Ellen Burstyn

Requiem for a Dream

Interviewed by James Mottram

Your character goes through a dramatic weight loss. How was that simulated?

I wore a 40lb fat-suit, then a 20lb one. When I got out of that, I had a two week break in my schedule, so I took off 10lbs of my own. I did my famous cabbage soup diet, so I was able to do it.

Did you do any research for the role?

Oh, sure. I looked at life in Brooklyn for one. I've lived most of my life in Manhattan, but as close as Brooklyn is to Manhattan, there are people who live there who have been to Manhattan maybe once or twice. And she was one of them. I talked to women who lived there, to get their speech patterns and outlook on life - and how narrow that is. Their life is about getting enough money to put food on the table to feed their children, and that's it.

What do you think of the restrictive NC-17 rating given to the film in the States?

I think it's a horrible mistake. To me, it's a very moral film. If my son were a teenager now, I would drag him to see it. Nobody would want to leave that film to go get high.

Do you think the film is strictly about drugs?

No, I don't. It's about avoiding reality through various escape routes that become addictions and lead to Hell. My character is addicted to television, chocolate, coffee, to her dream of her son, which has no basis in reality. And then she latches onto the fantasy of celebrity, being on television, and finally, to diet pills. She goes from one addiction to another. All are ways for her to not feel her feelings.

Read an interview with the film's director Darren Aronofsky.

Read interviews with co-stars Jennifer Connelly and Jared Leto.

Read our review of "Requiem For A Dream".