Denise Cronenberg, the sister of film director David Cronenberg and a prominent costume designer who dressed such stars as Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen, Julianne Moore, Robert Pattinson, and Jeremy Irons, has died. She passed May 22 at Brant Hospital in Burlington, Ontario, Canada at age 81 from complications of old age.
“We would put on plays in our house for the neighborhood and they were always instigated by Denise,” said David Cronenberg, age 77. “She was always a performer, which certainly later helped her with her work in terms of understanding actors and performances.”
Denise’s first first film as David’s costume designer was the 1986 remake of The Fly, starring Jeff Goldblum.
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“She would conspire with the actors and it was very delicious for them, because they would feel very special because she was paying attention to them,” said David. “All good costume designers have to do this, but it’s a question of how sensitive you are as a person and, as a performer, Denise really understood what it is to be there in the spotlight. And really, it’s your body and your costume — that’s what you’ve got to work with.”
Denise Cronenberg began her career as a ballet dancer, performing with Toronto ballet companies an briefly with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet during a summer residency. In the early 1960s, she transitioned to television variety shows, appearing on Cross-Country Hit Parade, The Tommy Ambrose Show, The Juliette Show and on the CBC’s Nat King Cole special. She also toured with Marlene Dietrich for stage shows.
She worked with her brother on a dozen films, including Naked Lunch, eXistenZ, A Dangerous Method, and the 2014 Hollywood satire Maps to the Stars. She worked a total of 37 films in all, including 2004′s Dawn of the Dead and 2008′s The Incredible Hulk.
“Any time you work with the same people – like cinematographer Peter Suschitzky or production designer Carol Spier – the shorthand is great, because you already understand each other’s temperaments and rhythms, and don’t have to learn it all while making the movie. But if it’s a family member, it’s even deeper,” David said. “And I actually like nepotism myself, because the more allies you have the better off you are.”
In addition to her brother, she is survived by children Eric, Aaron and Meredith. Her second husband, Ray Woodley, died in 2002.
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