In a lengthy article for THR, filmmaker Darren Aronofsky has spoken about the battles he’s had with Paramount over test screening reactions to his upcoming $125 million Biblical epic “Noah” and how, in the few weeks before release, everything has worked out quite nicely for all involved.
Paramount was said to be initially worried about how audiences would respond to this biblical adventure and insisted on holding test screenings while post-production work was still in progress. Aronofsky strenuously objected to it, saying:
“I was upset — of course. No one’s ever done that to me. There was a rough patch. 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.”
The studio also recruited a number of Christian viewers with the hopes that they would be the biggest fans of the movie. Said viewers reacted badly in regards to the film’s adherence to the Bible and to the dark portrayal of Noah himself such as one scene where he gets drunk and contemplates genocide.
It got to the point that at least a half-dozen different cuts of the movie were tested to try and “woo the faithful” as such, including a bunch of Christian organizations from Catalyst and “Women of Faith” to Australia Pentecostal church Hillsong.
Ultimately though, the studio has gone with the Aronofsky’s own full 132 minute version. Ironically it’s the only version that hasn’t been test screened. Aronofsky says:
“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. They tried what they wanted to try, and eventually they came back. My version of the film hasn’t been tested … It’s what we wrote and what was greenlighted.”
Aronofsky has also defended his version in a lengthy quote to those who may take umbrage with the project not being 100% faithful to the original story:
“It’s probably is more accurate to say this movie is inspired by the story of Noah… [it contains] 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.
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.’
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.
For people who are very literal-minded, it would be great to communicate that the themes of the film are very much in line with the themes of the Bible – ideas about hope, second chances and family. If they allow that, they’re going to have an incredible experience with the movie. If they don’t allow it, it’s theirs to lose.”