Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz Interview

The actors talk about working on the Darren Aronofsky film experience

It could be a difficult thing working with your boyfriend or girlfriend - in the case of Darren Aronofsky and Rachel Weisz, it went very smoothly.

The two collaborated on Darren's latest film, The Fountain, also starring Hugh Jackman. Based on a small comic Darren wrote, the flick takes place over three eras of history - the past, present, and future.

When Darren first started his journey, Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett were involved in the production; when they pulled out, he was left with a script and no lead actors. That's when Hugh came into the picture. "It was January '04; I met him when I was doing The Boy From Oz, he came backstage," Hugh said. "I knew of The Fountain, so I said to him, 'I heard about The Fountain, and I'd really love to read it.' He went, 'Yeah, I don't think so.' He rang me the next day and asked if I was serious about it. I told him I was serious, and so he let me read it. So I read it that night and I rang him the next morning and said, 'I don't want to be presumptuous, but I was so moved by it and it was so beautiful, if you can wait till September when my contract finishes (on The Boy From Oz) and you want me to do it, I'm in.'"

But Darren still didn't have a female lead - Hugh suggested Rachel. "It was Hugh's idea," Rachel pointed out. "I really wanted to do it, but I never said it. Darren's one of the greatest directors around. I think that who we are in our work and who we are at home is very different; I met the director, and he met the actress. It definitely exceeded my expectations; it was an amazing collaborations. And as a director, he really pushes his actors, and challenges you - and that's what you want as an actor, to be challenged out of your comfort zone, to be exposed. It was a great experience."

With his actors in place, Darren had a chance to talk to Hugh. He told him, "I'm going to ask more of you than you've ever asked to do in a film, and take you where no actor has ever been in a film. Are you ready for that?" And Hugh said "Yeah, for me, that was thrilling - he worked me."

Both Hugh and Rachel play the parts in the three generations. Rachel says each had its own challenge to them. "It's a very hard place to be to accept, and he was playing someone who could not accept it. It is about death, but it's really about a celebration of life; the whole movie, to me, is about when I say to Hugh, 'Will you take a walk with me' when I see the first snow. And he says, 'No, leave me alone, I'm too busy.' I think every couple in the world has had a tiff about something like that. I think the idea is about death, but it's the moments we regret - the moments we didn't spend with our loved ones, we didn't smell the roses, and we didn't live as fully and as lovingly with those around us as we could have. And that's what the movie really means to me. Life is short, and you have to celebrate being alive, and it's hard to always stay present."

The Fountain is a film that brings out a completely different side of Hugh than any of us have ever seen before, an emotional side and passionate side that even he hadn't experienced before. "I hadn't had a script up until this point that warranted that. It's always a little frightening and there was a rawness that I knew he (Darren) wanted that would be difficult to get there. But at the same time, I was waiting to get a role like this; finally, I felt like I had a script that had that depth to it. We had a relationship and a close bond between these two people and that just had to happen on set, and I was very lucky to have Rachel; that girl can do anything as an actress and she's incredibly generous. I knew a lot about this movie, but I know that if it's a Darren Aronofsky movie, I'm going to see it. Darren, with a lot of other directors, he just let it go. There's a real purity, it's a really romantic film, and it's probably uncomfortable at times."

Rachel had to go to another place for her role as well - emotionally and physically; she cut her hair in order to play someone who was dying. "Darren was very clear that he wanted that character to look like that, going through chemo, her hair just growing back in, for the actor to not have a wig. I think he thought it was an important thing to see that. I think it's kind of cool; I liked it, I kind of got into it and I rocked that short hair for a while. But I think it told a story rather than me having to work hard to tell that part of the story. We shot the present first, and then the past I had a wig."

With all the death talk, there were some fun moments on set; Hugh had to train in yoga, and spent three days shooting under water in the lotus position. According to Hugh, this was that limit Darren was pushing him towards. "And three days under water - at the end of it, I dumped him. At the end of shooting, I saw him at the edge of the pool, and he could tell something was going on. I pretended I had a bad knee, and I looked over at him. He said to the nurse to go check me out, and literally ten minutes, and I laid down, they got the stretcher. He finally came over, and at that point, I flipped him up and I ran him into the pool. He was pissed, but he knew I was going to do it."

The Fountain is one of the most visually stunning movies I've seen ever. If you want to check out the film experience that comes from the mind of Darren Aronofsky, it opens in theaters today; it's rated PG-13.