mother! director Darren Aronofsky talks his process and vulnerability

Director Darren Aronofsky talks mother!, out on Digital today

To celebrate the upcoming home release of Darren Aronofsky’s mother!, we spoke to the director himself about the film’s beginnings and beyond.

SciFiNow: How did mother! come about?

Darren Aronofsky: Well there’s, there’s a lot of ideas at the beginning of this project that started it all. I’ve always been jealous of songwriters who in a day or in a week can write a song and put an emotion out sometimes in a few hours I’ve heard stories about. But you know as filmmakers at a minimum it’s a two, three-year process to get a story out and told. A lot of our projects have been 10, 15 years. And so what was floating in the back of my mind was that, you know, it would be nice to take a single emotion and just sort of follow it down a path and see what came out the other side. It still ended up taking us two years to make the film, but the actual initial writing phase, when the idea finally started to gel for me it actually happened really quickly. 

It was over a long five-day weekend, the house was empty. I was alone and I was just basically by myself in my underwear attacking the keyboard. And after it came out and poured out of me like a fever dream I showed it to some of my trusted producers and people around me, and everyone was sort of responded that there was something there and we should think about making it. And pretty quickly after that we showed it to Jennifer Lawrence and she responded really strong, and then suddenly when you have Jen Lawrence, you have a movie. 

And then the whole force of the things kind of took itself off. You know the, the development of the script didn’t stop there. Part of the requirement or, or ask when I cast Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence was that look I want to take you guys for three, four months and seclude ourselves in a warehouse out in Brooklyn and basically workshop the script and develop it and think about it and that started that process where for about four months we were alone at a table with Arie and Josh and we just sat around and started to develop it more and more. 

Eventually climaxing in the last two weeks of that process we brought Michelle Pfeiffer in and Ed Harris and Domhnall and Brian Gleeson and we actually shot the film and the set was taped out. There was no floors in the house, but we did every single shot, every single scene and then Andy Weisblum, my editor, cut it together and we were able to look at a 90-minute version without hair, makeup, but just basically getting a sense of the camera movements and the sort of progression of the characters and their arc through, through the film before we ever started to shoot.

What do you enjoy about long term collaborations?

It’s like any relationship when you work with people.  It’s just chemistry and I guess ease of communication. Also you want to work with people that are very professional about what they do and yet they’re all artists and craftsmen with what they do and that they just take the work seriously when it’s time to work, so I don’t know what makes it click. 

It’s been a long time now with many of my collaborators. I’ve worked with many of them on many of the films over and over again and I just think it’s great when you can sort of you know know what the different people can do and have a sense of that and then challenge them and challenge yourself to go farther and push further than you ever have. I mean, I think that’s what we’re always trying to do to keep it interesting. We try to make the challenges more and more difficult.

The film focuses on vulnerability a lot. Can you talk about that?

I think when you fall in love there’s always the fear that your heart is going to be broken and so anyone who’s lived a little knows that pain,and so we tried to sort of dramatise that kind of tension of that when you really surrender and give your heart to someone. You know, we started to explore what the fear and the pain of losing that is. But we tried to turn that into kind of this, you know, the film’s not really a horror film. It’s not really a thriller. I’m not really good at doing genre movies, you know. Pi was trying to be a sci-fi film, but really never got there. The Falcon was also trying to be sci-fi, but it’s sort of somewhere between a romance and sci-fi. The Wrestler was a sports movie, but then again isn’t really a sports movie. When ESPN gave out their awards they said we weren’t, you know, we didn’t fit into the category which was one of my big losses because it would have been great to be up for sports movie of the year. 

When we did Black Swan no one knew if it was a ballet movie or a horror film and Noah wasn’t quite your classic biblical movie either. So I kind of like to play with genre elements because I think they work really well, but I’m not very good in keeping them staying strict to the script. So there are things that are, are scary and spooky and there are things that are thriller and there are things that are romance and there are things that are surreal and so it’s a lot of different stuff. The upside is it’s different than most things you’ll probably get to see in a theatre. 

Mother! is out on Digital today and on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD from 22 January. Get all the latest genre news with every issue of SciFiNow.