Excerpts from A Roundtable Interview with Darren Aronofsky
                                    Director of “The Wrestler
                                    Dallas , Texas
                                    November 20, 2008
 
Outlook:  I was fascinated by the scene where Marisa turns to him and quotes scripture to him.
DA:  Yes, I was interested in your response to that, after meeting you last night at the screening and learning that you are a minister…
Outlook:  Well, it’s from one of the Suffering Servant Songs in Isaiah…
DA:  I think it’s also at the opening of “The Passion Of The Christ.”
Outlook:  That, too.
DA:  Oh, yeah, I guess that was quoted, as well. (laughs)
Outlook:  Right. (laughs)  Well, it’s also in Handel’s “Messiah.”
DA:  Yeah.
Outlook:  But I think the whole thing about his cuts and bruises…”the chastisement that made us whole” sort of thing…I thought that was fascinating.
DA:  Well, good.
Outlook:  In my review, one of my Questions for Discussion, to the Christian audience I write to, is “Is it possible to quote scripture inappropriately”?”
DA:  (laughs) I’m sure.
Outlook:  I was also fascinated with the intertwining of their stories.  He’s in a world of fake athleticism, she’s in a world of fake eroticism…
DA:  They both have fake names, they both wear spandex…..
Outlook:  And they both show a lot of body.
DA:  Exactly.
Outlook:  And they’re both grappling with “What now?” and “What next?”
DA:  Well, anytime you do an independent film, and the stripper comes up, red flags go up, because it’s just like “Could be a cliché, you know?”  But what was so fascinating was just the connection between these two worlds.  I mean, me and the writer tried forever to think about something else she could do.  But the more we took away, the more upset I got, because I felt it was just a perfect match.  In reality, the wrestlers, when they’re done with their wrestling, go to the strip clubs and spend all the money they’ve just made.  So it just made a lot of sense.  And I think Marisa played it in a non-cliché way.  That line between the real world and the fake world is something she’s working on keeping straight and clear, and Mickey’s character is not even aware of it.  In fact “The Ram” has just kind of thrown away the real world, and made the ring, the fantasy world, who he is.  So she’s almost more of a mentor in the film.  I mean, she’s a love interest, as well, but she’s trying to direct him in the right way.  What she did that was so interesting is that she was kind of like a drunken tightrope walker, in the sense that she had this line separating two worlds.  She didn’t know which way she was going to go, just being pulled from both ways.
Outlook:  It added to the poignancy a lot, to watch that relationship try to develop, and neither one had the emotional grounding to know what to do.
DA:  Yeah, absolutely.  Absolutely.
Outlook:  This may surprise you a little bit, but there’s a point of identification I had with the main character, even though I’m not a wrestler, I’m a preacher.
DA:  Yeah?
Outlook:  You know, I’m approaching the end of my career, I’ve had larger venues in the past, I’m in a smaller venue now; and there’s that feeling that “OK, there are some things that I just want to hold on to, because it’s who I am.”  I’ve half-jokingly said that I’ll quit preaching when I show up on Sunday morning and nobody’s there to hear me, which is exactly where he was…
DA:  Yeah, yeah.  That’s very interesting.  You know, that’s kind of one of the universal things.  I haven’t heard it from a preacher, but I hear it from athletes, in the sense that, it could be about any sport:  baseball player, football player, even a ballet dancer.  At a certain point, your body can’t do what it used to be able to do.  And what does that mean?  There’s a thing about aging, and changing, and holding on to glory, and fame….
Outlook:  Well, and the culture wants youth.  They want to look at a preacher that looks more like him (pointing to a 30-something man)….
DA:  Do they really?  I’d rather get advice from you than from him, though, I tell you that much.  (laughs)
Outlook:  It’s a half-joke, in my profession, that every church secretly wants a thirty-something minister with a wife, 2 ½ kids, a dog, and an SUV…
DA:  Is that true?  Why?  I would think they’d want someone who has wisdom.
Outlook:  “To attract the youth.”
DA:  Oh, I see, to attract like, someone that 20-year-olds can identify with.  Same thing with Barack Obama!
Outlook:  So there’s something more universal you’ve tapped into…
DA:  I think so.  I hope so. 
Outlook:  Another universal point is the whole area of family dysfunction:  people having relationships in their family that they wish so fervently they could do over, or do differently, and they can’t, and when they try, it just lurches…those scenes were very powerful.
DA:  Thank you.  You know, it’s sad, but it’s almost a cliché among these wrestlers.  During their prime time, they would be on the road 350 days a year.  And when they come home, it’s like in that Johnny Cash movie, how do you suddenly become a normal Dad, when you’re a superhero on the road?  Also, they’re non-unionized, so they have no pension, no rights, no health care, no worker’s comp, none of that stuff.  There’s absolutely no protection for them.  And to compete, they’re on all these crazy drugs, and so their lives are all messed up.  That’s why so many of them drop dead all the time.  It’s tragic.  They should be in SAG (the Screen Actors Guild).  They’re entertainers.  But if I say any more about that, I’ll get in trouble…
Outlook:  You mentioned that you’ve already had a wrestler come up to you and thank you for telling his story.  You know you will have arrived when a stripper does the same…
DA:  (laughs) We’ve already had that!  They’ve said, “Nobody’s told that part of the story, how you’re trying to play this part of being erotic to the stranger, and keeping that separate from your real world...trying not to take that home with you.”
Outlook:  Your technique as a Director varies, depending on the actor?
DA:  Yeah, Mickey, for instance, is lazy.  You have to push him.  But after you do, between “Action!”  and “Cut!”, he was just so natural.  But it was getting him there.
Outlook:  How was it different working with Marisa and Evan?
DA:  Very different.  With Evan, you didn’t have to do anything.  Marisa was mixed, because during the nude scenes, you had to be very gentle, and encouraging, and even during the emotional scenes, she had a lot of emotion she had to show.  Every actor requires a different relationship.  So it’s just about figuring out what that person needs and trying to help them with it.
Outlook:  Thanks for your time.
DA:  Thank you very much.  Really.
 
 
  Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville, Texas