Cinefiles: All you need to know about … Darren Aronofsky
Some key facts about the director of Noah, Pi, Black Swan and The Wrestler
As his rainy epic Noah is banned in a raft of countries, Hannah McGill takes a closer look at the director behind what he calls ‘the least Biblical Biblical film ever made’.
- Aronofsky studied at Harvard and the American Film Institute. He was inspired to make low-budget films by Spike Lee’s debut She’s Gotta Have It, and Lee’s description of his own work as ‘guerrilla filmmaking’.
- His first short, Protozoa, was made in 1993, and starred the young Lucy Liu. His feature debut Pi cost $60,000, and was funded by $100 loans from friends and family. His mother did the catering.
- Leaving just a little room for improvement, Aronofsky has described the night he heard that Pi had got into the 1998 Sundance Film Festival as ‘potentially the greatest night of my life’. He went on to sell Pi for $1m, and to beat Vincent Gallo, Lisa Cholodenko and Benson Lee to that year’s Sundance best director award.
- Aronofsky’s 2006 sci-fi spectacular/historical epic/medical thriller/philosophical meditation The Fountain was originally set to be made in 2002 – until, after more than two years of preparation, Brad Pitt quit just weeks before shooting commenced. ‘He told me he felt like he was breaking up with a girl,’ Aronofsky later said. Hugh Jackman took over; the film was widely panned, but has since garnered a substantial fan following.
- Nicolas Cage was under consideration to play the lead role in 2008’s The Wrestler, but withdrew. According to Aronofsky, this was because he understood that the director favoured Mickey Rourke for the role. According to Cage, it was because he did not have time to physically prepare. The film would win the Golden Lion at Venice and bag Rourke a Golden Globe.
- Aronofsky first met with Natalie Portman about starring in Black Swan ten years before it was finally made. He says that over the ensuing years of their friendship, ‘Natalie would say, “I’m getting too old to play a dancer. You better hurry up.”’
- On the set of Black Swan, Aronofsky had Barbara Hershey write letters in character to her screen daughter, Portman’s Nina, that he would give to Portman on particularly important filming days. ‘I never read the letters,’ he says. ‘I just thought it should be between the two of them.’
- When Aronofsky broke up with Rachel Weisz, his fiancé and the mother of his son, in 2010, shady internet gossip blamed an affair with Natalie Portman.
- Directorial projects to which Aronofsky has been temporarily attached include the moribund Batman: Year One; the recent RoboCop remake; David O Russell’s Oscar-nominated The Fighter; and the X-Men sequel The Wolverine.
- For Noah, Aronofsky resolved to avoid visual clichés. ‘When I asked Russell Crowe to star … I promised him one thing,’ he has said. ‘I would never shoot him standing on the bow of a houseboat with two giraffes sticking up behind him.’
- The Ark itself, he notes, is not necessarily even a boat. ‘What’s described in Genesis is not something that he navigates. It’s just a big box.’
- A fan of graffiti and comic book art, Aronofsky has marked the releases of The Fountain, Black Swan and Noah with self-curated exhibitions featuring original work by his favourite artists.
Noah is on general release from Fri 4 Apr.