Since the dawn of celluloid, screenwriters have been the unseen gems of the film world, too often overlooked or eclipsed by big name actors and directors. OTB aims to set the record straight, showcasing exciting new talent on the screenwriting circuit. This week’s feature takes us into the minds of two writers responsible for Black Swan – the sensational psychodrama from director Darren Aronofsky. The film has already swiped up 4 Golden Globe nominations and a host of others in smaller festivals, including ones for best screenplay. So Mark Heyman and Andres Heinz are upcoming scribes to keep a beady eye on.
What’s the Big Deal?
Well, a lot. Aronofsky has disturbed and dazzled us with Requiem for a Dream, and recently Micky Rourke’s ‘muscular’ showpiece The Wrestler. So writers Mark and Andres must have felt a bit chuffed when they were chosen, despite their limited industry experience, to pen the director’s next piece. Black Swan follows the physical and mental breakdown of Nina (Natalie Portman), an innocently gifted ballerina caught up in fierce rivalry with her own understudy Lily (Mila Kunis). Pressurised by slimy artistic director Thomas (Vincent Cassell) to inhabit her given part in every respect, ahem, Nina finds herself spiralling into a crazed and erotic journey that warps its way on screen through a surreal cosmetic transformation.
Mark Heyman: (Left) Mark was a hopeful director studying at the NYU film school when Aronofsky gave a guest talk. He took the opportunity to strike up a conversation, and ten minutes later had landed a job as an assistant working on the director’s cerebral drama The Fountain. Within two years Mark was co-producing The Wrestler. Soon he had earned enough of Aronofsky’s trust and respect for him to hand over his next baby, collaborating on the screenplay.
Asked why he thought Aronofsky chose other writers rather than developing the script himself, Mark said, ‘Why write if you can get someone else to do it for you?’ Good point.
Black Swan is Mark’s second feature film credit, though he has two new screenplays in the pipeline, including Machine Man, another collaboration with Aronofsky about a tech firm engineer who uses titanium to upgrade his body. Could titanium be the new silicone? ‘Silicone is SO 2010′, they’ll say.
Andres Heinz: (Right) Andres also studied at NYU, but got his big break when his agent sent Aronofsky a draft of his screenplay The Understudy, a twisted tale of ambition, loosely based on the Dostoevsky story of the same name. Aronofsky loved it, and had him developing the script into what became Black Swan. Andres claims he always uses step outlines to develop his screenplays, rather than hacking away at the same dialogue script until it works. Andres is now working on his directorial debut to be shot in Mexico.
Male writers have invited controversy over depictions of complex female characters on screen, so it will be very interesting to guage reactions to Black Swan across the entire gender-age-socio-politico-sexual matrix.
Black Swan will be released in cinemas in the UK and Ireland on Friday 21st January, 2011.