There is one thing that surely we can all agree upon when it comes to mother! — Darren Aronofsky‘s latest film starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, and Michelle Pfeiffer — which opened last weekend. And that is: this is a movie that has struck a most intense nerve amongst filmgoing audiences. Although it got plenty of positive reviews, the movie also got the dubious honor of receiving an F CinemaScore. EW chatted with Jennifer Lawrence a couple of days before the film opened but after the film had bowed in Venice and Toronto to mixed reception.
[Important spoiler warning: you should not read on unless you’ve already seen mother! for yourself. ]
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Are you surprised at all by how divided people are in their opinion of the film?
JENNIFER LAWRENCE: No, not at all. The people who love it love it and want to see it another time. The people who don’t like, absolutely despise it.
It feels like there are very few people who occupy the middle ground.
There is no middle ground. We knew that it was divided. That’s what so exciting — everybody is going to feel something. It’s going to create a conversation. It’s going to create a controversy. Nobody is going to leave not getting something from it.
I do think it’s interesting how different the reactions are — you don’t really get that with a lot of movies or directors.
No. I think he’s the bravest, certainly the most controversial director of our time.
What was it like for you to read the script for the first time. Did you get it right away?
I got it immediately but that was because before he had sent me the script he had come to me and told me these ideas that he had for an allegory and the metaphors he wanted to work with. I was in. It was the most unique sounding movie I’d ever heard, and incredibly brave. I feel like there’s different schools of thought on this movie. Some think: don’t tell anyone anything, let them figure it out on their own. I feel like it’s better to know and understand the metaphor and allegories because then you know what you are looking at. I’ve been spilling the themes and metaphors all over town!
I do think there’s a couple of different interpretations you can take from it — even when you do know. I kept joking that it’s just like a really dark version of The Giving Tree.
Are you kidding? Darren gave me that book! That was one of our references — she is the giving tree.
In a perfect world, I’d love to watch the movie with a list of annotations so that I’d get all the references.
That’s what I’m doing for my family. I sat them down and was like, okay, let’s start from the beginning — this is this, this is that.
So how do you explain the movie to people who want to know what it is about?
I have different answers. One of them in short is: the movie was called Day Six [on set]: it could be about the creation and the end of the universe. You have the creation of man and women and then the corruption of man and woman and then overpopulation and creation and religion and so on and so forth.
What was it like to have Darren as a director?
It was interesting. He’s totally different than anybody I’ve ever worked with. He’s really instinctive. He’s obviously incredibly creative and really instinctual, but he’s really specific which was interesting. The entire vision of the movie is him. It’s all conceived by him. He’s specific but at the same time open to discussion. It was a really good environment.
But, I’d imagine, a tough one too considering the kinds of things your character goes through. Was there a particularly hard scene that was hard to shake for you?
I still feel like I can’t even say — even with the movie out! There’s one scene that nobody should ever feel. And that’s what I said to Darren when he wanted to do it again. I was in the medical unit with oxygen up my nose and he’s like, “It was out of focus, we gotta do it again.” I was like, you are making me go to a place that you have never been. I just wanted to get out and finish it. It’s scary not being able to control yourself — I’ve recently had problems with plane anxiety and it’s really similar. I’m not afraid of the airplane, I’m afraid of me on the airplane and losing control of myself.
I do always worry I’ll just stand up mid-flight and scream, “We’re all going down!”
I’ve done that. [Laughs] You know when they hit an air pocket and it feels like you’re falling? I did it on a night flight one time: “We’re going down! It’s coming down!”
Can’t you get arrested for doing that?
Can you? I tried to jump out of an Air France flight once. I can’t believe I didn’t get arrested. I got really claustrophobic and I had to get out.
Would you be able to do a movie like this one again?
No. I don’t regret it. I’m happy I did it. If I had to do it again? If there was a mother! sequel? [Laughs] No. I wouldn’t be able to do it again. I did it once and I gave it my all.
Was there a point in your rehearsal process when you realized just how intense an experience this would be?
The scene I’m talking about — which is probably pretty annoying for people to read if they don’t know what I’m talking about — but even months before, in the rehearsal process, I had to listen to Lemonade while I [blocked] the movements I would do so they could prepare the camera. I had to listen to Beyoncé.
There are really big things, like the scene I’m imagining you’re talking about, that are hard to watch, but then there’s also small details that really up the tension factor. Like the not braced sink people refused to not sit on. That drove me insane.
But that’s what is so cool about what Darren is doing. He’s stripping out all nationality away from everyone — if something happens on the other side of the world, you don’t care. If it happens to your neighbor’s house, you care. If someone puts out a cigarette on your carpet, that matters to you. So what he’s saying is this is the entire world, This is our one earth. This is all our sink. [Laughs] Stop bouncing on it!