Until last fall, Cassandra Cronenberg hadn’t stepped on a film set in more than a decade. Focused mostly on painting and raising her children, she’d given up her career as an assistant director. The 18-hour days were incompatible with family life, and the pressure of her famous name (she’s the daughter of filmmaker David Cronenberg) was weighing on her.
“I wanted to work somewhere I could be anonymous,” she says. “I was wondering whether I really had anything to offer without this name. I had to leave the business in order to come back. But I realized film is where my experience lies, and it’s honestly the most feasible path to take.”
When it came time to return to the craft, she looked to singer Lou Reed’s seminal song “Take a Walk on the Wild Side” for inspiration. His tale of the various journeys made by Warhol’s superstars to reach New York City had been a favourite since childhood and became the template for her current project, Candy.
The film follows the title character (pornstar and trans activist Drew Deveaux) over one evening as she gives blowjobs to a series of nameless men (including well-known locals Lucas Silveira and Istvan Kantor). Though gender is an obvious focus of the film, Cronenberg says she’s less interested in making statements than posing questions. “I’ve rebelled against labels my entire life,” she says, “whether it’s around sexuality, gender or mental illness. There are references to surrealism in the film, which connects to Freud, which connects to the turn-of-the-century condition. Humanity is going through some serious transitions right now, just like we were at the turn of the last century. But it’s hard to have perspective when we’re living inside it.”
Candy isn’t the first time Cronenberg’s looked to Reed for inspiration. When creating an eighth-grade art project detailing her family history, she had next to no information about her father’s lineage, since the Holocaust had wiped out all traces. Coming to understand her Jewish roots, while jetting to premieres and partying with celebrities, lent her youth a certain edge she finds difficult to describe.
“I had to make my own version of history, so I filled in the blanks with Lou Reed and other pop-culture references,” she says. “There’s a certain dark art to life in the way I grew up. I chose ‘Take a Walk on the Wild Side’ as our family motto in the art project because it felt like a perfect description of all the craziness.”