It’s been four years since filmmaker Darren Aronofsky unleashed “Mother!” on the world, polarizing critics and audiences, and he’s still fielding questions about it.
Aronofsky delivered a masterclass at Egypt’s El Gouna Film Festival on Sunday, an event which was delayed by a few hours because the original indoor venue was oversubscribed and the organizers had to move it to the vast outdoor Festival Plaza.
The masterclass began on the expected trajectory of a retrospective on Aranofsky’s feature film career, beginning with “Pi” (1998) and “Requiem for a Dream” (2000), but the filmmaker soon asked for a show of hands from the audience. When he realized that a significant section of the audience consisted of young filmmakers, actors and writers, he opened the floor to their questions for the majority of the 90-minute event.
Questions arose around “Mother!” and its allegorical depiction of the torment of Mother Earth. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, the topic of its controversial depiction of violence dominated the early audience inquiries.
“We were nervous about how controversial it was going to be, but then when you release a movie to the world, and there’s so many angry people, you start to wonder, ‘Hold on, what did I do?,'” said Aronofsky. “I get some of the best hate mail ever, which is great.”
The filmmaker said that a particularly peeved punter somehow got hold of his number and texted him that they were going to be consuming coal and doing as much destruction as possible against the planet to spite him. “But also out of that, the type of excitement and passion you get from other people that really connect with the film reminds you why you’re doing it,” said Aronofsky.
Next up for Aronofsky is the National Geographic series “Limitless,” starring Chris Hemsworth, which he is also producing. Also on the horizon is “The Whale,” a feature film starring Brendan Fraser, which is currently in post-production.
“In the final episode of [‘Limitless’] we’re actually having [Hemsworth] confront some of his biggest fears, and so I very lovingly said ‘Hey, we want to do a few surprises along the way. Are you game?’ He was very excited by that, but he’s like a practical joker type of guy,” said Aronofsky.
In “The Whale,” based on Samuel D. Hunter’s play of the same name, Fraser plays an obese English teacher trying to reconnect with his daughter. Aronofsky revealed that he has continued to find new layers in the text during the post-production process.
The filmmaker dispensed advice on directing, writing, producing and acting, using his experiences on “The Fountain” (2006), “The Wrestler” (2008), “Black Swan” (2010) and “Noah” (2014) as examples. As for the future, Aronofsky dropped a teaser for a project that he has in the works for nearly his entire career.
“There’s something I’ve been working on for 20 years, a script that came to me 20 years ago that we keep trying to do,” Aronofsky said. “I’ve tried to do it as an episodic thing, I tried to do animated, I tried to do live-action, I tried every single way, but I actually think it might get done this time. So it’s coming.”
The El Gouna Film Festival runs Oct. 14-22.