Producers for the shocking film explained why they weren’t worried about whether the Jennifer Lawrence starrer would appeal to a mass audience.
Writer-director Darren Aronofsky has said that the screenplay for mother! poured out of him, penning it in just a few days, faster than his usual pace.
But despite it’s free-flowing creation, the script still has some concrete inspirations.
“There were a lot of influences. The Giving Tree was a big influence, actually. The film is kind of a horror version of The Giving Tree,” he told The Hollywood Reporter at mother!‘s U.S. premiere in New York earlier this week. “There was Luis Bunuel’s The Exterminating Angel, where he basically took a slice of society and made a whole big comment about the world. Also I just had this idea. I kind of wanted to return back to my horror roots and make something scary again.”
The film stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem as a couple living an isolated existence in a remote Victorian home. Over the course of the movie, they’re visited by various strangers, including a couple played by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, and and are increasingly unsettled by their guests. Still none of the characters are given proper names, and Aronofsky told THR that was all intentional as part of the larger story he’s trying to tell.
“Beyond this kind of human story of a husband and wife whose relationship is starting to fall apart, there’s also a much larger allegory going on, a much bigger metaphor about not your mother, not my mother but our mother,” he said. “So Jen Lawrence played mother, and Javier played Him.”
Indeed, critics have been quick to connect the film to everything from Rosemary’s Baby to the Bible to environmental issues. And the film has more than its fair share of extreme scenes, particularly near the end. Aronofsky even apologized to the audience at Wednesday night’s Radio City Music Hall premiere for the horrors they were about to witness.
But the filmmaker’s longtime producers Ari Handel and Scott Franklin didn’t feel the need to tell Aronofsky to pull back for commercial purposes.
“That’s not the angle that we come at it from. I mean first of all, everything that Darren’s doing when he makes a film like this is designed to be entertaining, first and foremost. So there’s no concern about it not being commercial. The question is how do we take a movie that we want to make and make sure it’s entertaining at the same time. And that’s what we do,” Handel told THR ahead of the premiere.
Franklin added, “I think first of all you have to tell the story you want to tell and make the movie you want to make. The minute you start to think, ‘Oh is it commercial? Oh is it for a mass audience?’ and you veer away from your vision and your actual story, you’ll shoot yourself in the foot.”
Similarly Bardem appreciated how Aronofsky wasn’t holding back, even in his initial ideas, which he pitched to the actor in one of their first meetings.
“I thought it was a very courageous and brave movement coming from him because he could’ve done something way easier and pleasant for everyone, but no, he wanted to explore,” Bardem told a group of reporters. “He wanted to go and put his hands in the mud and talk about things that he’s concerned or interested about. I was very keen to help him to tell this story.”
Bardem’s fellow Oscar winner, Lawrence, takes yet another step away from her signature role in The Hunger Games with mother! and the actress told THR that she’s looking to be “challenged” when she considers which projects to do.
“I start with directors; it’s got to be a director who interests me,” Lawrence said of her criteria for deciding whether to take on a role. “I want to work and learn from interesting directors, and you have to connect to the story, and I want to be challenged as well. If I feel like I can do it and I won’t be scared, I feel like I’ll be bored.”