Foreword to the New Edition

  1. A Shopping Expedition
  2. Foreword
  3. Preface to the New Edition


I was a public school kid from Brooklyn facing my first exams during freshman year of college, and I was terrified. High school was a joke. The only thing I learned was how to get away with cutting class. So, when college came around I wasnt very prepared. I hit the library and tried to learn.

But Selby fucked everything up.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw the word Brooklyn. Now when youre from Brooklyn and you see anything related to Brooklyn youre immediately interested. I pulled a worn copy of Last Exit to Brooklyn off the shelf. This was before the movie, and I had no clue what I was holding. From sentence one I was done, and so were my finals. I blew them off and I read. I read and I read and I screamed and I connected and I recited and I rejoiced. This was storytelling. This was understanding. This was a deep yet simple examination of what makes us human. I now knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to tell stories.

Storytelling took me to L.A. and film school. Before school started they told us to prepare three short scripts for projects to be executed during the year. So, I figured I should read short stories from my favorite authors. That led me to Selbys Fortune Cookie, which I shot right away. The story follows the rise and fall of a door‑to‑door salesman who gets addicted to the fortunes in fortune cookies.

After film school I figured it was time to make a feature, so I turned to novels of my favorite authors. I found Requiem for a Dream in a book store on Venice Beach. I was excited to start it. I did, but I never finished it. Not because it wasnt good. Rather, the novel was so violently honest and arresting that I couldnt handle it.

It was on my shelf for a long time. Then, years later, my producer Eric Watson was heading off for a ski trip with his family in Colorado. He needed something to read, and he grabbed the book off my shelf and asked if he could borrow it. When he returned he said Requiem, for a Dream ruined his vacation and that I must finish it. I did, and I knew we had to make it next.

This book is about a lot of things. Mostly its about love. More specifically its about what happens when love goes wrong.

When it was time to write the script I rented an apartment in South Brooklyn, out by Coney Island. The novel had amazing structure and it translated very well into three acts. But something was strange. While breaking it down I realized that whenever something good was supposed to happen to a character, something bad happened. Because of this, I couldnt figure out who the hero of the novel was.

After sketching out all the character arcs I realized they were all upside down. So I flipped them over, and suddenly I had a Eureka! The hero wasnt Sara, it wasnt Harry, not Tyrone, not Marion.

The hero was the characters enemy: Addiction. The book is a manifesto on Addictions triumph over the Human Spirit. I began to look at the film as a monster movie. The only difference is that the monster doesnt have physical form. It only lives deep in the characters heads.

Ellen Burstyn, who knocked it out of the park as Sara Goldfarb, told me Hinduism has two main godsShiva and Kali. Shiva is the god of creation and Kali is the god of destruction. They exist as a team. One cannot exist without the other. Just like the Christian God and the Devil. Good and evil. There is a balance. Selby writes about Kali. He writes about the darkness.

It is in this darkness where Selby flips on his flashlight and searches for our humanity. It is that tiny but priceless diamond of love lost in a universe of evil that he cherishes. And by leading us to it he reveals everythingour beauty and our vanity, our strength and our weaknesses. He shows us what makes us tick, what makes us hate and what makes us love. He reveals what it is to be human.

I needed to make a film from this novel because the words burn off the page. Like a hangmans noose, the words scorch your neck with rope burn and drag you into the sub‑sub‑basement we humans build beneath hell. Why do we do it? Because we choose to live the dream instead of choosing to live the life.


: 2015-09-13; : 5;

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