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Darren Aronofsky:
Collaborating With the Best (PART 2)

Interview conducted by Allen White from concerning Darren Aronofsky's "Requiem For A Dream" and "Batman: Year One." (Part 2)

AW: A difficult adaptation, in any case, 'cause itís so sprawling--

DA: I mean, itís basically a collection of short stories, so itís a very difficult thing to do.

AW: Plus itís got that first-person narrative which really drives the novel which you just canít translate to film. You have a feel for sound that really reminds me of David Lynch, actually. You use it to create an atmospheric and emotional undercurrent that almost seems to work subconsciously. So tell me about your approach to sound.

DA: I remember seeing a documentary as a kid about George Lucas sound designers who go out to the desert and collect the effectsó

AW: Ben Burtt, and he was like hitting the wireó

DA: Yeah! You saw that?

AW: Yeah, I totally saw that. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

DA: What was his name? Ben...?

AW: Ben Burtt was the sound designer.

DA: Ben Bird?

AW: Burtt. B-U-R-T-T.

DA: Oh, really? But you remember that footage.

AW: He said, like, "Oh, yeah, the Millenium Falcon's engine was the air conditioner in my hotel room in Arizona."

DA: Yeah, yeah, that type of stuff. So I remember seeing that, And I donít know what it was on, if it was on you remember what it was?

AW: It was about "Star Wars," so who cares? [Meaning that at that age, we would watch anything related to the film.]

DA: Exactly. And I was fascinated by that idea of just weird sounds, and using them in strange places, and I got this great sound designer, this guy Brian Emrich, who did "Pi," and heís just an amazing cat. He plays for this band called "Foetus," and a few other bands, he was in ó not "Madness," he was in the other one, the other ska band ó Iím spacing on the name. The first time I met him, he was telling me how he was trying to buy a two thousand-year-old mummy. I was like, "Okay, youíre hired." Heís the type of guy that has those farting cockroaches in his house, you know, like eight of them ó and Iím sure that soundís somewhere in the movie. You know, he just has great stuff, and has a great digital mind, and great mind for manipulating sounds.

AW: Sound is so important to a film. I mean, I think one of my favorite pieces of sound in a movie is the original version of "The Haunting," where you never actually see anything, but youíve got these menacing booms, and it just scares the crap out of you.

DA: Thatís the great lesson between the original "Haunting" and the remake. Early on when I was working on "Pi," I remember I watched a lot of independent films. And often youíll see a good independent film, but thereíll be something wrong or something off and usually itís because they saved money in the sound, and the mikes are cheap. And so with "Pi," which is such an abstract visual style, it was very important to have great sound, so we spent a lot of money on renting the really expensive professional mikes, and we spent a lot of time creating a great sort of soundscape. And I guess itís just carried through, in being meticulous in every detail of filmmaking.

AW: Plus, youíve been very fortunate with the soundtrack, in this case getting the Kronos Quartet.

DA: Yes.

AW: Thatís a coup.

DA: Yeah, you know, the thing is, what you learn very quickly, is that if youíre doing work that youíre passionate about, you can work with anyone. And itís happening to me over and over again. Iíve worked with Selby, Iíve worked with Kronos, Iím gonna work with Frank Miller, you know, who wrote "Dark Knight Returns" ó and Iíve worked with him already. And I now Iím getting to work with everyone Iíve wanted to work with. I got to work with Ellen Burstyn. The reality is if you just go out there and just do good material, people will come. Kronos didnít really know who we were when we showed them this. We showed them "Pi" and stuff, so we had something, but still they just really responded to the film, not to anything else.

AW: All right. Next word: "Batman." You said "Frank Miller," so we gotta go there now.

DA: Well, nothingís happened, we havenít even begun to work on it, and if I do work on it it will be with Frank Miller.

AW: Which one of his stories is it?

DA: It hasnít at all been discussed. You know, Warner Brothers approached me about "Batman" while I was working on "Requiem for a Dream," actually. While I was on set I got a phone call. And Iíve been talking to them for over eighteen months now. Weíve been talking about a lot of ideas, and I said that I really wanted Frank involved because I had worked with Frank on this "Ronin" adaptation.

PART 1 ~~~ PART 3