<figcaption>Ari Handel Credit:   2006 NIKO TAVERNISE</figcaption>
Ari Handel Credit:   2006 NIKO TAVERNISE

It's 11:30 on a Wednesday morning in November, and I'm sitting in a café in lower Manhattan with Ari Handel. About 50 blocks uptown, the first paid showing of The Fountain, the film based on a story Handel cowrote with Darren Aronofsky, has been underway for an hour. The film - which features a scientist, played by Hugh Jackman, and his wife, played by Rachel Weisz - is the first with which Handel, 37, has been involved.

"It's a strange thing," he muses. "The work has been done for a long time. There's a delay between when the world sees it and you've completed it. So now it's the anticipation of what people I know are going to think. How is the world going to react?"

It's a feeling not unlike what Handel might have felt as a graduate student in neuroscience...

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