Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...
I’ve been talking and writing about this film for so long that it’s like an old friend when someone brings it up now. “Ah, yes, THE FOUNTAIN. How is THE FOUNTAIN these days? Keeping busy, I hope.” When I visited the set this past winter, Warner Bros. was vaguely interested in a holiday release for this year, but nothing was firm at all, and they made that very clear. I didn’t see the ComiCon presentation this summer, but I assume they remained vague about a release date then, too.
So when’s it coming out? What’s the official word?
Last Friday, I had to be on the Sony lot all morning, but I got word that Aronofsky might be available for a little while in the afternoon if I wanted to talk about THE FOUNTAIN a little. By the time I got home, it was basically the close of business on the East Coast, but I managed to catch Aronofsky at the editing room where he’s working right now. Surprised to get him directly, it took me a moment to find my recorder and turn on the speaker phone:
DARREN ARONOFSKY: I’m not in a room with anyone else, am I?
”M”: No, no. Just me.
DA: How’s the baby?
DA: Really? Like four months or something now, right?
”M”: Four months this week, yeah.
DA: Oh, wow. Well, congratulations.
”M”: He’s been great so far.
DA: How’s your life changed?
”M”: Ummmm... I never sleep. And it’s softened me up, man. It’s amazing how much it changes the way you filter things. Watching films, even.
DA: Oh, yeah.
”M”: You become a total marshmallow at the strangest times.
DA: What do you mean?
”M”: I saw Steve Gaghan’s film last night... SYRIANA...
DA: Oh, yeah?
”M”: ... and there’s a sequence involving Matt Damon’s kid that just... destroyed me...
DA: Oh, my god... [laughs]
”M”: I know. I know.
DA: Don’t print that. They’ll call you a wimp.
[D’oh! - “M”]
”M”: I know.
DA: How is SYRIANA?
”M”: Really good. I’m still digesting it.
DA: Fantastic. I sort of know Steve. We shared DPs...
”M”: It’s very TOUCH OF EVIL.
DA: Oh, great. Great. That’s fantastic. That’s quite a comparison. I can’t wait to see it. Warner Bros. hasn’t let me see it yet. When’s it coming out? Couple of weeks from now, right?
”M”: Yeah. End of this month, I think. Limited. But tell me... when do we see THE FOUNTAIN?
DA: So, yeah... we, uh... we locked picture about a week-and-a-half ago...
DA: It’s been a... it’s been a real... mind-fuck. It’s just a very, very hard film to cut. I shot a lot of footage and, uh, just finding the best picture in there is always really hard. Y’know, you have to be responsible to the actors and all the people who worked on it to make sure that you get their absolute best work out there. That’s very, very hard.
”M”: So when do you start working with Clint Mansell on the score?
DA: Clint started. Clint’s been on for a while now, and he’s delivering... he’s actually coming out here. He lives in LA normally now, and he’s coming out to the city next week. He’s got, uh... he’s going to London first to meet with some potential really cool collaborators that may, uh, may actually perform some of the music on the film, which I can’t talk about yet. We’re, uh, until we figure out who it’s going to be. And then he’s coming to New York, and we’ll just jump in. But he’s already delivered... I mean, he’s already done a pass on, um, most of the movie. It’s really... It’s very, very different than anything I think he’s done before and anything I’ve been involved with.
”M”: That’s cool.
DA: Yeah, it’s really going to be a beautiful score, I think. So that’s starting to come together. And then we have a lot of visual effects shots to finish. We’ve got about 200 more VFX shots to finish. That’s been the main reason why we haven’t been able to get out this year, so... I don’t think we’re going to finish our last VFX shot until the end of February or so.
”M”: Well, I’m just glad you weren’t so married to a release date that you rushed things.
DA: Yeah, they’ve been very... Warners and New Regency have been really supportive in letting me take the time to find the best version of the film. They gave me a lot of time, which is very, very generous of them. It’s a shame, because, you know, I’ve been working on it so long that... [laughs]... I want to get it out there. But there’s a few things that will get out, and I guess that’s why they wanted us to talk today, was ‘cause I convinced them to do this teaser.
”M”: I think that’s Wednesday that it goes live.
DA: Is that what they said? That’s awesome. Awesome. I’ve sort of been in touch, but I’ve sort of been underground here. But, yeah, it’s gonna come out and it’s really cool. I actually cut it with the guys at Warners and Regency, and I think it’s really... this guy Jim Frederick at Warner Bros, who cuts, I think, all their trailers. He cuts a lot of their trailers. I mean, I’m sure it’s a huge department. But he was really collaborative and it’s a very very different little teaser. It’s only like thirty seconds long, but it’s pretty cool, and it gives you a good taste of the film. I think it’s coming out on Apple... is that how that works? Like a big-screen or something?
”M”: Well, if Apple does it the way they do most of the high-profile trailers right now, they’ll do an HD version, there’ll be the three different Quick Time versions...
DA: Right, right.
”M”: ... it’ll be nice.
DA: I am so psyched. That hi-def stuff in insane, how it comes out.
”M”: Did you see the new KONG trailer in HD?
DA: Which one?
”M”: The new KING KONG trailer?
DA: Oh, wow, did they release a new one?
”M”: Yeah, they just put it online yesterday.
DA: Oh, my god.
”M”: The HD version is shocking.
DA: Oh, wow. Great, great, great, great. I’ve got to go do that as soon as I get off the phone. I’ll go check that out. I also convinced them to try and podcast it, ‘cause I’m all into that thing. So they’re going to do that as well.
”M”: Right. That’s the other new option on the Apple site. The video downloads.
DA: Oh, really? That’s cool. I always... I had talked to Don Buckley... you know Don, right?
[Don Buckley is one of the great old school Warner Bros. publicists who has been there since the glory days of Kubrick and Clint, and was one of the gracious hosts of my Montreal visit to the FOUNTAIN set. – “M”]
DA: ... and I said, “Can you podcast it?” Because I haven’t gotten my video iPod yet, but I will. I’m very excited.
”M”: It’s like every time I think I’ve got the coolest toy, they make a new toy that’s even cooler.
DA: Exactly. It’s the one thing that keeps me from killing myself is the next best piece of technology. Y’know what I mean? It’s always like, “Okay, now that’s cool.” I’ve got to be there when they finally combine the Palm Pilot and the iPod and the telephone and the GPS and... when all of that is in one thing... then I can die.
”M”: Have you shown your cut to any of the actors yet?
DA: Yeah. Both Hugh and Rachel have seen it...
”M”: And are they happy with it?
DA: Oh, yeah. Hugh was... we showed it to Hugh a couple of weeks ago. He got a break from X-MEN, and he came... he was in New York and we showed it to him, and he was pretty psyched.
”M”: That’s so great.
DA: Well, it’s a big relief. That’s always the big thing, is when you show it to the actors, and you’re like... you hope they’re crying at the end.
”M”: It’s such a different thing for him. I think it’s a really important thing for him.
DA: I hope so. I mean, you know... he’s really into it. We have a bunch of looping to do now, so I’m going to go out and see him in Vancouver in a couple of weeks to, uh, to loop the film. And he’s so talented. He just basically... what I’m going to do is, and I’ve never tried to do this before, but because he’s, like, in every scene in the movie, is I’m just going to play the movie for him and let him, like, go along with it, and loop the whole thing that way. The reason I want to do that is because we looped a few little things, and he could just basically... the first time he goes through it, even though he doesn’t know the cut, he stays in synch with his character. [laughs] That’s how talented he is. He can just see it and instantly react to it. So we’re going to try that.
DA: That should be a lot of fun. Just run it for 90 minutes and see what he does.
”M”: Is that the running time? It’s coming in at 90 minutes?
DA: It’s, uh... no. I don’t know the running time, actually. I’m not sure... you know, I think it’s longer, but I’m not sure exactly. The credits aren’t on it yet.
”M”: It’s funny, because even though it’s such an epic journey, it really is a compact script. I would believe you if you told me it was only 90 minutes.
DA: It is. Well, you know, I think we tried to... that was part of trying to make it for the right price, cause these films are hard to... anything that’s out of the strict genre box... you know... they just seem like they’re really hard films to make. It’s been... every film I’ve made so far doesn’t quite fit in a genre. PI was not quite SF, not quite drama, and also was black-and-white, and I was nobody, so nobody gave me money for that. And then REQUIEM... that was maybe a drug movie, maybe... it can be a lot of things. Maybe an art film. It didn’t quite fit in a genre. And definitely THE FOUNTAIN is... it’s got a lot of different elements in it. It’s a sci-fi, and there’s the period piece, and there’s, you know, the magical. I’ve been calling it a psychedelic fairy tale. What do you think of that?
”M”: I think that’s as close as you’re going to get to summing up the right mood.
DA: Well, because psychedelic, and... it is a fairy tale. It is. There’s the love story about living forever, once upon a time... and the psychedelic is in the way it’s told. That’s sort of been my pitch.
”M”: So you’ve shown it to the actors, and they like it. How are you feeling about it?
DA: I’m so happy and thrilled with it. It really is... when the studio said, “Okay, lock the picture and finish it up” about a week-and-a-half ago, it felt... it was just a great feeling. I really feel like it’s... it’s beyond... when you do a film, no matter how much homework you do on a movie, when you shoot it, it just becomes something completely different. No matter how much 2-D homework you do, when you get there in a 3-dimensional, and there are actors in that 3-dimensional space, it just becomes so different. And then when you get to the editing stage, you’ve just got so much footage, and for me and Jay, the editor, it just became like this overwhelming mound of footage to try and figure out. And also with a film like this, with a structure that can change so easily, how that structure changes can have such an impact on what that film is. It really was a jigsaw puzzle of trying to find the best solution within all the material we had. So for me and Jay, it was a really beautiful feeling to finally get to a place where we were really thrilled with every minute of the film, and it’s something to me which has done the thing which is necessary, which is... I think it’s going to keep people interested, and it’s going to be a very, very different experience for anyone who sees it.
”M”: Okay, so then, I guess the other big news lately has been you signing on to do the episode of LOST.
DA: [laughs] Oh, yeah!
DA: What do you think of that? You think that’s cool?
”M”: I love the show.
”M”: It’s so addictive. They couldn’t seem more excited, either. They just put out a thing... if you sign up at their site, they send you a newsletter thing, sort of a “from the writer’s room” thing every so often... and they just put out a thing last week where they were like, “OHMYGODWEGOTDARRENARONOFSKY!”
DA: [laughs] That’s very flattering. I just love the show. I just, uh, I had heard about it, and it sounded like it was right up my alley, because I’m from the Rod Serling fanbase.
”M”: For me, I’m a PRISONER freak...
”M”: ... and this sort of scratches that itch.
DA: Exactly. During the shoot on THE FOUNTAIN in Montreal, I had... I was watching tapes of it, and it was really addictive. It was like the one thing I could watch to just clear my mind at the end of the day before I crashed out, y’know? It was just so much fun. I just got really into it. And then, um, I was like, Well, I wonder if they’d ever be interested in... you know... And I’m thinking, they shoot it in Hawaii. I love all the actors. I mean, the casting on that show is just superb. It’s great.
”M”: I think if you’re a fan of the show, it’s really because of that ensemble.
DA: Yeah. And they’re all great. I mean, I don’t know... how do you... that’s the amazing thing to me about the show, is that they cast all these great actors that no one’s really... I mean, most of them... some of them have done a lot of great work, but a lot of them, I had never seen before, and they’re just great. So I was sort of like, That’d be cool. Just spend a couple of weeks in Hawaii with actors. I definitely... look, I’m going to them. They didn’t come to me. So it’s not like going to be, by any means, “a Darren Aronofsky show.” I’m just going there to do an episode of LOST.
”M”: I’ve talked to a couple of guys recently... I talked to Peter Hyams, who was directing some episodes of THRESHHOLD... and it seems like one of the great things about TV has got to be how you go from signing on to prepping the script to production, and then it’s on the air in what seems like weeks, as compared to a feature.
DA: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. It takes a long time. This will be a lot less... I’m really servicing someone else’s vision here. I’m trying to do it the best as I can, but it’s really... they have their own visual style, which I think works very well for their show, and they have their acting style, which is clear. I’m just psyched to honor that and to be part of that lore. And maybe I can actually find out a few secrets.
”M”: [laughs] Your ulterior motive surfaces.
DA: I can hold it over my friends’ heads a little bit. I’ve been trying to talk to Damon, like, “Okay, come on, how’s it all add up?” But he never... how am I supposed to direct it if I don’t know the truth? [laughs]
”M”: I have a friend who is connected to the show, and they must have implanted microphones in all of them, because he won’t say anything even in private.
DA: When I ask the wrong question on the phone, they just get really silent.
”M”: Or they smile at you a lot.
DA: Oh, do they?
”M”: “Nope. Can’t tell you.” So do you guys have any plan about when THE FOUNTAIN might actually be...
DA: I don’t know yet. I think they’re just going to let me finish it. I don’t think it’s going to be this winter. It’s definitely ’06. They haven’t given me a date yet. I’m just happy to get it done. And you know what? They are really good at what they do, at selling movies, and hopefully they will figure out the best place and way of bringing it out. I can’t wait to get it out. I’m psyched to show it to everyone who’s been supportive for s long. Including yourself. I’d love to show it as soon as we can. At this point, I’m going to wait until it’s completely polished and scored and mixed and on film, as opposed to showing it on HD, or without the proper mix. They’ve been really great, and they don’t want to test it. They’re just going to finish it, which is very cool. There are still the 200 FX shots...
”M”: That’s more than you originally had planned.
DA: Yeah, I sort of added a few.
”M”: I’ll bet.
DA: There are just these amazing things you can do with VFX now that are very, very subtle things, which I learned. You can do... you can split the screen now. Say you have two actors sharing the screen, and the timing between their lines is not quite right. You can actually split the screen and speed up one side. You can off-set the timing on one side, so that you can change how their interaction works. You can do these little subtle effects that no one will ever notice, but they actually help the drama of the film. If you like a certain part of a performance, but something else is happening onscreen that you don’t like, you can take it out or you can manipulate it. The tools you have in Photoshop are there and available now for motion pictures, which is just fantastic.
”M”: It seems like the freedom that affords you in the editing room has got to be liberating.
DA: It’s a lot less pressurized. Instead of spending $200,000 a day, you’re spending a fraction of that. And also, you know, the graphic novel’s about to come out.
”M”: When does that hit?
DA: That’s going to hit any day now, I think. I just got my first bound copy like two days ago. They’ve actually agreed to let it come out first. So that’s actually going to be in comic book stores in mid-November. Literally a week or two. And then it’ll be in Barnes & Nobles and other bookstores December 1st. It’s great. Have you ever seen any of the art? Did I show you any of it?
”M”: We saw a little bit of it in Montreal.
DA: It’s completely different than the film, so it won’t ruin the film. It just kind of adds to the mythology of the story, because it’s Kent Williams’s take on the script. He brought his own vision to it. The characters are... it’s not one of those cheesy comics where it’s a bad likeness of Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. It’s... it’s his interpretation of what the characters look like. So... and then, of course, it’s based on a script was from before it went through the shooting process, and then the shooting process changes it, and the editing process changes it more, so it’s a very different experience. I think Kent did a really beautiful job. So that’s coming out, which is... there are definitely some peeks coming now at what we’ve been up to for the last few years.
”M”: That’ll keep people happy. Because, seriously, the volume of mail we get asking for any information about the film...
DA: Is that true? That’s really cool. [to someone else] ... what? They’re waiting downstairs? Tell them I’ll be right down. [to me] We’re about to go watch some of the visual effects now on film for the first time. Okay. Will you call me after you see the, uh... have you seen the teaser?
”M”: Nope. Not yet.
DA: It fucking rocks. [laughs] I’ll be very, very curious... either call me or drop me an e-mail. I’ll be curious to see what you think. And what are you going to do with this? Just put it up or something?
”M”: I’ll put this up to let people know that the trailer’s coming this week.
DA: Oh, that’s cool.
”M”: We’ll let them know the teaser’s coming, let them know where you guys are with the movie...
DA: There are going to be a lot more surprises. I heard people really enjoyed the screen saver...
DA: There’s going to be a lot more stuff like that.
”M”: That screen saver was like downloadable drugs.
DA: That’s only the tip of the iceberg from what we’ve got coming.
”M”: I’ve tried to describe the Peter Park stuff to people...