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IN PERSON: Darren Aronofsky


Interview conducted Yuji Ueda from Tokyoclassified.com concerning Darren Aronofsky's "Pi."


How has the success of Pi changed your life?

Well, I still haven't got any money. I still live in an apartment in an area called Hell's Kitchen in New York because I gave away most of the profit from Pi to the investors. All of the funding for the movie came from $100 investors. We went to our friends, family - anyone we knew - and asked them for $100, with the promise that if the film made money, they would get $150 back.

When you started making Pi three years ago, what was your life like?

It was a very hard struggle. I was trying to make a movie for a very long time, but no one had enough faith in me to give me any money, so it just wasn't happening. I was depressed actually, living on credit cards and just trying to survive month by month.

How did you manage to get started?

I just tried, in all the struggling, to keep my eyes on the dream as much as possible. Then I started to think about making just a small movie, to show people that I know how to make films. And I figured out how we could make a movie for $60,000, because we thought we could raise that amount of money.

Pi is certainly not a typical, happy-ending Hollywood movie. Does this come from your anti-mainstream attitude?

Well, I don't say I'm an anti-mainstream type of filmmaker. The goal when we started making Pi was very simple - to make a roller coaster ride, a thrilling film that would be exciting for audiences to get on. But once we made a really thrilling roller coaster ride, we thought perhaps we could do a little more with other elements in the film.

Is the movie against materialism?

I think materialism is a dangerous thing. It brings out the uglier traits in human beings. People are fighting all over the world, and I think it really is coming down to ownership or property. I've chosen to pursue my art, trying to find spirituality. Pi has a young math genius named Max Cohen for the main character. He lives in a gloomy apartment in Chinatown, totally isolated from other humans and is obsessed with an idea that everything in the world, ultimately, can be represented and understood through numbers.

The leading actor, Sean Gullette, is an emerging talent on the film scene. Could you tell us a little bit about how you met him?

We went to Harvard together. It's a school a lot of rich kids go to, but I grew up with hip hop culture and public schools in Brooklyn. It was hard fitting in [at Harvard] at first. I became good friends with Sean because he went to public school in Boston and was into William Burroughs and Sam Shepard and he turned me on to those writers.

Were you interested in some kind of drug culture?

Everyone in college for most Americans - well, that's not true, but let's just say we had fun, anyway. I think that a filmmaker should try everything once. There is really nothing wrong with marijuana. In fact, I would say sake is probably a more dangerous drug than marijuana is. There are drugs out there that are very dangerous, but we're adults. We should be able to put anything into our bodies. That's my attitude.

What do you think of the repercussions from the deadly attack at the Colorado high school in June?

I think that artistic censorship would be a great danger. There might have been some influence from entertainment, but I think that what's wrong is that children aren't being taught that it's okay to be different, it's okay to be unique. What's great about different artists like Marilyn Manson and Oliver Stone is that they are individuals. That's why I like their work. I think that blaming artists is very wrong, because the cruelty that came out of the people pulling the triggers on those guns didn't come out of nowhere. It came out of evil in the world around them.