones in their graves.

Cronenberg spoke at Cannes’ press conference for the film on Tuesday, explaining how he envisioned the story working well as a series. He flew to Los Angeles to speak with two Netflix execs who financed the writing of a first episode – which they loved. But after the second, they did not want to go any further.

“They said – and this is a very Hollywood thing to say – ‘It’s not what we fell in love with in the room,’” Cronenberg said. “Later, I felt that what they fell in love with in the room was me, which was very flattering, but not the script. “I felt I can’t let this die, let’s see if we can turn it into a movie… It could be a series, but it doesn’t have to be.”

Cronenberg touched on how deeply his own life influenced the story after losing his beloved wife, Carolyn, to cancer just as Cassel’s character does. He labeled some tougher critics of his film “ignorant” and “stupid” as they paid little attention to the element conspiracy plays in The Shrouds. “If you’re an atheist like I am and you don’t believe in an afterlife then the death of someone is meaningless… It’s very difficult for people to live with no meaning,” he said.

“One way that you can create meaning when perhaps there isn’t any, is to come up with a theory, a conspiracy, that explains why a person died… Whatever the conspiracy is, it gives you a sense of knowledge and power that you know something that other people don’t know. It empowers you. These very stupid journalists who did not see this, there was a purpose to it. You might think it doesn’t work is one thing, but to not notice it to me is a problem as a filmmaker.”

Cronenberg even talked about how the technology depicted in his film was written to be realistic in today’s world: “The technology exists right now… It could be done, if anybody really wanted to do it.”

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Kruger and Cassel both lauded Cronenberg for his directorial style and spoke about how moved they were by how closely the emotions in The Shrouds mirrored Cronenberg’s grappling with the loss of his wife. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the German actress said the film “made me think about my own mortality.”

Guy Pearce, Sandrine Holt, and Elizabeth Saunders star in supporting roles in the film.

This is Cronenberg’s seventh film in competition in Cannes, and the style of body horror he pioneered casts a long shadow on the Croisette. Julia Ducournau’s 2021 Palme d’Or winner Titane is directly inspired by Cronenberg, as is Coralie Fargeat’s The Substance, one of this year’s hottest competition titles, which stars Demi Moore, Dennis Quaid and Margaret Qualley.

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