Darren Aronofsky’s creative rep is marked by the heady pursuit of pure cinema — mind-spinning image rushes like 1998’s p and 2000’s Requiem for a Dream — but the indie icon doesn’t see himself as a moviemaker: ”I think of myself as a tapestry maker. I just weave all the things that interest me into a film.” Around 2000, the things that were intriguing Aronofsky were conquistadors, David Bowie’s ”Space Oddity,” and neuroscience. Together, they inspired The Fountain, a trippy meditation on love and death. What happened next is either the stuff of Hollywood legend or just auteur heartbreak. In 2002, just seven weeks prior to shooting, Brad Pitt bailed on the $72 million production, effectively killing it. Devastated, the director rewrote the script and turned his costly epic into a $35 million non-epic, and soon The Fountain was gushing again, with Hugh Jackman taking over the lead, playing three different characters (or are they?) in three different time periods, each one driven to impossible romantic quests, like finding the fountain of youth.
The shoot was ”raw and exhausting,” says Jackman, and the love scene with Rachel Weisz, who happens to be the director’s fiancée, was very, very awkward. Recalls Jackman: ”I remember Darren telling me that we were only going to kiss.â?¦ So we started kissing. Rachel takes off my shirt. Still kissing. And then I hear Darren: ‘Take off his pants! Take off his pants!’ I started laughing and said, ‘Sorry, Darren, this is getting too kinky.”’