Not every director would start their U.S. movie premiere with an apology, but then again, Darren Aronofsky isn’t just any director.
“You’re laughing and smiling now, but you’re all going to really hate me in about an hour and a half. So the first thing I want to do is apologize,” he joked ahead of the New York screening of his new psychological thriller “Mother!” to a star-studded packed house at Radio City Music Hall on Wednesday.
The film, which stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, has received major buzz and mixed reviews since its debut at the Venice Film Festival last week. Some have championed the film, others say it falls short of expectations, and some have wondered whether it will push audiences too far.
“I was really shaken. My first reaction [to seeing the film] was that we took it too far,” said Lawrence. “But then after the images died down a little bit, [the movie’s] exactly what we’re supposed to be doing and what we need to be doing. We have a message and if we watered it down to make people comfortable then what’s the point? Why even make it?”
The movie centers on Lawrence, a homemaker, and Bardem, an off-his-game poet, whose lives are turned upside down with the arrival of two strangers, played by Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris.
Lawrence said that her part in “Mother!” raised the bar when it comes to new projects now, saying she prioritizes challenging roles and working with directors and stories that will push her further.
For Aronofsky, unlike past projects that took years, this one gelled in a matter of months. The film has already drawn comparisons to Biblical tales and the classic “Rosemary’s Baby,” but the director said the takeaways are really up to the audience.
“The same pattern and rhythm isn’t interesting to me so I wanted to take one emotion and make it into a movie. A lot of people call it different things: it’s rage, insatiability and it’s for you guys to decide what it is,” Aronofsky told Variety at the screening.
The project was certainly a challenge for Bardem, who stretched his acting chops again as the artistic husband in the film. He remembered first meeting the director over Skype to discuss the film.
“The angle was so strange [on his computer] and I just remember thinking, of course, Darren wouldn’t just sit down with a Skype like a normal person but would do something weird,” he said.
After signing on, Bardem said getting to spend three full months with the cast and the director to rehearse made a world of difference to the movie. “[Darren] could have done something easier and more pleasant for everyone but no, he wanted to explore and go and put his hands in the mud and talk about things he’s interested and concerned in.”
For producer Scott Franklin, who’s been partners with Aronofsky for years, the movie is the director and writer’s top accomplishment to date.
“This one feels like a culmination of all of [his movies],” he said. “It’s also a film that is a culmination of who we are as director and producers and how we’ve grown as humans and filmmakers and individuals.”
“Mother!” has a wide release on Sept. 15.