The following comes from a Feb. 12 story in the Hollywood Reporter.
When Darren Aronofsky was a 13-year old in Brooklyn, he had one of those unforgettable teachers. Mrs. Fried dressed in pink and drove a pink Mustang; Aronofsky says she was “magical.” When she assigned his English class to write about peace, Aronofsky produced a poem about the dove that wings its way to Noah aboard the ark in the Bible. When the poem won a United Nations contest, it sparked Aronofsky’s nascent faith in his creative powers.
More than three decades later, the 44-year-old director is completing his epic take on the Noah story, a project he’s contemplated ever since he made his breakout indie film Pi in 1998. At that time, he says, he talked to producer Lynda Obst about the idea, prompting her to ask, “Do you realize what you’re getting into?”
He didn’t. The making of Noah, with Russell Crowe as the lead, turned into a head-on collision between an auteur filmmaker coming off a career-defining success in Black Swan ($330 million global, five Oscar nominations) and a studio working to protect a major investment that is intended to appeal to believers of every religion as well as those without any faith. Paramount Pictures, in partnership with New Regency Productions, is shouldering a budget on the March 28 release of more than $125 million, by far the costliest movie Aronofsky has made. (His previous high was $35 million for The Fountain, which foundered for Warner Bros. in 2006. Black Swan was independently financed and cost just $13 million.)
The trouble began when Paramount, nervous about how audiences would respond to Aronofsky’s fantastical world and his deeply conflicted Noah, insisted on conducting test screenings over the director’s vehement objections while the film was a work in progress.
Friction grew when a segment of the recruited Christian viewers, among whom the studio had hoped to find Noah‘s most enthusiastic fans, questioned the film’s adherence to the Bible story and reacted negatively to the intensity and darkness of the lead character. Aronofsky’s Noah gets drunk, for example, and considers taking drastic measures to eradicate mankind from the planet. Hoping to woo the faith-based crowd, Paramount made and tested as many as half-a-dozen of its own cuts of the movie. “I was upset — of course,” Aronofsky tells The Hollywood Reporter in his first extensive interview about the film’s backstory. “No one’s ever done that to me.”
…. The Hollywood Reporter spoke with several people who saw an early test screening in Southern California’s Orange County and who identified themselves as religious. One viewer, who declined to give his name because Paramount required him to sign a nondisclosure agreement, echoed the sentiments of others by criticizing the depiction of Noah as a “crazy, irrational, religious nut” who is fixated on modern-day problems like overpopulation and environmental degradation.
….Whatever happens with Noah, the story has had a happy ending in one respect. Aronofsky asked his mother, herself a retired schoolteacher, to track down Mrs. Fried. She found her in Florida, and Aronofsky invited her to the set. True to form all these years later, she arrived in a pink car, dressed in pink. Aronofsky gave her a cameo in the film. You can spot her playing a one-eyed crone in a scene with Crowe.
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