Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, The Wrestler, Black Swan. Darren Aronofsky has built a reputation as a cinematic genius, but how much do you know about the unique director?
It’s hard to explain what Darren Aronofsky brings to the films he takes to the big screen. For someone to have successfully translated the spirit of one of Hubert Selby, Jr.’s many crazed, fast-paced, passionate novels without so much as a single criticism is astonishing, and it doesn’t just stop there.
After being educated at both Harvard University and the American Film Institute in live action and animation film theory, he started on the path that would lead him to Pi, his debut feature. With no budget, he proposed a deal to potential investors – put in $100, and get a screen credit. In addition, get $150 back if the film profited – landing him a budget of $60,000. Of course, when it hit Sundance in 1998, he won the Best Director award and with sales over $3m was perfectly capable of paying back his many investors. In addition, he met Clint Mansell, who scored the film and would become a career-long collaborator.
His success continued with the 2000 $4.5m-budgeted Requiem for a Dream, adapted from the Selby, Jr. novel of the same name. Mansell’s soundtrack for the film has been used so often in popular culture you’re likely to associate the title track with anything from professional sporting events to The X Factor. Helping further the careers of many actors, including leading man Jared Leto (also the vocalist and frontman of 30 Seconds to Mars), the film was again a large hit at the box office and has now become a favourite of many.
Aronofsky was now hot property, and as a result was asked to work on numerous projects, such as an adaptation of comic legend Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One (eventually partially reworked into Batman Begins). He then began working on another script: The Fountain. After dying due to a lack of leading roles being cast and Cate Blanchett quitting as the female lead, it was resurrected starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz, the latter going on to become engaged to Aronofsky until 2010.
The Fountain‘s over-complex plot and surrealist special effects were a miss at the box office, and Aronofsky faded from view for a brief period before rocketing back up the director charts with The Wrestler, the comeback of another Hollywood name – Mickey Rourke. The moving drama received countless nominations and won Aronofsky the Venice Golden Lion and an Independent Spirit award, both for best director. The film is also largely regarded as having revived Rourke’s acting career, who has since gone on to star in other films.
His latest project, Black Swan (of which you can read our review here) is a dark tale of competition behind the scenes at a ballet performance. Like many of his ideas – a mathematician trying to crack the stock market, a washed-out wrestler trying to re-unite with his daughter, a bunch of drug addicts living on Coney Island – it sounds so simple. But his ability to turn his character’s internal struggles into something darker, something gruesomely real and, in places, almost horrifying is what makes him one of the world’s best.
Currently he’s probably basking in the glory of Black Swan‘s awards and nominations, and gearing up to consider a wide variety of projects. He deserves to: considering he’s only 41 and has been doing nothing but producing ground breaking cinema for the last 15 years, he’s taken the role of director and done with it what others can only hope to achieve (Michael Bay, I’m looking at you…) in their entire careers. For a director to have one classic film under their belt is astonishing. For a man to have every single one be a critical success puts him on the path to “film legend” without so much as a second thought.