From his interview with the Los Angeles Review of Books.
The difference between approaching themes in art and in genre is a matter of comfort. And I think that it’s a matter of intellect. For example, what happens in The Fly would be very hard to take in a normal drama. Basically an attractive guy meets an attractive girl and then contracts a terrible wasting disease and the girl watches as he deteriorates and ultimately she helps to kill him. That’s really the plot of The Fly on an emotional level and that would be very hard to take if it were just a realistic drama. But when it’s a sci-fi horror mix, it sort of allows the audience to have some distance and they still feel the emotional impact of those things, but it gives them a little bit of safety, you know? But in terms of a movie like Naked Lunch or Crash, it’s just a question of what people are used to and what they expect from a movie. And when they’re not getting the structure that they’re familiar with, or an aesthetic approach that they understand, then there is a distance there but it’s not a good distance. It’s off-putting to them. So at that point the appeal is to a much narrower audience that can understand you and engage with the movie that you’ve made.
And just for fun, on making art and getting paid:
But movies like Crash or Naked Lunch — they can’t cost a hundred million dollars and you must make sure they don’t. You accept the limitations of the budget when you make an extreme or difficult movie – it’s whatever it is you can raise. And then of course, there’s a certain point where you say: can I actually make it well, for that money? Do I have to sacrifice any quality? And there are moments where I’ve said, about projects: I can’t raise enough money to actually make the movie well, so therefore I’m not going to make it. I have to consider the outcome. Or for instance Spider. I really wanted ten million dollars to make Spider and we could only raise eight. And at that point it was, okay, do we make this movie or not? You know, if we make it for eight then it means we all literally have to not get paid. And I include there, Ralph Fiennes, Miranda Richardson, and the Producer and the Writer and the Director — me, but we all loved the project so much and we were already so far engaged in it, that we all agreed to do that. So we literally all of us, and Patrick McGrath the writer of the novel, we all literally didn’t get paid and we made the movie for eight million, but we really needed ten. So that’s an unusual moment, and just in terms of financial survival you can’t do that very often, because you’re spending two years of your life making a movie and you’re making zero money during those two years. But that was sort of a happy case because we managed to survive it. Ralph went off and did Red Dragon and got a big payday. I didn’t! But one thing that’s interesting is, since we’re showing A Dangerous Method to Jungians and Freudians, I’ve discovered that they and psychiatrists often show Spider to students and other doctors as an illustration of what schizophrenia might feel like from the inside. From the point of view of a schizophrenic. They feel that it’s an incredibly accurate depiction of the experience of schizophrenia and that it’s very useful for doctors and psychiatrists so I kinda like that.