Posted on Thursday, March 6th, 2014 by Angie Han
In between takes, a cheerful Crowe recalled the two promises Aronofsky had made to get him on board.
The first promise is, you will never have to wear a pair of sandals. And the second promise is, never at any stage will I require you to stand on the bow of the ship flanked by a giraffe and an elephant.
From what we could see, Aronofsky made good on his word. Crowe was wearing boots, and the rectangular ark had no bow.
Once Crowe arrived, he discovered that the role brought some special challenges. “I’ve never gone for a swim in 31.6 degrees off the coast of Iceland before. That was a very interesting experience,” he said. “We found out later that night that that’s actually the most dangerous beach in Iceland.”
But even that, apparently, was easier than what came after. Asked what was the most challenging aspect of filming so far, Crowe immediately answered: “Lying naked on the beach after going for that swim in 31.6 degrees for a whole day. Getting so cold. So that was interesting.”
Especially, he added, as the beach had stones that were ” tiny and perfectly round” and would “get in places.” So now when you see Noah, go ahead and picture Crowe trying to pick sand out of his butt between scenes.
Noah’s unique look came from the “primordial” Icelandic landscape, where the cast and crew had spent four weeks shooting the pre-flood scenes. The New York set was then designed to mimic the look of their Iceland set.
Even so, it was important to Aronofsky that he shoot in his home state: “We really wanted to shoot the film in New York. We wanted big things like this in New York.” And now that he’s pulled off such a large-scale shoot — with some help from the state — he’s eager to tell people what New York can do. “I want everyone to come out here and see this because I want to brag about what New York can do. It’s important for people to know.”
One of the New York locations was a soundstage in Brooklyn, where the interior scenes of the ark were shot. It’s “just spectacular,” Aronofsky gushed. “Three-story sized set. It’s incredible. Three decks, and catacombs, crossbeams, a furnace… It’s intricate, it’s very intricate.”
Those three decks, by the way, were for three different types of animals: mammals, reptiles, and birds.
The Bible wasn’t Aronofsky’s only source material. Both he and Crowe talked about reading different texts from ancient times, and about looking at archaeological research on prediluvian human life.
(“Prediluvian” means “before the flood.” Maybe you knew that before I went on that Noah set visit. I didn’t.)
Noah “isn’t your grandfather’s Biblical epic.” Aronofsky told us, “I knew the first thing I wanted to do was get away from swords and sandals — well, I mean, not swords but sandals, and robes, and beards, and you know that stuff.”
Noah isn’t your Sunday school teacher’s cute little fable, either. “There’s a whole thing that people don’t really think about as they think about toy arks and stuffed animals and stuff,” remarked Aronofsky.
What it is is “the first apocalypse story,” Aronofsky explained. “In the book of Genesis, it’s Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and then Noah. So it’s basically, God creates the world and then two stories later he destroys it. So it’s like, you know, what’s that all about? What caused him to do that?”
To turn a big, familiar event into a compelling drama, Aronofsky looked to another waterlogged epic for inspiration. “I think it’s a similar thing like the other big boat movie, Titanic,” he said. “How do you put a story in that? So we tried to come up with a real human family drama that would hopefully grip people.”
And of course, there’s the character of Noah himself. According to Crowe, what sets him apart from other people is “certain decisions about how he lives his life.” He continued, “I’m trying to avoid the word ‘pure,’ but he has a simpler understanding of what is the relationship between man and earth and man and the Creator is supposed to be.”
I’ll close with this photo of myself and the other journalists on the Noah set, because… well, just because it’s a lovely photo, if I do say so myself.
Noah opens March 28.