“The fucking Ziegfeld!” Darren Aronofsky blustered as soon as he could get his hands on the microphone. The excitement was merited: Aronofsky, director of enormously hyped potential Oscar darling Black Swan, was premiering his film at the gold standard of New York movie pavilions. It was also something of a homecoming (“Brooklyn, what up!” he said multiple times) and Darren hid none of his glee in revealing that he used to skip school, cross the river, and take in films such as Raiders of the Lost Ark in the monstrous theater.
“I made the trek to go to the Ziegfeld,” the director told The Observer over a glass of rosé. With a mustache seemingly trimmed at Freeman’s Sporting Club, Aronofsky looked a tad like Flo Ziegfeld himself. “Never! The first time I’ve ever had a movie play at the Ziegfeld!”
By this time the action on screen had been transplanted to the St. Regis Hotel – a ballerina statue had been placed in the center, with twinkling music box melodies emanating out from somewhere near it. A pianist tickled the ivories in a side room, where the gold-flecked ceiling-edges curled around the entire perimeter above. The mirrors, cloudy from age, were scrawled with the same smears of red lipstick that haunt Swan Queen Nina (Natalie Portman, who is nothing short of electrifying) as she tumbles in and out of fearful reverie. “WHORE” said the writing on one mirror, echoing a scene in the film. “I had the craziest dream last night…” said another.
The tables reserved for the film’s ballet star and her master, played with convivial French lasciviousness by WSJ. Magazine coverboy Vincent Cassel, had paper tablets marked with the same red lipstick motif. Portman was playing the part of the Black Swan for the evening, at least in terms of looks: her dark low-strapped dress hovered largely around her designated seating area, where she giggled with girlfriends and picked at hummus and couscous.
Cassel had his own posse directly across the red mahogany-lined space, and his crew rocked that Parisian gangster look: leather jackets, big sportcoats and fat ties, the prim ladies in fedoras. There was the requisite face-pecking, everyone spoke French and every now and then Cassel would take a phone call (sample conversation: “Oui, oui, oui, blah, blah, blah.”)
“I still have a career in France,” he told us. “I enjoy, I come and play, and then I go home.”
Godard or Truffaut?
“I guess, ehhhh – well, I started by not liking neither of them. But still today I can say that what I like the best of what they did, both of them, is their first movies. When it was, more, let’s say, organic. Les Quatre Cents Coups. Yeah, then it becomes too much thinking and not enough emotions I guess.”
To not give too much away, let’s say there might be some teeth-kissing action between Portman’s character and the ballet guru. OK, Vincent: Since we’re probably not going to find out anytime soon, is Natalie really a biter?
“I think the first takes, just to make me feel what it feels like.”
To have that bloody lip! Then The Observer ran into Mila Kunis, who plays Portman’s onscreen doppelganger and ballet company rival. Despite her tendency toward black in the film, Kunis was draped in a dress of glinting white, and after two hours of her seductive barbs (Kunis also gives career-making performance) it was a nice surprise to hear a smile distilled into nearly every word.
Not that Mila was even there as we watched it.
“Every time everybody watches the movie I have to go to a Q&A,” she said, ruining the myth that the stars are there when the celluloid flickers on the screen.
Despite living in L.A. instead of New York, we wanted to know the spots in the city with the Mila Kunis approval.
“You know what? I love all of New York, I don’t really have a favorite…”
Cop out, we cried!
“I truly have no favorite place in New York – oh yes I do! What’s the place that we go to Sunday mornings, for brunch…” she wondered aloud.
“That place we went to a couple times?” a friend chimed in. “Flea Market.” That’s in the East Village, people. Mark it!
“Flea Market!” she smiled. “I like that place to eat!”
Then we asked the question. When hanging out with Mila Kunis after seeing Black Swan, this can only be called The Question. Here goes nothing: What was it like to film the furious, clothes-torn-off full-on make-out scenes with Natalie Portman?
Mila Kunis gasped.
“That,” she huffed, still maintaining that disarming and genuine smile, “is off the record!”