and Marisa Tomei
travel well together. And they work well together
too. It wasn't long into their first meeting that they figured out why: "We went to the same high school," says Tomei during a recent visit to San Francisco. "He's younger than me. He knew my brother. On our first meeting we were really understanding each other. We had a nice rapport. And he was like, 'yeah. We're both from Brooklyn! We're speaking the same language. I'm not scared of you, and you're not scared of me!"
Mickey Rourke, winning rave notices for the film, stars as Randy 'The Ram' Robinson, a former superstar of 1980s still wrestling on a small-time circuit for tiny paychecks and little glory. Tomei plays Cassidy, a stripper, and his only true confidant over the years. (Both actors won San Francisco Film Critics Circle awards this week.) Rather than a high visual style, Aronofsky directs with a more documentary-like immediacy, and the result is an impressively rich character study, set in a unique, sad and fascinating world. The Wrestler is now out on DVD.
Greencine: This movie seems so improvisatory. Marisa, what did the script read like when you received it?
Marisa Tomei: It had a lot of detail, and a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff from the world of wrestling. The stuff with Mickey getting his hair done, those details were all in the script. When they got there, they improvised some, but the scenes were written.
GC: I'm sure everyone asks you what was it like to work with Mickey Rourke?
Marisa Tomei: I hope people ask him that about me!
GC: Is he like a teddy bear or is he freaky?
Marisa Tomei: He's like a freaky teddy bear.
GC: What is Darren Aronofsky like as a director?
Marisa Tomei: He was really detail oriented, very meticulous. His goal with this film was to be actor-centric, as The Fountain
was technical-centric. He was there all the time, and open all the time. It was fast and furious, but he liked to do a lot of takes. I've only had that one other time. Nancy Myers
(What Women Want) likes to do a lot of takes. It's really challenging. You feel like the well is drying up emotionally, and you have to go deeper to bring that water up again.
GC: How many takes is a lot of takes?
Marisa Tomei: 30 takes. Even the dance alone was 26 takes. And that was 2 minutes of dancing on a pole. And that was just part of a day. It was a challenging shoot.
GC: Did you rehearse on this? Do you like rehearsing?
Marisa Tomei: I don't really like rehearsing with film. I prefer to just kind of go with the instinct, and then get the feedback after. Because if you rehearse and start talking about it, then it moves from something mysterious and unnamable to being overly articulated and thought out. Part of the craft is keeping your mind out of it.
GC: Okay, Darren. Imagine you're a film critic and you've seen the new Darren Aronofsky film and you love it but you're not quite sure how it fits in.
Darren Aronofsky: The first three films were definitely a chapter for me. So I don't know, maybe it's a new beginning. Some people have talked about some thematic links. I think they're there. I wasn't conscious of them, but some people bring them up and they're pretty interesting. Not even shots so much, but themes about the characters. Like characters falling at the end. But I just want to keep challenging myself. And I think that this was a big risk for me in a lot of ways. In some ways it wasn't because it was such a small film, but I was working with a different team and in a different way. It kept it interesting. You gotta keep it interesting somehow. Otherwise I'm just going to end up hanging out and fishing.
GC: Would you say you're getting more minimalist?
Darren Aronofsky: The first two films were exercises in subjective filmmaking and pushing that to the extreme. When I got to The Wrestler, it was going the completely the opposite direction. Basically the film is 98% objective. It's like a documentary. I call it "proactive documentary." In a real documentary, everything is reactive. If you're watching "Cops" and a guy runs away, a second later, the camera chases after the guy. We didn't have that second delay because we knew what the scene was about and we knew where Mickey or Marisa was going to go, so we were able to choreograph it.
So we had this style where we could give a documentary feel and allow realism to happen, but we were ready for it. There's no internal sound stuff, except for two or three times, when he's having the heart attack and when he's walking to the deli counter. I really didn't want to do that, but I couldn't resist. Sometimes it's OK to bend the rules for a good moment.
GC: Mickey Rourke wouldn't let you strap the camera to him?
Darren Aronofsky: He probably would have. I didn't do that in The Fountain because I was done with it. Every music video and commercial ended up doing it after us.
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