Published Jun 11, 2020Denise Cronenberg — the award-winning costume designer and sister to Canadian film hero David Cronenberg — has died. News of her first passing broke late Wednesday (June 10), though she died on May 22. Denise Cronenberg, who collaborated frequently with her director brother, passed away at Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington, ON, due to complications from old age. She was 81.
Denise Cronenberg launched her film career and her longstanding professional relationship with her brother with 1986's The Fly. From there, she collaborated with David Cronenberg on some of his most beloved works, including Naked Lunch, M. Butterfly, Spider, Crash and Eastern Promises, among many others.
She was also behind perhaps one of the most striking costume designs to ever grace a Cronenberg film — the blood-red doctors robes worn by Jeremy Irons in 1988's Dead Ringers.
Speaking publicly about his sister's passing, David Cronenberg told the Globe and Mail, "We tried out the 100-percent accurate version of what doctors would wear, but that was boring. It was one thing if you were doing a TV show, but this was different. The twins viewed their roles as doctors as almost a religious thing, with an element of spirituality and philosophy. As soon as I said that to Denise, she immediately understood what I was talking about and what we needed."
Denise Cronenberg — who was self-taught — also worked on other productions outside her creative partnership with her brother, such as on 2008's The Incredible Hulk, the 2004 version of Dawn of the Dead and 2010's Resident Evil: Afterlife.
"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," David said. "But if it's a family member, it's even deeper. And I actually like nepotism myself, because the more allies you have the better off you are."
Denise Cronenberg was nominated for multiple Genie Awards during her career, though as her brother explained, being from Canada in a Hollywood-dominated industry put her at a disadvantage.
"I don't think that she got the recognition she deserved, and I'm quite sure that she felt the same way," David said. "We're Canadian, so we tend not to be self-promoters, and she certainly wasn't. But at the same time, you take a lot of pride in your work, so you would like to be recognized, but don't want to beg for it. I think she was disappointed on that level."
Denise Cronenberg leaves five grandchildren, as well as her three children.