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Plot, Details & Awards

Naked Lunch

Rated R for heavy drug content, bizarre eroticism, and language.

R In Theaters 12/26/1991 , 117min.
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Plot & 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.

Berlin International Film Festival

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1992 Berlin International Film Festival In Competition David Cronenberg Nominated

Genie Awards

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1992 Genie Awards Best Sound Editing Jane Tattersall Won
1992 Genie Awards Best Sound Peter Maxwell Won
1992 Genie Awards Best Sound Don White Won
1992 Genie Awards Best Sound Dave Appleby Won
1992 Genie Awards Best Director David Cronenberg Won
1992 Genie Awards Best Art Direction/Production Design Carol Spier Won
1992 Genie Awards Best Sound Editing Tony Currie Won
1992 Genie Awards Best Sound Bryan Day Won
1992 Genie Awards Best Picture Won
1992 Genie Awards Best Sound Editing Andy Malcolm Won
1992 Genie Awards Best Score Howard Shore Nominated
1992 Genie Awards Best Actor Peter Weller Nominated
1992 Genie Awards Best Sound Editing Wayne Griffin Won
1992 Genie Awards Best Sound Editing David Evans Won
1992 Genie Awards Best Cinematography Peter Suschitzky Won
1992 Genie Awards Best Costume Design Denise Cronenberg Nominated
1992 Genie Awards Best Adapted Screenplay David Cronenberg Won
1992 Genie Awards Best Sound Editing Richard Cadger Won
1992 Genie Awards Best Supporting Actress Monique Mercure Won

National Society of Film Critics

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1990 National Society of Film Critics Best Director David Cronenberg Won

New York Film Critics Circle

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1991 New York Film Critics Circle Best Screenplay David Cronenberg Won
1991 New York Film Critics Circle Best Supporting Actress Judy Davis Won

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