The Rothko Chapel is getting a sizeable cinematic namecheck this weekend thanks to David Cronenberg's new Cosmopolis, an adaptation of Don DeLillo's 2003 novel about a billionaire business mogul making a tragically slow journey across Midtown Manhattan in his bulletproof limousine.
The movie is in its initial limited-release rounds at theaters in Los Angeles and New York for the next few weeks and will hopefully land in Houston closer to the fall.
Playing the twentysomething financial guru Eric Parker is Robert Pattinson, casting aside his vampiric ways for those of a hopelessly disconnected one-percenter. As his car struggles in crosstown traffic due to everything from a presidential motorcade to an Occupy-style protest, Parker emerges as a cold and passionless man whose primary concern is getting a haircut.
We've had plenty of groups filming here in the past, but we've never seen anything like this," Stephens said. "This certainly wasn't a BBC production."
In the midst of some limo-lovemaking with his art dealer (played by Juliette Binoche), the two discuss the possibility of obtaining a Rothko. Blinded by his money and status, Parker insists on buying the entire Rothko Chapel to install in his apartment.
"His dealer, of course, says it's not for sale and that it can't be purchased," laughed Rothko communication director Frances Carter Stephens during an interview with CultureMap. "It's absurd — this is a public building that's open to everyone."
Stephens has worked with the film's producers since 2011, helping to secure the rights to use the building and its paintings in the movie. "The production company got in touch with us. We looked over the script and spoke with Christopher Rothko, the artist's son and one of our board members."
Once the Rothko Chapel board gave producers the green light, a Houston-based cameraman began filming interior shots . . . fast, choppy interior shots.
"We've had plenty of groups filming here in the past, but we've never seen anything like this," Stephens said. "This certainly wasn't a BBC production. The cameraman made these rapid motions without even using a tripod."
Stephens noted that, according to the original script, the shots were meant to be displayed on some sort of handheld device.
"The scene only took up a page of the script, so I'm fairly sure the Rothko bit is just a fleeting moment," she said. "Still, we're incredibly eager to see how the chapel makes it into the movie when it comes to Houston."