Cronenberg, Lantos king of ‘Pain’

Serendipity teams with scribe for offbeat thriller

David Cronenberg and producer Robert Lantos will reteam on the filmmaker’s next project, “Painkillers,” for Serendipity Point Films. Pic aims to begin production early next year.

“Painkillers” is an original script written by Cronenberg, whose most recent pic, “Spider,” premieres today in competition at the Cannes Film Festival.

Set in the world of radical performance artists, “Painkillers” is the story of Saul Tenser, an artist with a high pain threshold who is approached to capture a subversive group. He must decide if what he uncovers should be protected or handed over, where it will certainly be suppressed.

“I’ve been interested in performance artists and the whole subculture since a fellow student of mine (at the U of Toronto) wrote a short story about a man who did surgery as a performance, literally cutting off his own hand,” Cronenberg tells Variety. “I remember reading that story and being incredibly shocked and impressed by it.”

Cronenberg says he began writing the script about four years ago and expects to cast it this summer.

“The film comes from a natural outgrowth of my feeling about the body,” he says. “I’m currently reading (Arthur) Schopenhauer’s ‘The World as Will and Representation’ for the first time. He’s the first legitimate philosopher to say that the body is the first fact of human existence. Before him, philosophers were concerned with the age of reason and rationality. So I’m exploring the idea that if the body is reality, all of our perceptions are through the body and that if you change the body, you change the world.”

Lantos says he plans to finance the pic through presales and Canadian funds. Although he plans to sell some foreign territories himself, worldwide rights are currently available.

Lantos formed Serendipity Point and inked an exclusive five-year deal with Alliance Atlantis after he sold Alliance Communications to Atlantis Communications in 1998. However, it also permits him to develop projects with third parties in the deal’s final year. “Painkillers” will be the first project to take advantage of that clause.

Alliance currently reps Atom Egoyan’s Lantos-produced “Ararat,” an out-of-competition selection of the Cannes Film Festival.

Lantos and Cronenberg previously teamed on the 1999 Dimension Films release “eXistenZ” and Fine Line Features’ 1996 pic “Crash.”