In some strange parallel universe, one in which filmmaker Darren Aronofsky made some of his choices a little bit differently, "The Wrestler" and his upcoming follow-up "Black Swan" exist as a single film, one about the coupling of a wrestler and a ballet dancer. Bizarre? Absolutely. Aronofsky nonetheless looks at the two films -- the older of which garnered two Oscar nominations while the newer will kick off the Venice Film Festival in a couple days -- as part of a single line of thought.
"I've always considered the two films companion pieces," he said in an exclusive interview with MTV's Eric Ditzian as part of our ongoing fall preview week. "They are really connected and people will see the connections. It's funny, because wrestling some consider the lowest art — if they would even call it art — and ballet some people consider the highest art. But what was amazing to me was how similar the performers in both of these worlds are. They both make incredible use of their bodies to express themselves."
The tie between the two has roots that go back more than 10 years, to a time when Aronofsky had a vision for a film that would put these at-odds art forms into close contact with one another.
"At one point, way before I made 'The Wrestler,' I was actually developing a project that was about a love affair between a ballet dancer and a wrestler, and then it kind of split off into two movies," he said. "So I guess my dream is that some art theater will play the films as a double feature some day."
Ultimately, the ballet-meets-wrestling idea was just too much for one movie to support. "I realized pretty quickly that taking two worlds like wrestling and ballet was much too much for one movie." So the idea splintered. Aronofsky wouldn't say when, but he first started talking to star Natalie Portman about "Black Swan" a decade ago, and that was after the split had occurred.
"We were in Times Square and had a coffee at the old Howard Johnson," Aronofsky said. "I had this idea of setting something in the ballet world. It was very loose. I didn't have a script. And then I found out she was fascinated by ballet and wanted to play a dancer."
Ten years ago, Portman was still in her child actor days, and committed to the "Star Wars" franchise no less. She eventually got her wish though, thanks to that first meeting with the director. And, as Aronofsky says, she made the most of the experience.
"One of the best things about the film is the casting of Natalie," he explained. "She took the part and ran with it. I don't know if when I was working with the writers we were consciously channeling Natalie or Natalie somehow transformed herself to the part, but they grew together."
For more from Aronofsky on bringing "Black Swan" together, check out Eric's full interview at MTV.com! And stay tuned for more Fall Preview coverage all this week!