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Director David Cronenberg speaks during a news conference for The Cronenberg Project at the 38th Toronto International Film Festival.

MARK BLINCH/REUTERS

Toronto born and bred, David Cronenberg, at 70, has had a long relationship with TIFF, and vice-versa – "growing together almost symbiotically," as he likes to put it.

The festival hosted its first Cronenberg retrospective in 1983 and has, in its 38-year history, used at least two of his movies (Dead Ringers, M. Butterfly) to open its proceedings and, in the early 1990s, began to accession into its archives a mess of his things: props, costumes, unrealized screenplays, 20 pages of an abandoned novel, "scribbles."

"David, let us be your garbage can," is how Cronenberg, speaking at a media conference Thursday, recalled TIFF longtime CEO (and Cronenberg scholar) Piers Handling's pitch on the archive effort. We'll be able to see just how much garbage has been accumulated later this fall when TIFF unspools its huge, multiplatform celebration of things David, titled The Cronenberg Project, details of which were announced at the conference.

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"I don't think I've quite grasped the enormity of what these maniacs have done," a smiling Cronenberg said of the rather bewildering project which seems to be part exhibition/retrospective/symposia/futuristic romp/art show/online experience/book launch, and for which he's making a short film.

Fielding questions from the audience, Cronenberg said he was – quelle surprise ! – an atheist ("to me, we are a physical thing, an extraordinary physical thing, but a thing nonetheless"); intimated he could have been a cell biologist if he hadn't become a filmmaker ("in [1977's] Rabid, I invented the use of stem cells"); doesn't like to revisit his old films ("it's the past, they exist and that's that"); and will soon start postproduction on his latest movie, Maps to the Stars (the first feature for which he's "ever shot a foot of film in the U.S.").

Also putting in an appearance at the conference: the giant beetle/Clark Nova typewriter Cronenberg used to such creepy effect in his 1991 adaptation of William Burroughs's Naked Lunch. It'll be included in Evolution, the exhibition part of the project, opening Nov. 1 at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto.

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