“We knew we wanted to make a portrait of the earth, and to describe the Earth through all the different sciences,” reveal Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel about their 10-part documentary series “One Strange Rock.” The series is the first foray into television for Aronofsky — the Oscar-nominated director of such films as “Black Swan,” “Requiem for a Dream,” and “The Wrestler.” Handel has served as co-producer of many of Aronofsky’s films, and co-wrote the director’s 2014 film “Noah.” In our exclusive interview (watch the video above), Aronofsky and Handel discuss their approach to crafting the series as well as how the show has larger implications in today’s political climate.
“One Strange Rock” for NatGeo examines the planet and its ecosystems through the viewpoint of a number of astronauts who have spent weeks, or sometimes years at a time in space. Aronofsky argues that having “such a unique perspective” of looking down on the planet from outer space creates a sort of “cosmic consciousness” for astronauts. Handel adds, “not only did it give us a great authentic voice, but it ultimately gave us the concept of the show, which is that we are going to try and show people our world with fresh eyes.”
For Handel, who also has a doctorate in neurobiology, it was absolutely essential that the science behind our planet take center stage. “If you want to look at the complexity of our planet and complexity of the history of life on this planet, the tool to ask those questions and to pry that machine apart and gaze into its innards– that is science,” Handel explains. But there was an additional political statement in looking at the planet from a scientific point of view. “Science is something that can be under attack, and has been under attack,” Handel claims. “Yet, it is something that is crucial to our survival, and more than that, can be crucial to our sense of awe and beauty and wonder at the world around us.”
Because the show goes into such scientific depth, Aronofsky and Handel chose entertainment supertar Will Smith to serve as the show’s host. “We knew we needed to make [the science] alive for people,” Aronofsky says. “Will Smith just plays the everyman really well.”
Aronofsky sees a correlation between the subject matter of “One Strange Rock” and his two most recent films, “Noah” and “Mother!”. While he sees the latter two films as “cautionary tales,” he sees “One Strange Rock” as “a celebration of the planet.” “It feels like things are changing really rapidly,” Aronofsky says, “and it’s important to understand our place here on the planet, and our responsibility to it.”
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