In a recent interview to promote his upcoming ballet thriller Black Swan, director Darren Aronofsky revealed the curious origin of the project:
“At one point, way before I made The Wrestler, I was actually developing a project that was about a love affair between a ballet dancer and a wrestler, and then it kind of split off into two movies.”
Black Swan and The Wrestler have been distinct ideas for some time now. Aronofsky claims he met with Natalie Portman “at least ten years ago” to star in Black Swan, after the split. Still, an interesting what-if scenario. I wonder how much of the original idea made it into Marisa Tomei’s character in The Wrestler — a dancer of a different sort. Hit the jump for more from Aronofsky on the thematic link between the two movies.
Now that we have more space, it’s worth posting the whole of Aronofsky’s comparison of Black Swan to The Wrestler from MTV‘s interview:
“I’ve always considered the two films companion pieces. They are really connected and people will see the connections. It’s funny, because wrestling some consider the lowest art — if they would even call it art — and ballet some people consider the highest art. But what was amazing to me was how similar the performers in both of these worlds are. They both make incredible use of their bodies to express themselves. They’re both performers. At one point, way before I made The Wrestler, I was actually developing a project that was about a love affair between a ballet dancer and a wrestler, and then it kind of split off into two movies. So I guess my dream is that some art theater will play the films as a double feature some day.”
I’m sure an arthouse theater somewhere is arranging that double feature as we speak.
Aronofsky elaborated on the link between wrestling and ballet, in particular the physicality he wanted to bring to the screen.
“Most of my time, I’d be thinking, ‘This is an amazing closeup, but how am I going to let audiences appreciate this?’ Wrestling, it’s very clear how to show that. My goal there was to show how much it actually, physically hurt. People always think it’s fake, and my point was, ‘Sure, it’s fake, the outcome is already decided, but the stunts are not fake. These are real people falling onto a concrete floor.’ For me, what was so interesting about ballet was these athletes have done it for so many years — some of them start at four or five years old — and they make it effortless, so that you cannot see the skill involved. It’s almost impossible to experience how hard it is to get your leg over your head when you’re standing on the tip of your foot. It looks so easy. But when you’re up close, you can see the muscles ripping. For me, it was about, ‘How do I make that effort visually exciting?’ “
Despite his desire to depict ballet as authentically as possible on the screen, he faced resistance from “the ballet world”:
“Ballet is a very insular world. There’s a lot of privacy, and it’s hard to get in. Normally when you say, ‘I want to make a movie about your world,’ the doors open up and you get tremendous access. The ballet world could give two sh–s about anyone making a film about their world. For people that do ballet, ballet is their universe and they’re not impressed by movies. I did find dancers that shared their stories with me, some retired, some working. Eventually I got to stand backstage when the Bolshoi came to Lincoln Center, standing in the wings watching some of the greatest dancers in the world. I got to see some amazing athletes up close and experience what they were going through.”
I never considered whether or not the dancers Aronofsky clearly admires would embrace the film. I think a bit of controversy could be fun, in this case. Though from the sound of it, “the ballet world” may not even care to react.
Aronofsky is always an interesting interview; if you’d like to hear more, the rest is at MTV.