Rain is a constant risk of Dublin life, but it was apt to see the clouds descend on O’Connell Street for the premiere of Noah on Saturday. A heavy mist smothered the city in expectation of the arrival of Russell Crowe, the film’s leading man, on the red carpet. In a canny piece of advertising, Crowe attended three premieres in the British Isles in the space of one day. Exhausting? Noah must have God on his side.
The drizzly clouds never let up, dampening most everything except the spirits of the attendant crowd who has assembled by the barriers skirting the red carpet. The mood stayed buoyant as PR folks passed flyers for autographs out to the crowd, whilst an actor dressed as Noah proclaimed a very damp end of days for the sake of hawking weatherproof paint. Security was tight; breath was baited; patience was abundant but tested. The grins of all involved in this event screening bellowed with one ironic message; this was going to go flawlessly, come hell or high water.
Noah is a retelling of the Genesis story, as Noah (Crowe) is charged by God with saving his family and samples of all of Earth’s animal species from an impending flood. Noah and his family begin construction of a huge ark, much to the chagrin of violently skeptical locals. The spectacle of such a story is nothing new to director Darren Aronofsky, whose films never lack for ambition (See his curtailed yet beautifully transcendental love story The Fountain for proof). Still, a straight adaptation would be too much of a gamble now. Instead he manages a tricky balance between Bible story, environmentalist tale and adventure, with minimal irony and strong performances from all concerned. Alongside Crowe, the cast features his A Beautiful Mind co-star Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Anthony Hopkins and Ray Winstone (It’s saddening to learn that at no point in the film does Winstone yell, “Oi, Noah, you slaaaaaag!”).
Prior to the film’s release on this side of the Atlantic this Friday (April 4th), Dublin, Edinburgh and Cardiff welcome Crowe and his young co-star Douglas Booth (playing Noah’s eldest son, Shem) to their respective red carpets. Dublin is first on the list, with fans arriving from early in the morning ahead of the screening’s 12:45 start. The rains get heavier as ticket holders are admitted first, followed by photo-ops for the local hangers-on ahead of the arrival of the main draws. Booth arrives first, sporting a faint check suit. Despite cheers from the folks outside, his red carpet time is brief; the man everyone is here to see is following close behind.
Crowe arrives in style, in a black-and-white patterned scarf and elegant black coat. The fans scream for his attention, and he does not disappoint. Despite time constraints, he responds to autograph and selfie requests with an efficiency that only the experience of many premieres past can bring. Reputations be damned; he has classic star wattage viewed up close. Moving between media outlets along the red carpet, he’s to the point but disarmingly charming. Questions inevitably turn to critical responses to the film from conservative Christian groups. Were he and the filmmakers surprised by this? “No,” comes to honest reply, “We kind of expected that, just the same way we expected to be banned in certain Muslim countries as well. But it’s gratifying that people are actually starting to see the movie now, because it gets irritating after a while. 12-14 months of criticism based on people not seeing the film.” His reference to skepticism on the public’s part during production belies that certain gruffness beneath the warmth. If nothing else, Crowe is only human; expectations for a biblical story would always be low in the modern age.
Our attention turns to the filmmakers. We ask Crowe what he felt Aronofsky brought to the project. “A lot of planning, and a very specific budget!” is the knowing reply, delivered with a warm smile. That specific budget is currently touted at approximately US$125 million, so a man with a plan was clearly a must. Was working with Aronofsky part of the draw for Crowe? He confirms, “Definitely. I’ve been following Darren’s growth as a filmmaker for about 15 years, and I was really taken aback by Black Swan. It’s one of those calls that you wanna get, you know? Here’s a guy coming towards the peak of his powers, and you’re the guy he wants to call!”
Showing his enthusiasm, Crowe reveals a tale from the casting process. “[Aronofsky] made a gag at our first conversation. He said ‘I’ll tell you what the movie is we have to make together. I’ll make you two promises, but don’t say anything after I say the title.’ He said it’s Noah, and then he said ‘Here’s the two promises. One: I will not require you to wear sandals. Two: I will not have you on the bow of a ship flanked by a giraffe and an elephant.” It’s a relief to hear this from Noah himself; that image could be either kitsch or ironic, two points of view which the film purposefully avoids. Crowe nods to the balancing act Aronofsky performs with Noah. “In his vision, even though you’re talking about a biblical story, Darren’s allowed a certain latitude for evolutionary theories as well.”
Running late, time constraints force Crowe on his way. The press gallery consisted of seasoned journalists and relative newbies, but all are left with a feeling of achievement. His reputation and his handlers precede him, but Crowe clearly has a great deal of energy devoted to Noah. The marketing push has been a big effort, and he has two more premieres to fly to before the day is out. We later hear he made it to the Edinburgh screening before the Dublin screening had even ended! Whether or not he’s doing the Lord’s work, his director and the film’s backers should be pleased by Crowe’s efforts.
Noah is released on 4th April. Read the Scannain review here.