Darren Aronofsky Calls Spirit Award Winner Black Swan 'Fun,' Defines Indie Film
Backstage at the Spirit Awards Saturday afternoon, Darren Aronofsky was in a jaunty mood. And why not? With Black Swan's two biggest Oscar rivals, The Social Network and The King's Speech, absent from competition at the penultimate awards show of the year (TSN excluded by budget, TKS relegated to the foreign film category), the night belonged to Aronofsky's stylish psychological ballet thriller. So after Black Swan took home Best Cinematography (Matthew Libatique), Best Actress (Natalie Portman), Best Director, and Best Feature, Aronofsky took to the winners' room to have some fun with the press.
"What is it about Black Swan that America and the world responded to?" asked a journalist, kicking off Aronofsky's post-win Q&A.
"I've got no f*cking idea," answered Aronofsky, "and it's really exciting. The word that keeps coming back to me is 'fun.' People are having fun. I guess that's the best compliment you could get as a filmmaker. [Pause] I never got that one before. Pi was always 'intellectual,' Requiem was 'harrowing,' The Fountain was 'mysterious,' The Wrestler was 'sad,' this one was 'fun.' So it worked out."
Another journalist asked the director how, when filming Black Swan's infamous lesbian love scene with stars Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis, he managed to capture female sexuality and orgasm so well. His response, followed by appreciative laughter: "I guess I'm a good student."
Three of Aronofsky's last four films have yielded Oscar-nominated performances. So how does the director wind up working with such solid casts?
"I thought about [Natalie] for this movie 10 years ago, and Mickey [Rourke] at the beginning as well," Aronofsky explained. "I had worked with a great casting director, Mary Vernieu, and my producer Scott Franklin has great casting instincts. It was his idea to put Marlon Wayans in Requiem for a Dream -- I thought that was a crazy idea and it worked out really well. So I just listen to a lot of people and spend a lot of time thinking about it. And it's not instinct; it's a lot of hard work."
Black Swan is one of the prestigious but smaller studio-backed films that dominated this year's award race, having earned its Independent Spirit-bestowed cred by virtue of having a budget that fell within the official limit of $20 million -- the most any film can cost to be considered "indie" by the organization. But Black Swan and other films like it seem to stretch the definition of what independent film used to mean; look to the John Cassavetes Award-winner Daddy Longlegs, or Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture, or any of the smaller category nominees honored this year to see what independent film in the traditional sense looks like, or used to.
For Aronofsky, who expressed hope for a career "where I can go back and forth" between small budgets and studio films, the idea of independent filmmaking is more a working philosophy rather than a financial limitation: "I think independence is when you're independent of the financial realities. It's a very hard word to describe and people have been trying to figure it out for years. Basically when the filmmakers are in control of the movie as opposed to the people paying for them, I think that's independence."
So what does that mean for his next project -- the big-budget, high-profile comic book sequel Wolverine 2?
"I don't know what Wolverine 2 is," Aronofsky insisted with a smile. "I've never heard of that movie."