Fountain by Aronofsky

The Fountain is an odyssey about one mans eternal struggle to save the woman he loves. His epic journey begins in 16the-century Spain, where conquistador Tomas (Hugh Jackman) commences his search for the Fountain of Youth, the legendary entity believed to grant immortality. As modern-day scientist Tommy Creo, he desperately struggles to find a cure for the cancer that is killing his beloved wife, Isabel (Rachel Wwisz). Traveling through deep space as a 26th-century astronaut, Tom begins to grasp the mysteries that have consumed him for a millennium. The three stories converge into one truth, as the Thomas of all periodswarrior, scientist, and explorercomes to terms with life, love, death and rebirth. At once sweeping and intimate, The Fountain is a story about love and coping with mortality, which unfolds over three vastly different time periods. Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky got the idea for his screenplay when he realized that, although many cultures have stories about the quest for eternal life, relatively few films have been made about the search for the Fountain of Youth.

Desire to Live Forever

The desire to live forever is deep in our culture. Every day people are looking for ways to extend life or feel younger, suggests Aronofsky. Just look at the popularity of shows like Extreme Makeover or Nip/Tuck. People are praying to be young and often denying that death is a part of life. Hospitals spend huge sums of money trying to keep people alive. But weve become so preoccupied with sustaining the physical that we often forget to nurture the spirit. So thats one of the central themes I wanted to deal with in the film: Does death make us human, and if we could live forever, would we lose our humanity

Innovative Concept

To construct a story that could effectively communicate that theme would require an innovative concept. What started out as a rough sketch on a restaurant napkin back in 1999 has been through many incarnations, says the writer/director.

Darren had this idea of a box-within-a-box-within-a-box-structure before we even knew the name of our lead character, expands producer Eric Watson. Indeed Aronofsky found himself inspired. Id wake up in the middle of the night and look at my stacks of research and think, I have to make this film; its in my blood.

Three Distinct Eras

Aronofsky designed a tale that would unfold in three distinct eras. But with so many incarnations of the Fountain of Youth existing throughout history and mythology, he had to consider which one would best represent the films ideologies. Co-story collaborator Ari Handel explains, As we started to conceive the story we researched Mayan culture. We looked at the Bible, too, and found that, in many narratives, the Fountain of Youth is embodied by something living, something organic or nourishing. With that in mind, Aronofsky created the films Tree of Life, which serves as the Fountain of Youth in the conquistadors story. In the 26th century, Tom is traveling to Xibalba, a distant nebula, which becomes the films futuristic version of the Fountain.

One of the first things that attracted me to this script was the spirituality of it, notes producer Iain Smith. And because that spirituality isnt specific to any one belief system, it translates into a kind of magic. As the various mythologies combine, a new myth is created, one that is both otherworldly and familiar by design.

Refusing to Accept Fate

With a solid thematic guide established, Aronofsky set out to design the motivation of a character that would passionately pursue the Fountain. Thomas Creo, as conquistador, scientist and astronaut has a singular drive and passion. But to tell the story of a man who refuses to accept his fate, or the fate of those he loves, would present a unique challenge. Its difficult to tell a story about the quest for immortality in the present alone. Thats why Thomas story takes place in the 16th, 21st and 26th centuries, says Aronofsky, who goes on to qualify, but The Fountain isnt a time travel movie in a traditional way. Its more like three interlocking time periods, where the characters embody three different parts of the same person.

Race Against the Clock Although the thousand-year span makes Thomas tale epic in scope, time is also his greatest enemy. All three of the films stories deal with a race against the clock for the sake of love. Tomas the conquistador is charged with finding the Fountain of Youth to protect his Queen from a vengeful enemy who has sworn to destroy her. Tommy the scientist is trying to find the cure for his wifes cancer before it consumes her. And Tom, who has lived well beyond the normal human life span, is still searching for a way to be reunited with his lost love.

Love and Loss

At its core, The Fountain is a very simple love story about losing someone and what that teaches you, offers Aronofsky, noting that, in every incarnation, Thomas loves Izzi so profoundly that he will do anything to keep her alive. What he doesnt realize is that by relentlessly pursuing a way for them to be together forever, hes actually missing out on her life.

Casting Hugh Jackman

Ironically it was his role as a singing-dancing theater legendnot the roughhewn superhero Wolverinethat convinced Aronofsky that Hugh Jackman was right for the part. The director first approached the actor about playing Thomas Creo after seeing him perform live in The Boy from Oz.

Hugh had so much presence and charisma in the show, says Aronofsky. He was performing live in front of 3,000 people and yet you felt like you were right next to him. I gave him the script backstage and he called me the next morning and said he wanted to do the film. We were all very passionate about telling this story, so when Hugh connected with it so quickly we knew he was going to be perfect.

Watson adds, Hugh was committed to his show for another eight months so we had to wait for him. During that time, Darren and Hugh worked together every week on Hughs only day off to evolve the character. So when we got to set, Hugh was Thomas Creo.

The character was fantastic, says Jackman. Tomas the conquistador has incredible drive and an unbelievable passion. His devotion to his Queen is single-minded. When she charges him with finding the Fountain of Youth, hes like an arrow shot from a bow. Hes going to find it. Hes dogged, uncompromising. Aronofsky agrees, It takes Tom much longer than Izzi to get there, but eventually hes going to understand this journey. Not only would Jackman have to deal with intricate emotional transitions to play the triple roles, but he would also have to be physically adaptable for each phase of the film.

The arc that takes place in Spain is challenging, as Tomas battles his way into a lost Mayan temple to face a soldier with a flaming sword. For the future sequences, Jackman had to be much leaner. He studied tai chi and yoga for 14 months to be ready for the film. The futuristic role would also require the actor to shave his head.

Declares Aronofsky, Hugh was willing to give us everything we needed to bring Tommy to life, but in order for the story to really succeed, you have to believe that Tommy and Izzi love each other completely.

Casting Rachel Weisz

Aronofskys search for someone to embody the object of Toms unrelenting love ended with Rachel Weisz, an Academy Award winner for her role in 2005s The Constant Gardener. Weisz portrays both Isabel, Queen of Spain, and Tommy Creos ailing wife, Izzi, in the present-day story.

Aronofsky notes, We all wish we could face death the way Izzi faces it. Shes in the prime of her life and shes going to have to leave everyone she loves behind, yet she manages to do so with grace. They said that its often the families of terminally ill patients who have more difficulty letting go.

Reteaming with Ellen Burstyn

Also starring in the film is Oscar, Golden Globe, and Tony Award-winning actress Ellyn Burstyn, who received her sixth Academy Award nomination for her performance in Aronofskys Requiem for a Dream. In The Fountain, she portrays Tommys mentor, Dr. Lillian Guzetti, who also shares a special kinship with Weisz Izzi. Ellen told me that Id better have a part in this film for her, which was fine because Id written Lilly with her in mind, says Aronofsky. Shes a great connector for Tommy and Izzi.

Lilly has been a mentor to Tommy and a friend to Izzi, offers Burstyn. I think she admires Izzis outlook in the face of death and she desperately wants to help Tommy be with his wife in her final moments. She tries to communicate that, but Tommy wont hear it. And yet, Lilly and Tommy are both scientists, so she can identify with him, too. She knows that asking Tommy to give up on fighting his wifes disease is like asking him to deny part of himself.

Burstyn, like her co-stars, was fascinated by the films themes. Theyre universal. We certainly do our best to keep death out of our sight, whereas other cultures focus on it. The Buddhists meditate on death. They consciously remember that each moment we live is dead before we even realize it has passed. Trying to hold onto the moment for fear of losing it is to live in a state of death, because the only way to be alive is to live in the present.