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Darren Aronofsky:
Collaborating With the Best
(Part 3)

Interview conducted by Allen White from concerning Darren Aronofsky's "Requiem For A Dream", and "Batman: Year One." (Part 3)

AW: Really?

DA: Yeah. And we had a great collaboration, and I figured, you know, Frank re-invented "Batman" two times in the Ď80s, and now heís writing "Dark Knight Returns: Part II." I donít know if you know that.

AW: No.

DA: Yeah, yeah. Itís very exciting, and itís gonna be awesome. Heís given me a little hint of whatís in it, and it sounds bugged out. And Frank was excited to work again with me and on "Batman," so hopefully itíll work out, and weíll be able to do something different and cool.

AW: What was the "Ronin" adaptation exactly?

DA: We got New Line to help us to adapt a screenplay out of "Ronin" [another great Frank Miller graphic novel]. We never really quite nailed it, and itís right now sort of in limbo, but hopefully weíll get it back on track at some point. But now weíre working on other things, so weíll see.

AW: He needs to have his day in the sun. Because "Robocop 2" didnít cut it. Because heís somebody whoís also a great storyteller with a great visual sense, and it seems like a perfect match with you.

DA: The whole look of "Pi" was kind of stolen from "Sin City" [a brilliant black-and-white neo-noir graphic novel series written and illustrated by Miller]. Yeah, I remember showing "Sin City" when it first came out to my DP and going, " I love the contrast, and I want to try and do something with ĎPií"

AW: You often utilize extreme cinematic exaggeration like speeding up and slowing down the action, and manifesting hallucinations, making them come to life. In the best possible way, this reminds me of cartoon aesthetic. Did you watch a lot of cartoonsó

DA: Itís funny, you know that music that goes crazy when Sara comes out of the TV and sheís dancing around [in "Requiem"], you know, that crazy conga music? I donít know if you remember, when sheís circling the chair? Actually the guy who did that music was Brian Emrich ó itís the only cue thatís not by Clint [Mansell, composer] and Kronos, itís by Brian Emrich the sound designer. I told Brian, "You know when Bugs Bunny dances on Elmer Fuddís head? (does a conga riff) Dun-dun-dun-dun-dun, DANT! Dun-dun-dun-dun-dun, DANT! You know what Iím talking about. I was like, "Thatís the type of music I want." You know, Iím that generation -- youíre my age? How old are you, thirty-one? How old are you?

AW: Thirty-three.

DA: Thirty-three. So we grew up on tons and tons and tons of cartoons. You know, Bugs Bunny, and Woody Woodpecker, and all that crazy Chuck Jones, Hanna-Barbera crap, which is great. But itís amazing how it invades your subconscious. But definitely animation is a big influence on me.

AW: What, then, are the positive and negative sides to growing up watching tons of television as far as being a filmmaker?

DA: From watching eight hours of TV a day as a kid, Iíve just watched enough of those formulas thereís somewhere deep in my head of how to sort of deliver visual information to an audience. And maybe thatís what I got out of it. I donít know if I was born with that, or if I just, or if I, you know, just from too much TV. But itís probably a combination of something. I think everythingís learned, I donít think youíre born with much.

AW: How did going to film school help you be a better filmmaker?

DA: I think film school let me make a lot of mistakes. I really sort of treated film school as like, I wanted to make good film but I was like, "You know, Iím going to take chances and risks because nowís the time to fuck up." And I remember I was scared of having a lead actress, the lead of a project. One of my projects in film school, I said, "Okay, Iím going to do a project with an actress." And now I got to work with Ellen Burstyn. So think dealing with those fears in film school probably helped me.

AW: How do you direct someone like Ellen Burstyn, whoís such a powerhouse?

DA: You know, not much. You sort of stand back and let it happen. Maybe add some water and some sunlight and let it blossom. I mean, she is, you know, what can I say, sheís unbelievable. And the one thing I think that hopefully that audiences will get is that theyíll feel robbed by Hollywood which has not hired this woman for twenty years. And itís almost a crime on the world, because, you know, just her abilities ó itís just unbelievable. And it should be mandatory that you have to get two films of Ellen Burstyn a year.

AW: "Requiem" is stylistically and thematically a very logical progression from "Pi." How much of this process is intentional, and how much is it your personality manifesting itself in the process?

DA: It all comes out of my personality, probably, but we had a lot of limitations on "Pi." And I didnít really feel like I had finished exploring a lot of the visual ideas I had. And part of the reason I was attracted to "Requiem" was because it was going to allow me to do some similar stuff I did in "Pi," but on a different scale. I think on the next film youíre going to see something totally different, hopefully.

AW: So, for example, where do you want to go on the next film?

DA: It depends on the story. The story dictates the film grammar. And so hopefully thereíll be a really cool story that we come up with and something cool will come out of it. Right now, outside of "Batman," Iíve been working for eleven months on a new science fiction project thatís probably back in the direction of "Pi" as far as thematics but on a much more ambitious scale.

AW: Something you wrote yourself?

DA: Iím writing myself, yeah. Itís pretty damn cool. Itís a post-"Matrix" metaphysical science fiction film.