“How do you make an independent film that makes people curious and want to come to it? Just get a couple of girls kissing, and it’s all set,” Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky said to a room full of laughs at yesterday’s press conference. Of course, he’s referring to the Natalie Portman–Mila Kunis make-out scene in the trailer that nearly made the Internet explode when it was released.
Aside from the kiss, Black Swan is arguably the most talked about film this TIFF because it appeals to many different audiences: film buffs who follow Aronofsky’s work (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler), dancers and everyone who’s taken an intro ballet class, and fashion types who want to ogle the Rodarte costumes.
“Darren and I started talking about the film eight years ago, when I was still in college,” said Portman, who plays the lead role of Nina, an up-and-coming ballerina in New York whose status is threatened by a sexier company member (Kunis). “What he had in mind for the movie was very specific. In fact, what he told me in our initial meeting ended up being the movie.”
To prepare for the role, Portman, who did ballet as a kid, spent a year training and was put on a strict diet, which was prolonged when the independent film had trouble acquiring funding. “Every time we pushed [the schedule back] Natalie was like, ‘Another three weeks of carrot sticks and almonds? I’m going to kill you!’”
Aronofsky also kept in mind the parallels between the film and his last movie, The Wrestler. “The connections of the two films didn’t escape us when we started work on Black Swan,” he said. “Ballet being the highest art and wrestling being the lowest art—if you consider wrestling an art—both have performers that use their bodies in extreme ways to entertain.”
Winona Ryder, who was also in attendance, plays Beth, the aging (in the dancer world anyway) star ballerina who Nina replaces. Her part in the movie is really small and Ryder didn’t say anything about the film during the presser, aside from when she was asked if she ever studied ballet (she didn’t).
See photos of the press conference below.