10 Questions for Darren Aronofsky

The director's latest film, Black Swan, is generating Oscar buzz. Darren Aronofsky will now take your questions

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Alexander Ho for TIME

What was it about ballet that intrigued you?

Elise Cordo, DULUTH, MINN.

It's always interesting to go into worlds that people haven't seen before, and ballet is such a mystery. All that effortlessness that happens when you're watching is actually filled with blood and violence and competition and sweat. I don't think people know how hard it is to be a dancer, how much pain and commitment and discipline it takes.

What research did you do for the film?

Guilherme Santander, MILAN

It was a very hard world to get into. Normally, when you do a movie, all the doors open up. But the ballet world really couldn't care. It took a while, but slowly people started to back us. Natalie Portman is surrounded by [real] ballet dancers throughout the film.

The Wrestler and Black Swan follow similar stories of performers driven to the edge. Was that intentional?

Chad Comello, MADISON, WIS.

Both projects were developed over 10 years, so a lot of the ideas we were working on ended up in both. I thought [it was] interesting that we could make two very, very different films but have all these thematic similarities.

Is it your aim to make your audiences feel uncomfortable?

Caleb Garcia, CALABASAS, CALIF.

I definitely want to make them feel something. I'm inspired by the Cyclone roller coaster in Coney Island, where I grew up. It is the greatest ride in the world. I've always tried to construct my films with the same structure: intense, on the edge of your seat.

Was the lesbian element of Black Swan necessary to further the story?

Hortense Noble, NEW YORK CITY

The film is about losing your identity. Very early on, I had that idea of Natalie Portman making love to Natalie Portman. Everyone's always talking about Natalie and Mila Kunis, but for me it was more about Natalie making love to herself. I thought no one had ever seen that before and that it thematically made sense.

You've discussed how budgetary constraints made it difficult to shoot Black Swan. Do you think a more expensive version would have been any different?

Steven Karageanes, PLYMOUTH, MICH.

As soon as you start messing with the money, you suddenly get more time, and time changes everything. So yeah, it would've been very different. [But] I have no idea what the film would've been.

What kinds of movies do you watch in your spare time? I don't see you watching comedies, for some reason.

Roberto Juanez, SEATTLE

I watch as many comedies as I can. But I probably watch kid films the most, because I have a kid. I get the occasional foreign film snuck in late at night. I don't have Netflix. I'd rather go to the movies.

What films inspired you to become a director?

Kirkpatrick Bado, SHAWNEE, KANS.

I grew up in the Spielberg--George Lucas era, so going to see Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. and Star Wars--it was just an amazing time to come of age. But I always had a taste for alternative film. Filmmakers like Spike Lee and Jim Jarmusch were big influences and expanded [my sense of] what film could be.

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