The Toxic Atmosphere While Filming “Black Swan”

Black Swan,” the ballet thriller which opens this weekend, looks like it’s going to be two things: A) amazing and B) deeply twisted and disturbing. So it’s hard to imagine that life on the set—helmed by director Darren Aronofsky, the dude who brought you “Requiem for a Dream”—was all kittens and rainbows. But as more information gets out about the atmosphere on set, it sounds even more intense than I’d imagined. After the jump, tales from the making of “Black Swan.”

  • Training for the flick was intense. Star Natalie Portman took ballet as a child, but had to go through a year of rigorous training. “To play a professional ballerina, you’re going to have to train like one, and professional dancers, we dance for 10 or 12 hours a day, six days a week,” said Mary Helen Bowers, who worked with her. “So with Natalie we said, six months out we’re going to go to five hours a day, six days a week. … There was lots of soreness.” Natalie also didn’t love how her feet felt with all the rehearsing. “Pointe shoes are torture devices,” she said. “I mean, ballerinas get used to it and so it was definitely a case of it being a new experience for me, but they feel very medieval.” [NY Daily News]
  • Natalie got injured filming a lift sequence—she dislocated a rib. The director’s reaction? “Darren was like, ‘Film it! Film it! Stay in character, talk in your character’s voice!'” said Natalie. [NY Daily News]
  • At another point, there was no medic on set while filming. Natalie recalls telling Darren, “I don’t even think that’s legal! Before you take away a medic take away my trailer!” The next day, her trailer was gone. [NY Daily News]
  • Darren went a little method to make stars Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis, who are old friends, into competitors. “He’d say: ‘Oh, Mila is doing really well on her stuff. She’s so much better than you,'” Natalie said. “I think he was trying to create a rivalry in real life between us.” [LA Times]
  • Even though Natalie and her co-star Mila Kunis were dancing for hours a day, they were also instructed to watch their calorie intake. Both say they lost about 20 pounds while filming. Natalie sad, “Darren claims he never said this, but he definitely was like, ‘How thin do you think you can get without being sick?'” Darren’s memory of this is a little different. He says “At a certain point in the middle of the ballet stuff, I thought she was getting way too skinny and I started to make her eat. It started to get scary, and she was starting to look too thin.” [LA Times]
  • Mila felt the weight she was asked to lose for the film was extreme. “It was the most intense training I’ve ever had in my life, and probably will have for anything. I went down to 95 pounds. I weigh 117 usually, like today. I looked like Gollum,” she says. “It took me five months to lose 20 pounds, but it took me just five days — days! — to gain it all back.” [PopEater]
  • Natalie is now dating dancer Benjamin Millepied, who choreographed much of the movie. But sources say that their relationship started as an obsession. A source complained, “They would go to do their shots and we wouldn’t know any of the choreography because he was so involved with helping ‘Natalie, Natalie, Natalie,’ all the time. … Maybe they have a great relationship. But knowing Benjamin, I don’t think that’s how it is.” [NY Post]

Here’s hoping the final product is worth it. Natalie is getting lots of Oscar buzz for the role.