Behind the scenes of Darren Aronofsky’s epic new movie
Sixteen years in the making, ‘Noah’ is the epic new movie from Darren Aronofsky, one of the most inventive directors working in cinema at the moment. Russell Crowe has passionately promoted the film, which recently brought him into Dublin this weekend for the Irish premiere. Below he talks about the challenges involved in bringing the tale of the ‘Noah’ to the big screen.
Q: When did you first hear about Noah and what was your reaction?
A: Darren came to see me and said ‘I’ll tell you the title of the movie and I’ll make you two promises, but you can’t comment until you’ve heard the promises.’ I was like, ‘OK.’ And he said, ‘the title of the movie is Noah and the two promises are that you don’t have to wear sandals and I’ll never require you to be standing on the bow of a ship flanked by an elephant and a giraffe.’ (laughs). And then I read the script and I loved it. If you look into the story of Noah, if you go back to the Hebrew version of the Bible, it’s the fourth story – there’s creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel and Noah. And those four stories are in every ancient religious text, it doesn’t matter whether you are Christian, Muslim or Jewish, they are there. For me, Noah is a story of shared human experience – the great flood – and you can see the marks of the flood everywhere. Australian aboriginal tribes have a flood mythology. It happened and it may well happen again and maybe that’s why this movie is important.
Q: Darren has said that he wanted to make a film about Noah for a long time..
A: Yes, it goes back sixteen years and more for Darren. He knows all the options available and he has chosen options that will make you love Noah and be fearful of Noah and maybe, at the end of the day, understand his journey. It’s potent and explosive. Darren has made a magnificent film.
Q: You filmed Noah in Iceland and in New York where Darren’s crew had built an interior and exterior of the Ark. How important was it for you that you had those sets to work with?
A: We had a physical Ark. We had an exterior in situ and an interior so we could walk in the world and that is very important. That set was gigantic. I believe Darren had been told by people who know these things that the interior Ark was the largest individual set that had ever been built. It was hugely impressive.
Q: For a film about an extreme flood, you certainly had your share of bad weather to contend with, not least Hurricane Sandy which hit New York whilst you were filming…
A: We had Hurricane Sandy followed by snowstorms, everything was thrown at us. Especially rain – we had a lot of rain. We were doing one sequence and we had these ‘rain towers’ in the sky that could flood eight football fields in about 30 seconds. And the ironic and silly thing is we had 36 days of rain on set and I was like ‘well, we might as well hit 40 so we can talk about it…’ (laughs). But it gets to the point where a drop of rain hits your head and it’s like Chinese water torture and you just can’t take it anymore.
Q: It sounds like it was a very challenging movie?
A: It was the hardest job I’ve ever done because of the subject matter and the responsibility to it – there’s no room for just making shit up and most of the time you are allowed to do that, you are allowed to work within certain parameters, you become expert on your character and you can expand what he does. But not with Noah because it had to be very specific. It was also physically challenging because we were working in extreme conditions – the rain, autumn turning into winter in New York can be very cold. In Iceland it was incredibly windy. Beautiful but windy. I remember talking to this local guy in a café and he asked what we were doing and I told him we’d been filming at a nearby beach and he said ‘you have to be very careful of that beach, a number of people get sucked out from that beach every year because the tide is so strong.’ And I’d been going in and out of the water all day and I remember feeling that tide and the other thing is that at that time of year the temperature of the water is so low if you are in the water for more than fifteen minutes, you’re dead. So it was extreme. But it was worth it. Darren has made a magnificent film.