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Homecoming: IS 239 students welcome alumnus and famed director Darren Aronofsky ahead of his induction into the school’s alumni Hall of Fame.
Number retired: Educators gave Aronofsky an award and a school jersey.
The great reveal: Aronofsky unveils the photo and plaque dedicated to him in the school’s Alumni Hall of Fame.
Immortalized: Darren Aronofsky and MS 239 principal Karen Ditolla pause for a beat in front of a plaque honoring the filmmaker and school alumnus.

Talk about a cameo!

An acclaimed filmmaker visited his old stomping grounds in Coney Island on March 26.

Director Darren Aronofsky dropped by Mark Twain IS 239 to receive the school’s 2015 Alumni Hall of Fame award. The Manhattan Beach-raised director — best known for 2000’s “Requiem for a Dream” and 2010’s “Black Swan” — told students at the Neptune Avenue school that it was the first time he felt comfortable in the auditorium’s limelight.

“The last time I was on this stage, the lovely Mrs. [Vera] Fried — my seventh-grade teacher — had us dress up as a historical figure, and we all had to come up on stage and introduce ourselves ... and completely humiliate ourselves in front of all our classmates, and it was terrible,” Aronofsky said. “So it’s nice not being humiliated up here on stage.”

The academy award-nominated filmmaker said Fried helped him discover a passion for creative writing during a poetry assignment. Aronofsky’s composition, “The Dove,” later inspired his 2014 film, “Noah,” he said. The octogenarian educator played the “one-eyed crone” in the Biblical epic.

Aronofsky, now a Manhattanite, said growing up in and around Coney Island had a profound effect on his creative process.

“It’s definitely been in a lot of my movies because I grew up around it, and the aesthetic and the people here are just a big part of who I am, and I definitely draw on stuff from my youth to tell stories,” said Aronofsky, who set his movie adaptation of “Requiem for a Dream” in Coney Island rather than the novel’s Bronx locale because he was familiar with Sodom by the Sea.

Eighth-grader Frederic Minzberg performed “Lux Aeterna” — Requiem for a Dream’s leitmotif — arranged for solo piano. The performance was serendipitous, because Minzberg learned the tune before finding out the movie’s director would visit his school, the student said.

Aronofsky joins actor Louis Gossett Jr. as the school’s second alumni hall-of-famer, and suggested administrators reach outside the humanities when selecting the 2016 inductee.

“Now it’s Lou Gossett and it’s me on the wall, but I’m sure there are a lot of great people. Maybe next year you could find someone who works in math or the sciences or one of the other great talents,” he said.

The director attended the school for gifted kids as a math student, and his first feature film — a bizarre psychological thriller called “Pi” — was steeped in number theory and computer science.

The school’s principal praised Aronofsky for his humility and dedication to his alma mater.

“His path began here, and he never forgot where he came from, or his experiences at Mark Twain,” said principal Karen Ditolla.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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