Ellen Burstyn will forever by viewed as the mother of the possessed 12-year-old girl Regan in one of the best horror movies of all time – William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. And she’s currently gearing up to reprise the role 50 years later in David Gordon Green’s The Exorcist: Believer. But there’s one role that Burstyn had that was even more challenging than dealing with the horrors of hell.
It turns out that something even harder than dealing with the Devil himself is…working with director Darren Aronofsky. Pretty much every film made by the arthouse filmmaker has been met with extremely polarized reactions and controversy. These have included 2006’s The Fountain and 2017’s Mother! Two of his movies have led to a Lead Actress Oscar (Natalie Portman in Black Swan) and Lead Actor Oscar (Brendan Fraser in The Whale) – but these movies were not exempt from criticism.
Burstyn starred in Aronofsky’s second drama movie – 2000’s Requiem for a Dream. She played a drug-addicted character, alongside Jared Leto, Jennifer Connolly, and Marlon Wayans.
Speaking to London-based newspaper The Evening Standard in 2012, Burstyn called Requiem for a Dream ‘my biggest challenge.’ And explained; “I play a lonely Coney Island widow, Sara Goldfarb, who becomes addicted to diet pills. I don’t think I’ve ever been this challenged in a role – it was harder than The Exorcist.”
Like The Whale, Requiem for a Dream contained the controversial use of fat suits, as Burstyn explained; “Sometimes I had to spend four hours in the morning being fitted with prosthetics – I had four different necks, two different fat suits and nine wigs. But it never occurred to me to worry about how I looked in this film. It’s not that I’m vanity-free, it’s just that my vanity is in my work and not in my looks.”