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Investors' piece of 'Pi' paying off

Web posted on: Thursday, July 09, 1998 4:10:37 PM

From Correspondent Laurin Sydney

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Leave it to the creator of "Pi," the story of a troubled genius obsessed with discovering patterns in numbers, to come up with an ingenious way to raise the numbers (that is, money) to finance his film.

Darren Aronofsky, a Brooklyn native who attended Harvard, needed $60,000 to make his independent sci-fi thriller with the numeric title. So he cut a deal with family, friends, and anyone else who wanted to play a part in the venture.

"The idea was to go to everyone we knew -- friends, family, enemies, everyone -- ask them for $100 each with a promise that if the movie didn't make money, they'd get $150 back," Aronofsky says.


Confidence in Aronofsky

The idea worked. Some were more than happy to help Aronofsky.

"I have known Darren since before he was born, I have been friendly with his family, with his parents forever," says family friend Eileen Eisenberg. "Knowing Darren through all the years when he was growing up, we had confidence in anything he would do."

Aronofsky also asked for sacrifices from the film's crew: They agreed to work for a $200-a-day deferred salary plus equal share on the film's eventual take. Aronofsky says it helped get the crew passionate over the project. If it did well, they would do well.

Aronofsky solicited funds from his friends and family to finance the film

Sundance success

Now, it looks like "Pi" is on the road to wellness. After Aronofsky claimed a best director prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival, the film was bought by Live Entertainment for $1 million.

"Everyone from the production assistant to the craft services to myself to the star of the movie -- we all will share equally in the profit of the film," Aronofsky says.

The thriller on a shoe-string budget will begin competing against the Godzillas of the summer movie fest when it opens Friday.

Sean Gullette plays Maximillian Cohen, who searches for the numeric formula in the New York Stock Exchange

Clip: Max gets chased
2.2Mb QuickTime movie

Theatrical trailer
3Mb QuickTime movie

Special effects?

Will it have a chance? Certainly, "Pi" will stand out. The movie's only "special effect" is its black-and-white film. And instead of destroying New York City, as three other action-adventures have done this summer, "Pi" uses the Big Apple landscape as a backdrop to the sinister forces at work in the film.

The storyline revolves around the character Maximillian Cohen, who searches for the numeric formula within the ultimate system of chaos -- the New York Stock Exchange. Played by Sean Gullette, Max is pursued by an aggressive Wall Street firm bent on financial domination, and by members of an ancient religious sect, the Kabbalah, who seek to unlock the secrets behind their ancient holy texts.

Gullette, who also designed the movie's Web site, was happy to jump onto the project -- even if payment is still up in the air.

"The payment situation, well, I am still a little bit hazy on that," Gullette says. "But we're all optimistic that we are going to see at least some small money sometime soon, which was more than anyone expected."

That's because "Pi" is doing better than most expected, if you don't count the confidence exhibited by its initial investors.

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