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Darren Aronofsky:
Collaborating With the Best
(Part 1)

Interview conducted by Allen White from concerning Darren Aronofsky's "Requiem For A Dream", and "Batman: Year One." (In three parts)

Allen White: What is the first thing that draws you to a story [of Requiem]?

Darren Aronofsky: Good question. I donít know. Thatís really hard to say. Itís gotta be something that, you know, keeps you awake at night, that gets you really excited. Itís that feeling when you get really excited about an idea, you know, that scheming feeling, you know, when you just sort of see all the angles and it just looks really cool.

AW: So does there have to be a definite strong visual component to it as well, in this case, if you want to make it into a film?

DA: No, I think the visual component comes afterwards. I mean, of course, when you read a story, I think there are certain stories that are better for the visual medium of film. But thereís always a way to tell a story visually. On of my mentors, Stuart Rosenberg, who directed "Cool Hand Luke" and "Pope of Greenwich Village," great director, he would tell me that certain things donít translate well to the screen, certain things are better as novels or books. And I think I agree. You know, there are certain problems you can run into. So that has to be some of the decision-making process.

AW: Absolutely. And that leads exactly to the next question, which is: Working on the screenplay for "Requiem" together with the original author must have been this rare and exciting opportunity.

DA: Definitely.

AW: I would think also potentially somewhat intimidating. So tell me about the advantages and disadvantages of doing an adaptation with the original author.

DA: It always depends, I guess, on the original author. In the case of Selby, he was completely generous with his material and really trying to translate it into film. And I think it just depends on the writer. Certain writers get that itís a different medium and that you have to do a translation of some sort. And certain writers ó I actually havenít actually had that experience ó but I imagine that certain writers canít do that. But Selby was completely generous, and it was a great collaboration working with him. You know, itís definitely intimidating at first to start working with your hero, but you just try and be as completely honest as you can be, and as really as straightforward as you can be, because you donít want any surprises to land on them, because thatís how you get people pissed.

AW: How did the process actually work? Was it both of you just sitting in a roomó

DA: Oh, no, we didnít work in the same room, unfortunately, 'cause he lives in LA, I live in New York. What happened is at first I was going to write it by myself, because he had written a draft about fifteen years ago for another producer, and he lost it, the draft. You know, nothing happened, it's fifteen years, a lot happens. And I started writing and I got about three-quarters of the way done, and I got a phone call that he found it in his mom's basement. So he sent it over, and literally about eighty percent of the scenes that I had put in he had put in. We both sort of saw what the heart of the story was. And I then I sort of fused them both together, then I sent it to him, and we did notes back and forth for a long time. And then eventually we arrived at something we were both happy with.

AW: Did this process take place before or after "Pi"? Because it indicated in the press notes that you had already bought the rights to it.

DA: No, I bought the rights during the cutting of "Pi."

AW: So you were already, in effect, working on the script, or starting thinking about the script at that point?

DA: Yeah. You know, while we were cutting "Pi," we visited Cubby ó Selby, Cubby is his nickname ó me and Grampa, me and Eric Watson ó excuse me, Iím using everyoneís nicknames. Me and Eric Watson, we went out and we visited him, and he was excited. And it was great. If you get a chance, if youíre doing screenwriting, you should call him up and talk to him. Heís pretty accessible, Iím sure they can help you talk to him.

AW: I would love to talk to him, because "Last Exit to Brooklyn" is one of my absolute favorite books. I mean, I think itís a masterpiece.

DA: Yeah, it is.

AW: I think actually that itís a better book, but your adaptation is a much better adaptation of a Selby work.

DA: I think "Requiem for a Dream" is an easier adaptation, because it's a much more cinematic narrative throughline. I thought that screenplay interpretation of "Last Exit to Brooklyn" was really good. I though the way they fused all the stories was the best accomplishment of the movie.