Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

October 30, 2007

Hollywood Hypocrisy: The Case of David Cronenberg

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 9:36 am

So I’m reading The New York Post‘s “Page Six” gossip column this morning and I almost knocked over my coffee. Here’s the item that did it:

“David Cronenberg, director of the smash Eastern Promises is still mad at writer-director Paul Haggis for naming his 2005 Oscar-winning racial drama “Crash” just nine years after Cronenberg had his own movie called “Crash” about wackos who get sexually excited by car crashes. ‘I’ve told [him] that he was a [bleep]hole basically for doing that. And so have many other people,’ Cronenberg tells Complex magazine. It’s very disrespectful not only to me, but to J.G. ballard who wrote the book…Haggis just co-opted the title…” Haggis had no comment.”

Shame on you for your sanctimonious tone, Cronenberg, you shameless hypocrite. Remember the film you made Dead Ringers, about the strange death of identical twin gynecologists? Your film was ostensibly based on a novelization of the real life case of the Marcus twins in New York City. A novel called Twins. But before the novel came I co-wrote (with Susan Edmiston) an extensively researched non-fiction account of the case called “Dead Ringers” that appeared in Esquire. (and is reprinted in %%AMAZON=0060934468 The Secret Parts of Fortune%%)

Well as it turned out Universal Pictures approached Cronenberg’s production company and told them they had a Danny DeVito comedy called Twins coming out and asked Cronenberg to change his title, and reportedly gave him an expensive sportscar in return for changing it.

And what did he change it to? Our title, Dead Ringers! Without the courtesy of asking.

We spent nearly a year researching the facts of the case that he profited from. So who’s the “[bleep]hole”, “disrespectful” phony who “just co-opted the title” in that case?

You owe me a sports car, Cronenberg.

But it’s not just me. Seriously, this is why nobody respects Hollywood types. They rip off writers who do the creative work and then get into a hissy fit if they feel it happens to them.

As a member of the Writer’s Guild I hope that a strike brings these hypocrites to their knees. I don’t think it’ll happen, but they deserve it.



  1. Ron,
    This reminds me of my recent complaint about Don DeLillo’s novel Falling Man. Of course the near-award-winning Esquire article called The Falling Man (and now the National Geographic special of the same name), have nothing to do with DeLillo’s book, not counting a 9/11 connection. But DeLillo stole the title. And his book is not about a literal fall as the article and doc are. If I were the book publisher, I would want clarity and distinction with my title. Not borderline confusion. Anyhow, keep up the good work online & at Slate. However, as a card carrying Edgy Enthusiast, I must say I miss the NYO column…Sincerely, Jude

    Comment by Jude — October 31, 2007 @ 7:16 pm | Reply

  2. It probably makes no difference to you, but the story I heard was that Cronenberg changed the title as a personal favor to his old friend Ivan Reitman, an early colleague from Canada, who was producing the DeVito/Schwarzenegger film. THe sports car would have been more a “thank you” gift than a form of compensation. Cronenberg cites your article on the case in an interview: “Very good article,” says he. Before citing a few more.

    Thanks for the info. What I can’t fathom tho is how he can get so self-righteous about having his title taken–how is it different from what he did to us? Seems like he felt doing a favor for a friend (with possible later profit for him) meant more than doing the right thing for journalists (like even asking us as a favor) who spent a year doing a story, had the most detailed account of any, but aren’t Hollywood cronies. All the more reprehensible.

    Comment by Glenn Kenny — November 1, 2007 @ 9:24 am | Reply

  3. Well, I can’t speak for Cronenberg, and I understand why you would be ticked off. But the title (or its singular variant) had been common currency in Hollywood for a while (e.g. the Paul-Heinreid-directed Bette Davis thriller), so maybe he, or the legal department of the production company, didn’t see it as a big deal. I’m actually a little surprised that he’s so indignant about the “Crash” business (I object too, but this sort of thing happens, as he well knows), but my larger point is that he’s one of the more honest brokers in the field so I’m betting the slight to you , while thoughtless, was unintentional.

    Well, I’d like to believe it was unintentional and I know, legally titles can’t be copyright, but the Bette Davis movie wasn’t about identical twin gynecologists, was it?

    Comment by Glenn Kenny — November 1, 2007 @ 10:00 am | Reply

  4. The Bette Davis title was Dead Ringer, not Dead Ringers.


    Comment by Jude — November 1, 2007 @ 5:57 pm | Reply

  5. Yes. That’s why I added “or its singular variant.”

    Comment by GLenn Kenny — November 3, 2007 @ 6:18 pm | Reply

  6. One of the last pieces I am reading in “The Secret Parts of Fortune” is “Dead Ringers” and I was wondering if this was the first article on the twins. The Wikipedia piece on “Dead Ringers” mentioned no connection until I searched for “Ron Rosenbaum”+”Dead Ringers” (writers for the screenplay and the book “Twins” are credited). Thought if the article was the originating piece, Ron must have made a nice chunk off the movie; but to see this article, it characterizes the insect hive flow of Los Angeles. Imagine how many unpublished ideas are stolen (worked for Cervantes and Boccacio). Never have seen the “Dead Ringers” film, and the only Cronenberg movie I can rewatch is Videodrome (James Woods French Canadian Post Modernism). From what I hear, a screenwriter has to now be incorporated and larger companies read material or listen to pitches with witnesses. Cronenberg owes Ron the sportscar, even if it only exists in the Videodrome.

    Comment by Robert Sykes — May 19, 2008 @ 9:00 pm | Reply

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