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Naked Lunch Details


This cinematic/literary hybrid fuses motifs from Beat writer William S. Burroughs's novel of the same name with elements of the author's biography and plenty of the cerebral alienation and biomorphic special effects fans of creepy cult director David Cronenberg have come to expect. Bill Lee (Peter Weller) wants to write, but he exterminates bugs to pay the bills. His wife, Joan (Judy Davis), becomes addicted to Bill's bug powder dust, and soon he joins her in a world of unorthodox hallucinogens; he visits the kindly yet sinister Dr. Benway (Roy Scheider) and walks away with his first dose of the black meat -- a narcotic made from the flesh of the giant aquatic Brazilian centipede. Soon, monstrous beetles are whispering conspiracy theories in Bill's ears and his nebbish writer friends Hank (Nicholas Campbell) and Martin (Michael Zelniker) are sleeping with Joan under his nose. When a party trick involving a liquor glass and a gun goes awry, killing Joan, Bill flees to Interzone, a Mediterranean city full of talking insectoid typewriters, double agents, offbeat aesthetes, and plots within plots. As he navigates this paranoid landscape, Bill begins ingesting another drug called mugwump jism and writes fragments that Hank and Martin soon assemble into a novel under the title Naked Lunch. As beat literature aficionados know, Interzone is based on Tangiers -- the city where Burroughs wrote Naked Lunch. The incident in the film in which Hank and Martin appropriate Bill's writing and have it published closely approximates the real-life circumstances of the novel's publication, although it was Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac who helped out the real-life Burroughs. The William Tell incident that kills Bill's wife is also drawn from the author's real life. "William Lee" is both Burroughs' literary stand-in and the name under which he published his first autobiographical novel Junky. Ian Holm, who plays Joan Frost's husband, Tom, would appear in Cronenberg's similarly experimental eXistenZ several years later. ~ Brian J. Dillard, Rovi

  • Release date:December 27, 1991


Awarded by
Genie Awards Howard Shore Best Score 1992 Nominee
Genie Awards Jane Tattersall Best Sound Editing 1992 Winner
Genie Awards Andy Malcolm Best Sound Editing 1992 Winner
Genie Awards Monique Mercure Best Supporting Actress 1992 Winner
Genie Awards Peter Suschitzky Best Cinematography 1992 Winner
Genie Awards Tony Currie Best Sound Editing 1992 Winner
National Society of Film Critics David Cronenberg Best Director 1990 Winner
New York Film Critics Circle David Cronenberg Best Screenplay 1991 Winner
Genie Awards David Cronenberg Best Director 1992 Winner
Genie Awards David Cronenberg Best Adapted Screenplay 1992 Winner
Berlin International Film Festival David Cronenberg In Competition 1992 Nominee
New York Film Critics Circle Judy Davis Best Supporting Actress 1991 Winner
Genie Awards Peter Weller Best Actor 1992 Nominee
Genie Awards Wayne Griffin Best Sound Editing 1992 Winner
Genie Awards Bryan Day Best Sound 1992 Winner
Genie Awards Carol Spier Best Art Direction/Production Design 1992 Winner
Genie Awards Denise Cronenberg Best Costume Design 1992 Nominee


Peter Weller
as William Lee
Judy Davis
as Joan Frost/Joan Lee
Ian Holm
as Tom Frost
Julian Sands
as Yves Cloquet
Roy Scheider
as Dr. Benway
Monique Mercure
as Fadela
Nicholas Campbell
as Hank
Michael Zelniker
as Martin
Joseph Scorsiani
as Kiki
Justin Louis
as 3rd Exterminator
Barre Phillips
as The Ornette Coleman Trio
Kurt Reis
as 1st Exterminator
Claude Aflalo
as Forgeman
Deirdre Bowen
John Friesen
as Hauser
Peter Boretski
as 2nd Exterminator/Creature Voices
Jim Yip
as The Chink
Joseph di Mambro
as Interzone Boy
Howard Jerome
as A.J. Cohen
Laurent Hazout
as Interzone Boy
Julian Richings
as 4th Exterminator
Sean McCann
as O'Brien
Yuval Daniel
as Hafid
Michael Caruana
as Pawnbroker
Ornette Coleman
as The Ornette Coleman Trio


David Cronenberg
Jeremy Thomas
David Cronenberg
William S. Burroughs
Book Author
Peter Suschitzky
Ornette Coleman
Howard Shore
Composer (Music Score)
Ronald Sanders
Carol Spier
Production Designer
James McAteer
Art Director
Gabriella Martinelli
Elinor Rose Galbraith
Set Designer
Denise Cronenberg
Costume Designer
Bryan Day
Sound/Sound Designer
Chris Walas
Special Effects
Deirdre Bowen
Marilyn Stonehouse
Production Manager
Andy Malcolm
Sound Editor
Tony Currie
Sound Editor
Jane Tattersall
Sound Editor
Wayne Griffin
Sound Editor