Darren Aronofsky Biography
Darren S. Aronofsky (born February 12, 1969) is an American film director, screenwriter and film producer. He attended Harvard University and AFI to study both live-action and animation film theory, where he met long-time collaborator Matthew Libatique. He won several film awards after completing his senior thesis film, "Supermarket Sweep", starring Sean Gullette, which went on to become a National Student Academy Award finalist.
Aronofsky did not make a feature film until five years later, creating the concept for his debut feature, π, in February 1996. The low-budget, $60,000 production was sold to Artisan Entertainment for $1 million, and grossed over $3 million; it won both a Sundance Film Festival award and an Independent Spirit Award. Aronofsky's followup, Requiem for a Dream, was based on the novel of the same name written by Hubert Selby, Jr. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Ellen Burstyn's performance. After turning down an opportunity to direct Batman Begins, Aronofsky began production on his third film, The Fountain. The film was released to mixed reviews and poor box office results.
However, his next film, The Wrestler, rebounded with positive reviews and healthy box office. Both of the film's stars, Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei, received Academy Award nominations. Rourke also won a Golden Globe for Best Actor and Bruce Springsteen won for Best Original Song for his title song. Aronofsky's next film, Black Swan, received further critical acclaim, being nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director, four Golden Globes including Best Director, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, a record 12 BFCA nominations and Directors Guild of America Award nomination. As of January 2011, his film The Wolverine, is scheduled to begin production in March.
Aronofsky was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1969 to Abraham and Charlotte Aronofsky. He and his older sister were raised in a Conservative Jewish household. His parents would often bring him to performances of Broadway theater, which began his great interest in spectacle and entertainment. In 1984, he attended Camp Rising Sun, the Louis August Jonas Foundation's international summer scholarship program. During summers while in high school, he trained as a research biologist with The School for Field Studies in Kenya in 1985 and Alaska in 1986. Upon graduating from Edward R. Murrow High School in 1987 and living on a kibbutz in Israel for a time, he entered Harvard University, where he took anthropology, live action film, and animation courses, eventually majoring in social anthropology and graduated from Harvard in 1991 with honors. He became seriously interested in film while attending Harvard, where he roomed with aspiring animator Dan Schrecker. After seeing his roommate's assignments, Aronofsky considered pursuing a career in animation. His senior thesis film, Supermarket Sweep, was a finalist in the 1991 Student Academy Awards. In 1992, Aronofsky received his MFA degree in directing from the AFI Conservatory, where his classmates included Todd Field, Doug Ellin, and Mark Waters. He also won the institute's Franklin J. Schaffner Alumni Medal.
Early work (1996–98)
Aronofsky did not make a feature film until five years after finishing school, creating the concept for his debut feature, π (also known as Pi), in February 1996. He was inspired by both his interest in mathematics and a meeting with a group of Hasidic Jews who attempted to recruit him. The film was financed entirely from $100 donations from friends and family. In return, he promised to pay each back $150 if the film made money, and they would at least get screen credit if the film lost money. Producing the film with an initial budget of $60,000, Aronofsky premiered Pi at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, where he won the Best Director award. The film itself was nominated for a special Jury Award. Artisan Entertainment bought distribution rights for $1 million. The film was released to the public later that year to critical acclaim and grossed $3,221,152.
Aronofsky followed his debut with a film based on Hubert Selby, Jr.'s novel Requiem for a Dream. He was paid $50,000, and worked for three years with nearly the same production team as his previous film. Following the financial breakout of Pi, he was capable of hiring established stars, including actress Ellen Burstyn, and received a budget of $4,500,000 to produce the film. Aronofsky filmed the movie in a year, and it was originally set for release in 2000, but it met with controversy in the United States, being rated NC-17 by the MPAA due to a nude sex scene. Aronofsky unsuccessfully appealed the rating, so Artisan released the film unrated. The film went on to gross $7,390,108 worldwide. As in his previous film, Aronofsky used montages of extremely short shots, sometimes termed a hip hop montage. While an average 100-minute film has 600 to 700 cuts Requiem features more than 2,000. Split-screen is used extensively, along with extremely tight closeups. Aronofsky received acclaim for his stylish direction, and was nominated for another Independent Spirit Award, this time for Best Director. The film itself was nominated for five awards in total, winning two, for Best Actress and Cinematography. Clint Mansell's soundtrack for the film was also well-regarded, and since their first collaboration in 1996, Mansell has composed the music to almost every Aronofsky film. Ellen Burstyn was nominated for numerous awards, including for an Academy Award for Best Actress, and ultimately won the Independent Spirit Award.
In mid-2000, Warner Bros. hired Aronofsky to write and direct Batman: Year One, which was to be the fifth film in the Batman franchise. Aronofsky, who collaborated with Frank Miller on an unproduced script for Ronin, brought Miller to co-write Year One with him, intending to reboot the series. "[I]t's somewhat based on the comic book," Aronofsky said. "Toss out everything you can imagine about Batman! Everything! We're starting completely anew." Regular Aronofsky collaborator Matthew Libatique was set as cinematographer, and Aronofsky had also approached Christian Bale for the role of Batman. Bale later would be cast in the role for Batman Begins. However, the studio abandoned Year One in favor of Batman vs. Superman. After that project failed to develop, Aronofsky declined the opportunity to direct Batman Begins.
Engagement, and work with Fox (2001–06)
In April 2001, Aronofsky entered negotiations with Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow to direct the then-untitled science fiction film that became The Fountain, with Brad Pitt in the lead role. In June 2001, actress Cate Blanchett entered talks to join the film, which Aronofsky, wanting the title to remain secret, had given the working title of The Last Man. Production was postponed to improve the script and to wait for Blanchett, pregnant when she joined, to give birth to her child in December 2001. Production was ultimately set for late October 2002 in Queensland and Sydney, Australia. By now officially titled The Fountain, the film had a budget of $70 million, co-financed by Warner Bros. and New Regency, which had filled the gap after Village Roadshow withdrew. Pitt left the project seven weeks before the first day of shooting, halting production. In February 2004, Warner Bros. resurrected it on a $35 million budget with Hugh Jackman in the lead role. In August, actress Rachel Weisz filled the vacancy left by Blanchett. Aronofsky began dating actress Rachel Weisz in 2001, and they became later engaged in 2005. Their son, Henry Chance, was born May 31, 2006, in New York City. Released in North America on November 22, 2006, the film earned $10,144,010 in the United States and Canada, and $5,761,344 in other territories, and was considered a flop.
Later career (2006–10)
After the failure of The Fountain, Aronofsky returned to his roots with a smaller production, The Wrestler, written by Robert D. Siegel, and developed with Fox Searchlight Pictures. Actor Nicolas Cage entered negotiations in October 2007 to star as Randy, the film's protagonist. The following month Cage left the project, and Mickey Rourke replaced him in the lead role. Cage pulled out of the movie because Aronofsky wanted Rourke to star, Aronofsky said, stating that Cage was "a complete gentleman, and he understood that my heart was with Mickey and he stepped aside. I have so much respect for Nic Cage as an actor and I think it really could have worked with Nic but, you know, Nic was incredibly supportive of Mickey and he is old friends with Mickey and really wanted to help with this opportunity, so he pulled himself out of the race." The roughly 40-day shoot began in January 2008.
The Wrestler received great critical acclaim, and both Rourke and co-star Marisa Tomei received Academy Award, Golden Globe, SAG, and BAFTA nominations for their performances. Rourke won a Golden Globe, as did Bruce Springsteen for the original song the rock star wrote for the film. The Wrestler grossed $44,674,354 worldwide on a budget of $6,000,000 making it Aronofsky's highest grossing film to that point.
Aronofsky had been hired in March 2007 to direct the boxing biography The Fighter, but dropped out the following year to work on MGM's aborted RoboCop remake, In July 2010, MGM scrapped the project, which one film site said Aronofsky had left due to uncertainty over the financially distressed studio's future. Aronofsky himself, when asked in September 2010, replied, "I think I'm still attached. I don't know. I haven't heard from anyone in a while."
In 2009, Aronofsky then began developing another low-budget Fox Searchlight film, Black Swan, a psychological thriller about a New York City Ballet ballerina. The film starred actress Natalie Portman, whom Aronofsky had known since 2000. She also introduced Aronofsky to Mila Kunis, who joined the cast. Aronofsky said Roman Polanski's Repulsion and The Tenant were "big influences" on the style of the film. Black Swan had its world premiere as the opening film at the 67th Venice Film Festival on September 1, 2010. It received a standing ovation whose length Variety said made it "one of the strongest Venice openers in recent memory". Black Swan has received high praise from film critics, and received a record 12 Broadcast Film Critics Association nominations, four Independent Spirit Award nominations, four Golden Globe nominations, three SAG nominations, and many more accolades. Aronofsky himself received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Director. Furthermore, the film broke limited-release box-office records.
On November 9, 2010, Aronofsky and Weisz announced that they had been "separated for some months", but "remain close friends and are committed to raising their son together in NYC".