You’ve known the story your whole life, but you haven’t seen it told quite like this before. On March 28, Noah arrives in theaters, and with it a reimagining of the biblical tale about a man whose visions of an apocalyptic flood cause him to build a giant vessel to save himself, his family and many of the world’s animals.
How exactly will Darren Aronofsky’s (Black Swan, The Fountain) version of Noah (played by Russell Crowe) differ from the one you grew up with? We visited the set and brought back these nine fascinating facts you definitely want to know about Noah before seeing it in theaters.
1. When all else fails, write a comic book.
Darren Aronofsky had an itch to make a movie based on Noah’s story for over a decade, but the failures of other similar films forced him to go in another direction by creating a graphic novel. “Whenever I’m giving up on a project, I get a comic book going and somehow that starts the movie,” he told us. “[After] I announced the comic, that’s when some people in Hollywood started to prick up their ears and say, ‘What’s that thing?’ I think the movie’s been way overdue.”
2. Noah is kinda like Titanic…
“I think it’s a similar thing, like the other boat movie,” Aronofsky says. “Titanic was … well, how do you put a story into that? So, we tried to come up with a real human family drama that would hopefully grip people, because everyone knows how these things end. They knew the Titanic sunk and they know what happens in 40 days and 40 nights. It’s just a matter of how do you create the drama to get people lost in it. It’s a human drama. He’s a great character and the way Russell [Crowe] is playing it is exceptional. It’s really great.”
3. Darren Aronofsky made two hilarious promises to Russell Crowe to convince him to do the movie.
In order to get Russell Crowe onboard to play Noah, director Darren Aronofsky had to make a couple of bizarre promises, admits Crowe. “Funny, he called me and he said, ‘I want to tell you the name of the project that I need to do with you and once I’ve told you the name, I don’t want you to comment. I just want you to allow me to make you two promises. The name of the project is Noah. Don’t say anything. Two promises. First promise is you never have to wear a pair of sandals. The second promise is never at any stage will I make you stand at the bow of a ship flanked by a giraffe and an elephant.’ I said, ‘Alright’ and I read it, and I also saw all the previous ideas he had for it, so it was quite clear that it was going to be pretty spectacular.”
4. Russell Crowe literally risked his life… to swim naked?
While filming in Iceland, Crowe was tasked with something he’d never done before: swimming naked in ridiculously cold water. “I’ve never gone for a swim in 39.6 degrees off the coast of Iceland before,” he admits. “That was a very interesting experience. We found out later that night that that’s actually the most dangerous beach in Iceland, and every year people just get taken off the beach.”
5. This is not your grandfather’s biblical epic.
The biggest task with a film like Noah is figuring out which version of the story to follow, but for Aronofsky it was more about finding the story that hasn’t been told yet. “I knew the first thing I wanted to do was get away from swords and sand,” Aronofsky says. “I just wanted everyone to know this is not your grandfather’s biblical epic."
He explains, "You say 'Noah' and they’re thinking what Steve Carell looked like, and I was like no, no, no. Look at the story. Look at what Noah did. Look at what actually happened. It’s the first apocalypse story. In Genesis, there’s Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and then Noah. It’s the third story. So basically God creates the world and then two stories later, he destroys it. What’s that all about? What caused him to do that? There’s a whole thing that most people don’t really think about. They think about toy arks and stuffed animals and stuff.”
6. Everything is based on something.
If you think of the film in terms of it being a remix of the story you already know, that’ll help you understand it more. “There’s a lot of things that were written that exist back then and ideas that we tried to sort of jam with and turn into something,” Aronofsky admits. “So, everything is based on something. We tried to ground it into our own sort of biblical mythology. It’s about capturing the essence of the story, the themes of the story.”
7. So which version of Noah is Russell Crowe playing then?
“All of them,” he says. “It’s very interesting. That’s kind of what I liked about it though, because everybody has images in their mind when they hear Noah and none of this matches up to that, none of it at all. It’s kind of cool. The thing is about Noah, every single ancient religious text has Noah. Every major religion shares all of the stories up until Noah. So, to me, there’s something [fascinating] about that. I’ve been doing a lot of reading actually about prediluvial human life and it’s been quite enlightening. I didn’t realize what’s been found and discovered by archeologists.”
8. A massive ark based on actual biblical specifications was built in the middle of a Long Island park.
One of the most ambitious tasks the production faced was the construction of an ark that needed to be at least six stories tall. Choosing the most accepted biblical measurements, Aronofsky and his team crafted an enormous vessel that’s just as majestic as it is haunting. “For me, it’s interesting, because it kind of looks like a coffin or tomb carrying the dead, but it’s carrying the living through the death of the world,” Aronofsky ponders. “There’s a lot of poetry and symbolism to it.”
For more on the ark, check out this neat interactive experience on the film's website that lets you explore its three decks, with glipses of the animals inside.
9. Oh, and there are giants in this movie.
They’re called Watchers, and while portrayed by hooded men on raised platforms during the shoot, we hear the finished creatures will be upwards of 18 feet tall and have six arms. In the scene we, er, watch them shoot the Watchers are protecting Noah and his family as several hundred people desperately fight to access his ark before the floods arrive. “It’s basically a big battle between mankind and the Watchers to get on the ark,” Aronofsky explains, adding that it took two whole weeks to shoot the “epic” three-minute scene.
Note: The image to the right represents the Watchers from the graphic novel and the movie version may look different.
Noah hits theaters on March 28, and stars Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth