An Ode To The Fascinating Acting Career Of David Cronenberg

Ah, David Cronenberg. When you think of gross body horror or bleak ultraviolence, his name probably comes to mind. The Canadian director has an extensive history of making audiences uncomfortable, grossed out, or even aroused with his movies. "Crimes of the Future," his first movie in eight years, is no exception to this reputation, and what a reputation he carries!

However, Cronenberg is not as one-note as his reputation or the overused Twitter memes about how horny his movies make him out to be. He's delved into other mediums, such as novels and comic books, but perhaps his most intriguing side career has been his acting. Cronenberg has appeared in several movies and television programs, usually in cameos but sometimes in fully-fledged roles, and his choices are just as interesting as his movies. To honor the release of "Crimes of the Future" and all things Cronenberg, let's toast to the strange but wonderful acting resume of the man The Independent crowned "The Baron of Blood."

Director cameos and other notable cameo appearances

This thought might be hard to describe, but directors making cameos in their own movies just hit differently. Cronenberg's cameos are no exception; although he usually kept his appearances in the earlier years of his career, they are still highly memorable to anyone who spots them. He cameoed as one of the infected in 1975's "Shivers," eventually doubling for James Woods in helmet scenes during "Videodrome." He also played doctors in two other movies: an imaginary gynecologist in "The Fly" and an obstetrician in "Dead Ringers."

He doesn't only cameo in his movies, however. He has made cameos in two John Landis movies, which is arguably two movies too many, but we digress. He portrayed a supervisor in 1985's "Into The Night" and appeared as a postman in 1996's "The Stupids." Other non-Landis movies he had cameo roles in include 1994's "Trial by Jury," 1995's "To Die For," 2010's "Barney's Version," and 2019's "Disappearance at Clifton Hill."


Cameos are one thing, but a fully-fledged acting role is something else entirely. The first main role that Cronenberg ever had was the 1990 film "Nightbreed," the second feature film directed by author Clive Barker. Like his directorial debut "Hellraiser," this movie was an adaptation of a Barker novella, 1988's "Cabal." Although this movie was a box office flop, it has built up a passionate and deserved cult following due to its overt LGBTQ+ themes.

Cronenberg plays Dr. Decker, a psychotherapist by day and a serial killer by night. He discovers the existence of the Nightbreed, the titular group of monsters that band together in a rejection of societal norms, after he finds that he cannot kill his newly-transformed patient Aaron Boone (Craig Sheffer). That doesn't stop him from trying, though, as he is able to convince the local police to take up a hysteric witch hunt against Boone, claiming that he has been behind the killings Decker caused.

Jason X

Cronenberg's involvement in "Jason X" is legendary, and it is likely that you clicked on this article so you see it get mentioned. Well, good news! It's mentioned. Given how iconic his appearance is for genre movie buffs, there is not much to really discuss other than how sick his brief appearance as the generically evil scientist Dr. Wimmer was.

What is worth discussing, however, is the bizarre way that his appearance even came about. In an interview with The AV Club, "Jason X" screenwriter Todd Farmer revealed that it was because the team had brought on Cronenberg mainstay Jim Issac for their special effects. Issac was able to bring on the rest of his and Cronenberg's effects team for the movie only because the director wanted a cameo role in it. He apparently also wanted to rewrite all of his lines before filming. Farmer elaborated on this in the interview:

"Jimmy wanted us to use Cronenberg's effects team, which was Jimmy's effects team. And so he'd gone to David out of respect and said, 'Do you mind if I use the guys on this?' And Cronenberg said, 'I don't mind at all, but you have to cast me.' What kind of confidence does it take for Cronenberg to say, 'Yeah, I want to be in the tenth installment of the Friday the 13th franchise.'"

Alias Grace

This Margaret Atwood adaptation mixes the real-life case of Grace Marks with historical fiction. Given how not much information about the 1843 murders of Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery was preserved, Atwood and the adaptation written by Sarah Polley had to draw a few conclusions based on what was already known. Despite this hiccup, "Alias Grace" drew high praise from viewers and critics, particularly due to how its strong cast portrayed the subject material.

Among those in the cast was, you guessed it, Cronenberg. He appeared in four episodes of the six-part miniseries, wearing an incredible facial hair piece and playing a Reverend. He is among the many who want to see Marks acquitted for the murders she was originally accused of assisting in. Marks had a very passionate group of believers who rallied for her acquittal for over a decade after she was convicted, claiming that there was not enough evidence to support that she intended to kill Kinnear and Montgomery along with stableman James McDermott.


If there is any Cronenberg mainstay who can be considered one of his best friends in real life, it has to be Viggo Mortensen. Their frequent collaborations have resulted in great movies and more than one instance of red carpet kissing, so it makes sense that the director would accept a role in Mortensen's directorial debut. I mean, seriously. There are so many photos of them either leaning in for a kiss or just straight up smooching. Google it if you don't believe me.

Anyways, where we were? "Falling," which premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, centers around a gay man (Mortensen) who takes in his bigoted but ailing father when he begins showing signs of dementia. Cronenberg might not play the father, but that character is played by Lance Henriksen, which is arguably just as cool. Instead, Cronenberg has a more lowkey role that doesn't involve bickering over homophobia — he has a cameo as a proctologist.

Slasher: Flesh & Blood

It is a known fact that one of the best types of mysteries is the whodunit. Think "Murder on the Orient Express" or "Clue" — a group of people being hunted one by one by an unknown assailant, with no one trusting the other over fears that they are orchestrating the entire thing. "Slasher: Flesh & Blood," the fourth season of the Canadian horror show "Slasher," takes this to an especially bloody level. Think of a cross between "Succession," "Knives Out," and "You're Next," and you've got a decent idea of what we're dealing with.

The season centers around the wealthy Galloway family, who have all gathered together to compete for the patriarch's inheritance. The only problem lies in a vicious masked killer stalking the originally secluded island, stoking paranoia among the family. With a plot like that, it shouldn't be surprising that Cronenberg appears as Spencer, the ailing but ruthless Galloway patriarch who wants to suss out the appropriate heir to the family's name and fortune.

Star Trek: Discovery

Finally, we have what is arguably the most mainstream piece of media that Cronenberg has ever had a role in, which also makes it that much stranger. The third and fourth seasons of "Star Trek: Discovery" featured Cronenberg in a mysterious recurring role. That is, unless they move production out of Toronto – Cronenberg told Star Trek Explorer that executive producer Alex Kurtzman discovered that some of the show's casting agents also knew the director, prompting him to send out an offer.

Cronenberg plays Kovich, an official of the Human Federation that serves a significant role in elaborating on the show's version of the Mirror Universe. He is the official that first attempts to interrogate a Mirror version of Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh), who is not deceased but rather the 23rd century's powerful Terran Emperor. Shortly after Mirror Georgiou returned to the 23rd century, Kovich helped in the reopening of the long-closed Starfleet Academy.

No, you're not imagining things; Cronenberg and Yeoh have shared multiple scenes together. Now he needs to cast her in a movie, please!