Childhood & Early Life
Born on February 12, 1969, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, New York, Darren Aronofsky is one of the two children of educators Charlotte and Abraham Aronofsky. He has a sister named Patti, who is a TV producer. His family was culturally Jewish, even if his parents were not particularly religious. He attended Edward R. Murrow High School.
As a youth, he accompanied his parents to Broadway performances, which first incited in him a curiosity for the show business. Initially, he was interested in biology and received training at The School for Field Studies in Kenya in 1985 and Alaska in 1986. During this period, he developed an interest in ungulates and decided to attend a school in Kenya.
He spent months backpacking through Europe and the Middle East before enrolling at Harvard University in 1987, to pursue a degree in social anthropology. Influenced by noted filmmakers, such as Akira Kurosawa, Roman Polanski, Terry Gilliam, Shinya Tsukamoto, Hubert Selby, Jr., Spike Lee, Satoshi Kon, and Jim Jarmusch, Aronofsky’s love for filmmaking truly blossomed in Harvard.
For his senior thesis, Aronofsky wrote and directed the short film ‘Supermarket Sweep’, which became one of the finalists in the 1991 Student Academy Awards. In the following year, he earned his MFA degree in directing from the AFI Conservatory. Furthermore, he received AFI Conservatory’s Franklin J. Schaffner Alumni Medal.
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Darren Aronofsky’s first short film was ‘Fortune Cookie’, made some months prior to ‘Supermarket Sweep’ in 1991. He continued to make short films after graduating from Harvard. ‘Protozoa’ was made in 1993 and ‘No Time’ in 1994. He also made a video segment for the video game ‘Soldier Boyz’, which was released in 1997.
He made his feature film debut with the 1998 release ‘Pi’. Starring Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis, and Ben Shenkman, the psychological and complex thriller covers a range of themes, including religion, mysticism, and the relationship of the universe with mathematics, and revolves around a gifted mathematician and his search for mathematical regularity in his imperfect, irrational existence.
Premiered at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, ‘Pi’ earned Aronofsky the Best Director award there. It also became the first film that was made available for online downloading.
In his next movie, ‘Requiem for a Dream’ (2000), he continued with surrealistic and psychological themes and used drug-induced hallucinations as a major plot point. It is based on Hubert Selby, Jr.'s novel of the same name and stars Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, and Jennifer Connelly.
While the film ‘Requiem for a Dream’ barely made money at the box office, it was received positively by the critics, and for her performance, Burstyn was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress.
In May 2000, Aronofsky was supposed to direct an adaptation of David Wiesner's 1999 children's book ‘Sector 7’ for Nickelodeon Movies, but it did not materialise. In the mid-2000s, he was in talks with Warner Bros. for a Batman film based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel ‘Batman: Year One’. However, it was never made either.
He was one of the screenwriters attached to developing the script for the horror film ‘Below’, which was released in 2002.
His next feature film, ‘The Fountain,’ encountered problems right from the beginning. Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett were originally supposed to star in the film but the former quit the project seven weeks before the filming started and the latter could not be involved because of her pregnancy. The project was also suffering from cost overruns. As a result, Warner Bros. shelved the project.
The film, ‘The Fountain,’ was ultimately made with Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz in leading roles and released in 2006. Aronofsky has stated the film closely reflects his personal spiritual beliefs. ‘The Fountain’ was a box-office failure and received mixed reviews from the critics. However, it has since archived a cult status.
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Aronofsky’s fifth feature was the 2008 sports drama ‘The Wrestler’. Starring Mickey Rourke in the eponymous role, the film tells the story of an ageing professional wrestler, who, disregarding his declining health and plummeting fame, continues to be active within the ring. The film was a critical and commercial success, earning Rourke an Oscar nomination and effectively revitalizing his career.
In 2010, he served as one of the producers of David O. Russell’s biographical sports drama ‘The Fighter’, which was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won two.
Darren Aronofsky had begun working on the script of ‘Noah’ in 2000. The first draft was finished in 2003 and the filming began in July 2012. Premiered in Mexico City on March 10, 2014, ‘Noah’ was one of Aronofsky’s most commercially successful films. Made on a $125 million budget, the film earned $362.6 million at the box office.
The film ‘Noah’ was well-received by the critics as well. However, it garnered controversy because of its religious content. Many Islamic countries, including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, and Pakistan banned the film prior to its release.
Between 2014 and 2017, Aronofsky produced four films, including his own 2017 release ‘mother!’. The 2015 political thriller ‘Zipper’ was directed by Mora Stephens and stars Patrick Wilson, Lena Headey, and Richard Dreyfuss. The 2016 biographical drama ‘Jackie’ was based on the life of Jackie Kennedy after her husband’s assassination in 1969.
The psychological horror ‘mother!’ (2017) is Aronofsky’s most recent feature film. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, and Michelle Pfeiffer, the film received positive reviews from the critics but, as with of most Aronofsky’s films, attracted controversy for its biblical allegories and depiction of violence.
He produced the documentary series ‘One Strange Rock’ that has been airing on National Geographic since March 2018. His first television project, the show deals with how life developed on planet Earth. It focuses on the unique perspective of eight astronauts who had been away from Earth for about 1,000 days. He is also a producer of the upcoming crime drama ‘White Boy Rick.’
Darren Aronofsky previously dated actress Rachel Weisz. Their relationship began sometime in the summer of 2001. By 2005, they were engaged. Their son, Henry, was born on May 31, 2006, in New York City. The family resided in the East Village in Manhattan. However, in November 2010, they revealed that they had been living separately for months but would continue raising their son together.
Aronofsky started dating actress Jennifer Lawrence in September 2016, right after they started working together in ‘mother!’. The relationship eventually ended in November 2017.
He is also an environmental activist and his concerns for environmental issues have been reflected in his films such as ‘Noah’ and ‘mother!’. He is the recipient of both the Humane Society of the United States’ and PETA’s Humanitarian Awards and serves as a board member of both The Sierra Club Foundation and The School for Field Studies.