Darren Aronofsky made Russell Crowe two promises before asking the actor to star in his giant adaptation of the Biblical story of Noah and the flood. Here's how Crowe tells it:
"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."
Standing on the Long Island set of Noah, with an enormous ark that looks nothing like Sunday School illustrations looming behind him, Crowe was living proof that Aronofsky had kept his promise. The sandals and the big white beard were gone. In its place was a rugged man on his way toward a giant fight scene, soaking wet from take after take underneath enormous, oddly beautiful rain machines built for shooting at night. What's Crowe's version of Noah? "This one. A wet one."
Many of the exteriors in Noah were filmed in Iceland, which gives the film the unmistakable look immediately familiar in all of the trailers. But in September of 2012-- just a few weeks before Hurricane Sandy blew through--Aronofsky had come home, erecting a giant version of the ark in a park in Long Island, an hour outside New York City. On the night we visited the entire area was blanketed in a thick fog, making the sight of a rugged, ancient Ark all the more surreal. It's described in the Bible as "300 cubics long, by 75 cubics wide, by 45 cubics high." In person it's just… gigantic. To get to the set I walked past the Barclays Center, the sports arena that was brand-new to Brooklyn at the time. Aronofsky's ark was nearly as big, and maybe more impressive.
Being a night shoot that involved lots of extras--the scene was set once the rain had begun, and people were realizing that Noah had the right idea to build the ark after all-- and those unworldly rain machines, both Aronofsky and Crowe had precious little time to stop by and chat. But below is the time they generously gave us, with Aronofsky explaining how he told the studios he wanted to make something that's "not your grandfather's Biblical epic," something that became even more of a challenge when he first turned in the script, around the same time Steve Carell's Noah-inspired Evan Almighty became an expensive flop. But first up is Crowe, who describes the way that Aronofsky wooed him to the project, and the awe those rain machines can inspire in him-- at least, until the water actually starts to fall.
Noah opens March 28.