Friday, December 19, 2008

A.V. Club Talks to Darren Aronofsky

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Darren Aronofsky is one of my favorite directors - Pi and The Fountain (critics be damned - the film is brilliant) are among my favorite films. The A.V. Club talks to Aronofsky about his new film, The Wrestler.

Darren Aronofsky

By Keith Phipps
December 17th, 2008

Darren Aronofsky’s feature debut, Pi, proved he could create arresting images and a compelling story with little money. From there, the budgets got bigger but the focus remained tight, and he crafted another two more challenging films—the well-received Hubert Selby depths-of-addiction adaptation Requiem For A Dream and the less-well-received The Fountain, an interlocked story of love and death rejected by the public and many critics, but adored by a growing cult audience. Working from a screenplay by Rob Siegel (a former Onion editor and—full disclosure—a friend of this writer), The Wrestler finds Aronofsky peeling back to a style even starker than that of his debut to explore the world of a professional wrestler (a revelatory Mickey Rourke) coping with the strong possibility that his best days are long gone. Shortly after winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, Aronofsky spoke to The A.V. Club about the secret language of wrestlers, getting people to take wrestling seriously, and directing his own parents.

The A.V. Club: The last time we talked to you, there were around eight different movies you were about ready to direct. Why this one?

Darren Aronofsky: I spent about a year and a half doing technical post work on The Fountain. Although I do like the process, I think my favorite part of filmmaking is the actors. I kind of wanted to just do a piece that was all about acting, with very few visual effects. I looked over all the projects we had been developing, and The Wrestler with Rob [Siegel] was in pretty good shape, so we started to put all of our powers toward that.

AVC: As big a phenomenon as pro wrestling is, there have been—

DA: Well there’s been no serious films, I would say, not that I really know of. Years ago, when I graduated film school, I wrote down a list of possible films, and one of them was called The Wrestler. There are so many boxing movies that it is a genre, yet no one had ever really done a wrestling film. The more I started to check out that universe, the more unique I realized it was.

AVC: Part of the problem is that with boxing, there’s some question about the outcome, about who’ll win. But it’s different in wrestling. What kind of difficulties did that present?

DA: That was a challenge, as to how you would make a match at the end of the film that isn’t about the outcome as an athletic competition, but an outcome of a personal decision. So that was a hard challenge—and also how to portray something that people perceive as silly and fake, and basically blow off. How do you do a sincere examination of that world?

AVC: So how do you?

DA: Well I think the whole line between what’s real and fake became a big theme when Rob and I were talking about it early on, because there’s this whole idea of “Where’s the real world—is it in the ring or out of the ring?” That was a main reason why Rob fought to keep the stripper in the film. I was open to changing it, because an independent film with a stripper… I was nervous about it. The more we thought about it, the more we realized the connections between the stripper and the wrestler were really significant. They both have fake stage names, they both put on costumes, they both charm an audience and create a fantasy for the audience, and they both use their body as their art, so time is their biggest enemy.

AVC: Did you look into the fate of wrestlers and strippers after they age out of their games?

DA: Well, aging strippers, we didn’t do that research. [Laughs.] But it was clear what happens to them. Aging wrestlers, because many of them had great fame at one point, their lives as wrestlers continue. We met with a lot of the great older guys, from Greg “The Hammer” Valentine to Nikolai Volkoff to Superfly Snuka to Tony Atlas. We talked to a lot of those guys, and had long conversations about it.
Go read the rest of the interview. Here is the official trailer:

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