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Q & A with Darren Aronofsky

Interview conducted by Rob Larsen from concerning Darren Aronofsky's "Requiem For A Dream".

Rob: It surprised me that youíve had ratings troubles with this film. It came down as NC 17?

DA: Yep.

Rob: And itís actually coming out unrated?

DA: There are going to be signs in the theater saying no one under 17 is permitted to see the movie.

Rob: Was that a surprise? I was surprised as hell when I read about it.

DA: You know, the thing is, itís a hypocrisy- where if you deal with issues in a real way, they shy away. But if you show homophobia, misogyny, in a fantasy wayÖ
Then thereís a whole thing of an independent film versus a studio film. If this was a studio film it wouldnít have been an issue. But, because Artisan is not a member of the MPAA Ėthey donít pay the jury to judge their movie-

Rob: Really, well, one of the things I was thinking of in comparison is the first twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan-

DA: Yeah.

Rob: Itís like a meat grinder. Twenty minutes of it too- people getting their heads blown off. It makes sense in the context of the film- but that got an R. And the scene in question here- in the endÖ

DA: Itís that three minute climax to the film that they have a big problem with. Itís the psychological intensity of that scene.

Rob: Thatís really important to the flow of the film-

DA: Completely. The whole film builds to that. Thatís the point of the movie.

Rob: In the notes, you said it was a risk making this film. How did you look at it as a risk?

[Thereís some discussion of where it is in the notes, because Aronofsky didnít remember the quote in question. He reads the notes and continues]

DA: I probably meant it was a big risk in the sense thatÖ everyone was telling us not to do it. Everyone was like, "Well, you did Pi, you proved yourself independently, you should do a commercial film." I want to do commercial films. It was just matter of- this was something I was passionate about and I wanted to do it before I got to that point- before I moved on to commercial films.

Rob: Where it would be difficult to do something like this.

DA: The thing is if you donít do something when youíre passionate about it- in the moment- [snaps his fingers] youíre not passionate about it the next day.

Rob: And then itís a missed opportunity.

DA: Exactly, and I knew this would always feel like a missed opportunity. I try to live my life where I end up at a point where I have no regrets. So I try to choose the road that I have the most passion on because then you can never really blame yourself for making the wrong choices. You can always say youíre following your passion.

Rob: Am I right in assuming you have very particular ideas of what you want the finished product to look like?

DA: Hmmm. Yeah, I think so. Iím not one of those guys that has the ability to conceive a film that far down the road.

Rob: So, youíre not like Scorcese or someone like that that has everythingÖ

DA: I have a really clear sense of the gist of what Iím going for, but then- things change. When youíre on set- things change. When youíre in the editing room- things change. So, itís a matter of really dealing with the best options, at the moment, and making the right choices.

Rob: What did you see as the result of this film before you started and how close did you come to that expectation?

DA: Iím very happy with the results of the film. Iím really proud of the movie. I think it has the right punch- the right impact- for audiences.

Rob: What sort of audience reaction are you hoping for with the film?

DA: I want people to feel really deeply with this- the way I feel when I read Selby. Which is- youíre in the darkest place imaginable, but itís completely human. And thatís completely what the trip is. Thatís what Selby does, he takes you into that heart of darkness, if you will.

Rob: Out of curiosity, what sort of projects were you offered after Pi?

DA: We were developing a project with New Line [An adaptation of Frank Millerís Ronin] and a project with Dimension. They were both sort of science fiction projects. There was some interest from other places as well. I just sort of turned my back on them and made RequiemÖ, because, as I said I just had to get it out of my system. I just thought it was something important for me to make.

Rob: Letís talk a little bit about the cast. How did Marlon Wayans get involved?

DA: He came in four times to read for me. He wouldnít stop.
It was pretty clear to me that the guyís a star from the first time I met him. But, I wasnít sure if he could actually do this. I always knew I wanted a comedian or someone really funny to bring some lightness into the film. That was the force behind casting Marlon.

Rob: Yeah, I wouldnít say I was surprised by his performance, but I was surprised by the casting. "Whatís he doing here?"
Any thoughts on Jennifer Connelly? I was really impressed by the really subtle transformation she went through. Was that what you were going for with her?

DA: Oh she was great. She completely got it and she worked really, really hard. Iím psyched that people are loving her performance. We worked on it really hard together. We spent a lot of time together talking about every detail of the character down to the nitty gritty worst details that we had to deal with because of what she does during the third act. Iím glad it paid off.

Rob: This is more to technique. You do a lot of sort of interesting stuff here- the drug taking scenes, for exampleÖ what did you call it?

DA: "Hip Hop Montage."

Rob: With things like thatÖ were things like that in your mind in film school?

DA: Ultimately it comes down to- every film has itís own visual language and you have to figure out what the theme is of the film and then apply style to it.

Rob: Where does it grow from, these kind of ideas? Whereís the kernel?

DA: I think it really grows out of- this is the shot. This is the scene. How are we going to shoot it? It happens very late in the game. It happens after we write the script and then we start to break it down to figure out how weíre going to do it. And so itís a collaboration between me and the DP and the production designer. And slowly but surely we arrive somewhere.

Rob: How much involvement do you have in the editing process?

DA: Oh, Iím there all the time.

Rob: Sitting right there?

DA: No, sometimes I go and I let the editor do some stuff, but basically Iím there all the time.

Rob: Well, to wrap it up, what are you doing next?

DA: Iím writing an original science fiction film that Iíve been working on for about ten months, which, hopefully, will be the next film.

Rob: And Batman 5?

DA: Iím working on that as well. I probably will be working on that. We havenít started working on it because the dealís not done.

Rob: Itís not official yet?

DA: Itís not quite official.

Rob: Öand in the unofficial world of it, is Frank Miller involved as well?

DA: Yes.

Rob: Now, I think thatís fantastic, but, do they know what theyíre getting out of you two?

DA: Weíll see. I think theyíre pretty clear.

Rob: Okay, because Iím a big fan of Frank Miller, and I love your stuff, but with the history of that series...

DA: Weíll see what happens. It could be cool.