Interview With Director Darren Aronofsky For His New Film Black Swan – Starring Natalie Portman & Vincent Cassel
I recently had the opportunity to talk to one of my favourite working directors in Darren Aronofsky for his new film Black Swan – starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis and Vincent Cassel. Aronofsky has directed some of my best loved films of the last twelve years in The Wrestler, The Fountain, Requiem for a Dream and Pi. His latest film Black Swan is a complete triumph, it’s the most hauntingly beautiful film I’ve seen this year. Check out what she had to say about the film below.
You’ve stated a couple times how Black Swan and your last film The Wrestler are connected.
Darren Aronofsky: The connections between the two films didn’t escape us when we started to work on Black Swan. Ballet being the highest art, and wrestling being the lowest art – if you consider wrestling art, which most people don’t, but I do (laughs). Either way, they’re high and low entertainment but they both have performers that use their bodies in extreme ways to entertain. And then there were just definitely thematic connections between the two. Mark Heyman the writer was like ‘do you realize our films are really lining up a lot’ and I was never afraid of it because I always thought that they’re very different genres and different movies but they have some type of similar message about performance. I thought that would be interesting, my dream is that one day it would play in an art theatre as a double feature.
When I spoke to Natalie she said how hard she trained.
Darren Aronofsky: There were advantages and disadvantages to making this film independently. And one of the advantages was that because the money really came through for a really long time, we kept having to push. And one thing I didn’t realize until recently was that every time we pushed, Natalie was like ‘another three weeks of carrot sticks and almonds! I’m gonna kill you!’ So she really was tortured pretty badly because we had such a hard time getting the money for the film (laughs).
With the financing issues, how did you pull the cast together?
Darren Aronofsky: I mean after The Wrestler we thought that because we’d done a film about wrestling with Mickey Rourke and everyone was like‘what the hell are you guys doing’ and then it came okay, I thought it would be much easier with this cast and with something that was closer to a genre film. But it was just as hard, we were trying to raise the money during the serious black hole of film financing, which may or may not be still going on, I’m not raising money right now but it doesn’t seem like things are much better. So it was really, really very difficult, it was kind of a bluff. We were assembling the cast, saying we had the money, and we sort of did in a few places. But the money fell apart many, many times. You can’t get money unless you have incredible talent with you, having such a great cast definitely gave people security, I think that was why Fox Searchlight eventually came in and saved us because they looked at this incredible cast and were like oh maybe a ballet, psychological, horror, thriller might work because there’s all this wonderful talent to show off. It worked out ok in the end, but it was a hard trip.
Why do you think it’s been so hard for you to get your films off the ground financially even though you’re such a highly regarded and critically acclaimed director?
Darren Aronofsky: I think when you try to do something outside of the box it’s hard to explain your vision from a screenplay, partly because I really don’t know what it’s going to be. I think there are some filmmakers like Kubrick who pre conceive the film and have an exact thing in their head. I’m very much about collaborating. I have no idea what Vincent Cassel is going to deliver in a day, I don’t want to stick him in a box because the most amazing thing is to watch him flow between words and find spaces I could never ever imagine in my head. To shut that down would be criminal, could you picture me telling Mickey Rourke how to enter a room (Laughs). It just doesn’t work that way for me, you just have to relax, see what they’re doing and figure out how that works with the narrative. I love that process though, it’s the closest I get to being an actor, improvising with them to create, to me that’s the magic when you allow the mistakes in.
I’ve got a small story about letting the mistakes in which I learned from Bruce Springsteen. When we worked on The Wrestler I got to hang out a little bit with him. There’s a line on the song The Wrestler that goes ‘like a one longed dog walking down the street’. When we were mixing the film, Bruce wasn’t around and we were like what’s a one legged dog walking down the street, I can picture a three legged dog walking down the street, I can even picture a two legged dog walking down the street, but I can’t picture a one legged dog walking down the street (Laughs). So the night he won the Golden Globe for the song I had a couple in me and I was sitting next to him and I asked him ‘with all humility and honour to who you are, what the hell is a one legged dog walking down the street’? And he said ‘art often comes out of the mistakes and you have to welcome it in, often that’s when the poetry comes in’, that really stayed with me, that’s kind of what I learned on The Wrestler.
In a perfect world, what would you like people to know about this film without giving anything away?
Darren Aronofsky: That it’s fucking great (Laughs). I think what me and my guys do is try to make films that are going to be very, very different experiences and hopefully blow people away. That is what we’ve tried to do every time. We’re just trying to offer entertainment that people haven’t seen before. There’s so much distractions out there between your iPad, your internet surfing, your TV watching, 3D movies…how do you make an independent film that makes people curios and makes them want to come and see it.
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