OK, The Fountain – Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, time travel -- was a cosmic bomb. Production budget: $35 million, total box office: $10 million. But Darren Aronofsky followed his 2006 metaphysical flop with The Wrestler, the much-hailed 2008 indie that resurrected Mickey Rourke’s career, glommed two Oscar nominations, cost $6 million and grossed $26 million. Factor in foreign box office, DVD sales, cable and whatnot, and The Wrestler looks like the kind of profitable property the studios’ boutique wings -- in this case Fox Searchlight – dream of.
So why was it so hard for Aronofsky to find somebody to bankroll his ballet world psychothriller, Black Swan? Even Fox Searchlight, which eventually signed on, was balky.
“This happens every time, every time,” laments the New York-based director, who launched his career with the super-cheap indie, Pi, and went on to adapt Hubert Selby Jr.’s drug-addled Requiem for a Dream. “It doesn’t matter how well a film does, as soon as you hand in a script that’s just outside-the-box, everyone just sort of goes, `No.’
“When I was doing the wrestling film," he recalls, "everyone was saying, `Why are you making a film about wrestling? With Mickey Rourke? Why are you destroying your career?’ And then it did okay, and I thought, OK, well, here’s a sexy, scary ballet thriller with a real movie star -- Natalie Portman -- and a great, great supporting cast — Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey — come on, what’s the hold up?! And we ended up making it for less than half of what we asked for. Less than half!”