The Wrestler: Darren Aronosfky interview
We caught up with indie director turned award darling Darren Aronofsky, to talk about the phenomenal success of his latest film The Wrestler, which has reinvigorated the career of Mickey Rourke – earning him a Golden Globe for his performance – and put Darren back on the map. He talked us through his initial meeting with Rourke, his new found respect for wrestling and the rumours about Robocop.
LOVEFiLM: Obvious question: are you a wrestling fan?
Darren Aronofsky: I would say so… I mean, now I guess I have to be a wrestling fan. That’s not the reason I made it. As a kid, I went to one match, but I was never like a fanatic or a fan.
LF: Once you decided to do the movie, what kind of research did you do? Did you speak to professional wrestlers?
DA: Yeah, that was the first thing. We met a lot of the guys who were famous when I was younger. Names you probably wouldn’t know. It took a long time to figure out what the story was going to be about. A lot of driving to random places in the middle of nowhere to watch 20 people watch 10 people perform. It was very sad at times.
LF: Did you have Mickey Rourke in mind when you created the character?
DA: While we were doing all the research and visiting a lot of these places, we saw a few older guys and suddenly thought, “Hmm, That’s a really interesting story. A guy who used to be really famous. Let’s think about that...” So then the quest for an actor who could do this sort of dynamic range of emotions - as well as pull of the physicality – began. Someone that you could convincingly believe is a wrestler. It’s a hard thing to fill. There weren’t many people, and I was an old Mickey Rourke fan from years ago and I was curious, what the hell went wrong? Like everyone else.
LF: How did you first approach Mickey with the concept of the film?
DA: I called his agent and we had lunch in a restaurant in the meat packing district of Manhattan. Me, Mickey and his dog Loki – a little Chihuahua. We had a very heart-to-heart conversation. What impressed me about Mickey is that he was very open. Having done 12 years of therapy, it had given him the sort of awareness of where he was in his life and what he had done to himself. And because he knew who he was, from the outside, I was pretty sure there was a sane person there, because, you know, things always get tough on a movie set. There’s always pressure and tension and time ticking, but I always knew there was that sane person that I could work with.
LF: The film has a great 80s soundtrack, but also there’s also a new Springsteen song, that Bruce wrote especially for the film. That was through Mickey, wasn’t it?
DA: Yeah, I absolutely take no credit for it. In fact, when I met The Boss, he admitted to having not seen any of my films. He was doing it purely because he thought this was a good opportunity for Mickey. He just wanted to help. There are very few authentic people like Mickey. We all know what the ‘leading man’ landscape is in the English speaking world is like and there are very few people that are that are really interesting.
LF: Did he see the film?
DA: No, he read the screenplay while he was on tour in Europe, which is pretty generous because he’s got to be pretty busy and pretty exhausted. And he just came up with the idea and he had to finish it before he got to see the movie unfortunately. But it worked out great, which is, you know... When you have that much talent it’s easy to do stuff like that.
LF: So Mickey’s has a lot of rock n roll kinda friends...
DA: The rock stars seem to love Mickey, so he’s friends with Axl and a bunch of those guys.
LF: Some of the wrestling scenes are really quite graphic; there is rather a lot of blood...
DA: I think so, but it serves a purpose, it has to set up the big story point that comes up. You have to earn that. So you have to make it a gruelling experience, because Mickey is so sympathetic and you really feel for him. But it’s funny that the gore has made people say that’s too much. And some people say it’s not enough. It’s amazing. It’s really a hard issue. Where’s the cut off point.
LF: What’s up for you next? There’s talk about Robocop...
DA: We’re developing that. There’s no screenplay, so we’re working hard to get it done. I like big movies and that’s a title that you can really reinvent, so we’re doing something really new with it.
LF: It would potentially be your biggest film to date...
DA: I like big movies. I’m a big fan of those summer blockbusters, when they’re done well. But that’s not what drives me. What drives me is good stories and something that wakes me up. Because whatever it is you’re making you’ve got to fight tooth and nail for it.
LF: Did your experience of working on The Fountain, which had some problems, put you off the idea of working on bigger movies?
DA: You know, the problems didn’t bother me. I enjoyed the process. Every step was interesting and challenging. And you know, you just try to stay in the moment, and there’s a nice freedom to having very few people look over your shoulder, but then again, collaborating with really qualified people that are more experienced than you is great as well. So, you know, I’ll see what comes which way.
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