Premieres & Events

Aronofsky Goes on the Fountain Offensive in SoHo

A few hundred people -- many waiting well over an hour -- packed the SoHo Apple Store to see Brooklyn's own Darren Aronofsky, who dropped by Monday evening to discuss his upcoming film The Fountain with indieWIRE blogger Tom Hall. The director took the opportunity to promote his big-budget sci-fi quasi-romance -- and promote hard. "The important thing is that Hollywood rarely takes chances [on a film] like The Fountain, so it's really important that here in New York you put up huge numbers that opening Thanksgiving Day weekend," Aronofsky said. "It's PG-13 so you can bring the whole family out. And I promise you it's a great date movie, and the reason is that you have a great love story between Hugh (Jackman) and Rachel (Weisz).

Darren Aronofsky gets animated over The Fountain Monday at the Apple Store (Photos: Christopher Campbell)

"There's also great big battle sequences with Mayans, and there's a swashbuckling element with it," he continued. "And there's a psychedelic, tripped-out sci-fi thing. So anyone who likes to smoke whatever you like to smoke beforehand, it's really good too. But it's important that in New York that we come out and kick ass, because they rarely make these films and I need your help. So please come out and see the film."

OK -- but what about this long-awaited, challenging film we've read so many mixed things about? Though he didn't talk about all the problems with the production nor about the original casting of Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett (he gave the impression that Jackman and Weisz were the first and only choices), he had a lot of interesting things to say regarding the effects and shots he chose, his lack of interest in video and his involvement with Batman.

For example:

ON THE FOUNTAIN'S ACCESSIBILITY: I think the sci-fi fans are really going to immediately get what we're doing, and I think other people might be a little surprised, because it's pretty out there. But, when you read a sci-fi novel, for the first 70-80 pages, you don't really know what the hell is going on, usually. And then suddenly a few words and ideas show up and the whole universe suddenly opens up, and you understand how the characters are related, and you're smack in the middle of Neil Stevenson's or someone's invention. And we wanted to give that same type of feeling to filmgoers, in the sense that for the first 20 minutes of the film, you're really not going to fully know what's going on. But, if you don't pay attention to stuff, then you won't see how it all fits together, and it's very much a puzzle. And it's about that feeling when it all sort of clicks in your head. We wanted that to happen.

Follow the jump to read about old-school effects, Aronofsky's courtship with Batman and how anybody can be eight inches from Paul Newman. -- Christopher Campbell

ON USING OLD-FASHIONED EFFECTS: Filmmakers have basically become addicted to CG. Whenever there's a problem, you cut to CG. And I guess for the last 10-15 years, people have been using CG more and more. I think audiences are really sophisticated. We see a lot of images on TV, on the computer, in film, and you can see through it. There's not a sense of reality. And it really dates [things]. You look back at CG in even really good films and it starts to look bad after a year or so. So, I wanted to make something that is very authentic because I think you can feel that and sense that when you see it.

If you go to a place like ILM (Industrial Light & Magic, George Lucas' visual effects studio), I think it costs $1 million to walk in the door. You just have to hand them a million-dollar check for them to start working on your film. Which is worth it if you have that type of money and you're doing crazy stuff -- which we were, but we were also doing stuff that no one's done before, because no one's taken these fluid effects and messed with them digitally. The guy who shot the fluid effects was a guy by the name of Peter Parks, who used to work on movies 20-30 years ago. In fact, the last movie he worked on was Supergirl. Remember in Supergirl they had that tripped-out sequence with, it looks like particles of paint going through water? They used to do that a lot. And also like cloud-tank work. Remember in Poltergeist all the evil clouds rolling in? That used to just be ink poured in a cloud tank, into water, and lit and photographed. People don't do that anymore. All those people who did that stuff are out of work. And it's all CG. But I think that stuff was more interesting. So, we searched for this guy, and he basically lives in a cow shed outside of Oxford, in the United Kingdom. And he [had] stuck with it, so it was great.

ON USING CLOSE-UPS: I think the close-up is the greatest invention of the 20th century. The reason movies are great is you want to be able to be eight inches from Paul Newman's eyes and not be self-conscious, yet watch him have the most open emotions possible. That's the beauty of movies, and that's why video games will never win! Go movies! No, video games are great -- I'm a junkie as well there, also. But that's what's great about movies: that you can get that close to someone who's amazing to look at. That's the great thing about movies is how close you can get to an actor. So, I love close-ups. And the reality is 95 percent of the people on the planet are really going to see your movie on a TV screen, or even an iPod screen, so you'd better get close.

ON FILM VS VIDEO: I'm psyched about getting rid of [film] in a projection format, because I've been all over the country with [The Fountain] and showing it to different towns, and the state of projection in America is just terrible. So it's never really what the filmmakers intend, and I think [with] video projection you get rid of all the scratches and the reel changes.

As far as shooting film, I love the way film looks. And I think video is still far away. I've been around for a little bit, and everyone's been saying film is dead, but it's not going anywhere yet. It's still around for a bit. Eventually it's going to be gone. And I'm not sure what is environmentally more destructive, a million feet of film or a camcorder -- they're probably really both fucked up -- but hopefully they'll figure out a way to make video a little more environmentally safe.

The nice thing about film is I can take a 35mm [camera] and strap it to a car and throw the car off a cliff and still develop it. There's a lot to be said about film right now.

ON BATMAN: I didn't really do much on the Batman thing. For the last six years I've been working on The Fountain. That's been my dream and my passion and that's what we've been working on. It's been a really difficult film to make, because I think that anytime you do something that doesn't fit into the studio box, it's pretty hard. So, when it came up that they wanted me to work on [Batman], I was like, "Well, I just made a $4 million movie about drugs. Maybe if I take their most valued franchise and tell them I'm interested, they'll let me make The Fountain." So, it was kind of like a strategic move. But, I wasn't really into it. I'm not a superhero type of guy. I just really wanted to make The Fountain. -- Christopher Campbell

Posted at November 14, 2006 9:30 AM

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