I’ll admit it, I’m a little scared of Darren Aronofsky’s films. They are so intense and unrelenting that they get just a little too much under the skin, at least his first two did. That said, it means he’s done his job, because as a storyteller and a visionary filmmaker he’s kicked my ass two ways to Tuesday and done it HIS WAY. Requiem for a Dream is one of the most harrowing theater experiences I’ve ever had, because I went in pretty much blind. I’d seen the trailer and knew that my cult faves Keith David and Christopher McDonald were in it but I really had no idea what was waiting on the other end of that ticket stub. Holy cow.
I have the DVD and still can’t watch it without having to pause or get a little jittery.
When I first heard about The Fountain when it was a Brad Pitt flick I felt that I was going to see all of the potential and already powerful chops this guy had put into a format I could really get behind: a science fiction flick. As it turns out, it wasn’t meant to be the first time around and the project faltered. Now it’s back with Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz and Aronofsky seems to be in the perfect position to unleash the first really intelligent original science fiction story we’ve seen in some time. He was at the San Diego Comic Con and I was lucky enough to get a few minutes (I stress a few, as it was really a rapid fire affair in the ten minutes we had been given in between his obligations) with the man. I was a little worried, as Devin’s really the guy best suited for a chat with the guy. As it turned out, the man was cool, fun, and nowhere near as intimidating to speak to as I feared. He’s a fan like you or I, except of course he has enough filmmaking chops to power a small city. After a little conversation about CHUD.com (which he knew plenty about, to my surprise) and the footage he brought to the convention, we began to talk about his film about Love, The Tree of Life, and whatever the hell else came up…
Nick Nunziata: This movie is like a big fucking mystery to
everyone and I guess that’s part of the allure. Are you pulling back the
Aronofsky: Definitely, well I showed ten minutes today. It was kind of the
opening of the film, there was a few scenes missing. The very opening scene of
the film wasn’t in it but the second, third, and fourth, and fifth scenes were.
The film starts off as a big war in the sixteenth century so the first ten or
twelve minutes of it is this big Mayan battle. Hugh Jackman is a conquistador
vs these Mayan warriors and then basically Hugh gets hit in the head and it
cuts forward to the twenty-sixth century to Hugh bald floating in zero G in a
space ship. So that’s what you missed. And the trailer. You missed a bunch.
Nick Nunziata: There’s nothing like this.
Aronofsky: It’s a weird film. I don’t even know what it’s like.
Nick Nunziata: Is it more akin to 60’s thinking man’s science
Aronofsky: I don’t know. It’s definitely metaphysical. I’ve been calling it a
metaphysical chick flick. There’s this big love story between Hugh and Rachel
but it’s surrounded by a lot of fun for us fanboys.
Nick Nunziata: In the geek media
you’ve been heralded as the second coming of whatever, almost where Pi and Requiem were like a teaser to them. This one seems like the real
first glimpse into the larger scheme.
Aronofsky: I don’t know, we’ll see. Hopefully it’ll work. We still have a long
way to go. We’re in the home stretch of cutting, well 2/3rd of the
way through the cut and it looks good. My producer was like “no one has ever
seen anything like this”, and I think there are things people have seen but
there’s a lot of cool shit.
Nick Nunziata: How rewarding is it
to finally be getting this thing out?
Aronofsky: It’s cool. I wish it would have come out three years ago when it was
supposed to come out. It was part of the process, though. It was very ambitious
and complicated and it’s taken time to come to life. The ironic thing is that
the film is about rebirth, so it kind of had to die in its own way to be
reborn. The subject matter is about that.
Nick Nunziata: What has this
additional three years afforded you?
Aronofsky: A lot. We were seven weeks out when the film shut down the first
time. Eighteen million dollars spent. We were deep it in. I basically had
storyboarded the entire film. The entire movie had gone through my head
already, so when it shut down I kind of had made it even though I hadn’t really
shot it. I had gone deep into it and I think it’s almost like when you’re
writing something and your computer crashes and you lose it and have to rewrite
it. It’s a fucking pain in the ass but it ends up being better usually. So I
think I improved on that. That’s what happened, so ultimately I think it’s
better for the film.
Nick Nunziata: As for the look,
have you pushed the envelope a little further this time? You kind of raise the
bar in some way as you go.
Aronofsky: It’s a different film grammar, definitely. Requiem and Pi
are similar because they’re both very internal struggles. Max Cohen in Pi
is this kind of obsessive guy and in Requiem there’s a lot of addition,
which is related to obsession for me. This film is much less about that so I
had to change the film grammar. Someone at the Con asked me if we used the
Snorri Cam, the camera we attached to the actors in Pi and Requiem.
That’s gone. My and my D.P. were like “never again”. We won’t touch it. It was
a good trip, a good long trip.
Nick Nunziata: It’s epic in concept, is it going to be an
epic film in execution?
Aronofsky: I don’t know what epic means exactly. A lot of the press are calling
it an epic. At the core of the film is just an honest love story between a man
and a woman. I guess that could be epic, and I guess people are calling it that
because it spans so much time. I don’t like long movies. Pi was under 90 minutes. Requiem
was like 100 or something. This one might be 105. It’s quick so it’s not Lord of the Rings epic.
Nick Nunziata: There is that
mystique to it.
Aronofsky: It’s going to be a quick ride. I like quick rides. For me a really
solid concise roller coaster is exactly what I like in a movie.
Nick Nunziata: How often do we get
that in our film diet though?
Aronofsky: I liked War of the Worlds a lot. I thought it rocked all ass.
Nick Nunziata: Agreed. My knees
got weak during those first attacks.
Aronofsky: I couldn’t believe how angry it was. So intense. There’s been some
good films and I think a lot of the stuff that’s happening outside of America
that we don’t see that get passed on to me because I’m in the business. Most
people don’t get to see some amazing films. You see Head On? Or
Really good. Fucking rocked my world. There are good films happening out there
but here we’re drowning in the same fucking crap though I hear Charlie
and the Chocolate Factory is supposed to be great. You see it?
Nick Nunziata: No, but Devin
reviewed it for us and was blown away by it. Personally I’m a afraid of it.
Aronofsky: I am too because we all love Willy
Wonka, we’re of that generation. It’s Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, and Roald
Dahl, three good things. It’s gonna be fun.
Nick Nunziata: Depp is unstoppable
right now. Now, Jackman is impossible not to love, to want to be like but he
hasn’t had a chance to really tear it up in a while…
Here we go, baby! He tore it up. Every day he ran to set and he delivered. He
delivered hardcore. He was just fantastic.
Nick Nunziata: This is a different
Hugh Jackman, it appears.
Aronofsky: The reality is, when we were casting the film he wasn’t on my radar.
He hadn’t done that much. I respected that pulled off Wolverine and that the
fans liked it and he was really watchable but besides that he hadn’t done much.
It was convincing and he pulled it off. But when I saw him in his Broadway play
that he won the Tony for a role where he was different, it blew me away. His
charisma, his charm, his sexiness, everything about him was remarkable. Beyond
that he’s also an incredibly decent human being. Incredible. It was such a
pleasure to work with him. There was no star bullshit. The film couldn’t have
gotten made with star bullshit. It got made because he was willing to do
everything and he did it. It was great. This is Wolverine we’re talking about.
You know what Full Lotus is? He got into Full Lotus, where you fold up your
legs, like the Yogis? He did 14 months of Yoga every day. He got into Full
Lotus. Then I stuck him in a harness. Underwater. Doing backflips. I swear to
God. We put this rig we called the barbecue rig because it looked like we were
barbecuing him. He was in a harness with a pole, basically he had to sit in
Lotus and spread out and we’d spin him underwater take after take after take.
Holding his breath. They had the oxygen right there but he’d have to hold his
breath for 50 seconds and act. You hold your breath for 50 seconds.
Nick Nunziata: Nope, that’s why I
work on the web.
Aronofsky: Exactly! And Rachel’s really great. The reason I liked Hugh and
Rachel, because here are two great actors that aren’t really defined by one
movie. Everyone respects them and they’ve done really good roles. Rachel’s done
Mummy and About a Boy and Constantine but they’re both very real
Nick Nunziata: The Shape of Things really
changed my perception of her.
Aronofsky: Yeah. What I like about working with her is that she’s very
dangerous. When I call “action” I never know what she’s going to do. She’s just
in the moment and for a director that’s wonderful. Whatever comes out comes out
and it’s not always what you want but it’s always good and real. She just
brings new things and shifts between emotions so beautifully. It’s like Ellen
Burstyn in Requiem. You get to watch really good acting. With both her and
Nick Nunziata: You’ve got to feel
great about how people woke up to her after Requiem. A whole new audience was
brought to her.
Aronofsky: She loves it. People walk up to her and call her “that crazy woman”.
She loves it, because she’s respected by an older generation but now she has
this. And she’s in The Fountain too!