By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood February 12, 2014 at 1:13PM
Word got out back in October that Darren Aronofsky and Paramount were suffering stormy seas in terms of getting $125 million Biblical epic "Noah" to a final cut. Numerous test screenings -- to different religious demographics -- were producing "worrisome" results. Studio concern seemed to lie in how much or little the film was sticking to the original Biblical text -- after all, they want a mega hit, along the lines of "The Passion of the Christ."
Now, Aronofsky has opened up to the Hollywood Reporter about his battles with the studio on the film. Highlights below.
"Noah" hits theaters March 28. (Trailer here.)
Aronofsky on Paramount's decision to test-screen as many as half-a-dozen of its own cuts of "Noah" to Christian viewers:
"I was upset -- of course. No one's ever done that to me… There was a rough patch."
On subverting expectations about Noah as a character:
"We wanted to smash expectations of who Noah is. The first thing I told Russell is, 'I will never shoot you on a houseboat with two giraffes behind you.' ... You're going to see Russell Crowe as a superhero, a guy who has this incredibly difficult challenge put in front of him and has to overcome it."
On creating a film for believers and non-believers alike:
"[I wanted to create] this fantastical world a la Middle-earth that they wouldn't expect from their grandmother's Bible school. [But it would also work for audiences] who take this very, very seriously as gospel… I had no problem completely honoring and respecting everything in the Bible and accepting it as truth.Of course, my production designer [Mark Friedberg] had a million ideas of what it could look like, but I said, 'No, the measurements are right there.' [Re: Genesis describing the Ark as a giant box]."
On test screening a film like 'Noah':
"I imagine if I made comedies and horror films, it would be helpful. In dramas, it's very, very hard to do. I've never been open to it."
On his confidence that his cut of 'Noah' would be the only workable one:
"My guys and I were pretty sure that because of the nature of the film and how we work, there wasn't another version. That's what I told them … the scenes were so interconnected -- if you started unwinding scenes, I just knew there would be holes. I showed it to filmmaker friends, and they said the DNA was set in this film."
I'm a great closer. I've never reshot a frame, and I think that's very odd on big-budget movies. We're meticulous. We come from independent film, with limited resources… It was pretty hard to keep working. But we still brought it in on time."
Paramount Vice Chair Rob Moore on the film's non-literal interpretation of the "Noah" tale:
“This movie has a lot more creativity to it. And therefore, if you want to put it on the spectrum, it probably is more accurate to say this movie is inspired by the story of Noah… [The film reflects] the key themes of the Noah story in Genesis -- of faith and hope and God's promise to mankind…Our anticipation is that the vast majority of the Christian community will embrace it."