'Noah' Writer Talks Dramatizing Short Biblical Story

Emma Watson at Wednesday night's premiere in New York.
Emma Watson at Wednesday night's premiere in New York.
 

How did the writers of Noah, the Paramount film starring Russell Crowe, expand upon the short story in the Bible to make a two-hour movie?

Ari Handel, who co-wrote the screenplay with director Darren Aronofsky, said that the process involved both honoring and deeply exploring the source material.

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"We never wanted to contradict anything in the Bible," Handel told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the film's U.S. premiere in New York on Wednesday night. "So we started there, and basically what we wanted to look at were: What are the themes and questions that the story's bringing forward that we should be grappling with? So we read Genesis very carefully to look at what we thought it was about, and then we tried to dramatize that and make it human."

When it came to doing additional research on their characters, Aronofsky and Handel were so well informed that cast members turned to them for further insight.

"Darren and Ari had done so much research," Douglas Booth, who plays Noah's son Shem, explained. "Darren had been trying to make this movie for such a long time that they were just a fountain of knowledge, so we had them, and Ari was on set every day."

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Fellow cast member Logan Lerman felt the same way.

"Darren and Ari … they were my search engine for the movie," he said. "So anytime I had a question, I'd talk to them about it, and I did some research in terms of, like, the aftermath of my character and stuff like that, but most of my work went into the script."

Noah is a mini-reunion for Lerman and his Perks of Being a Wallflower costar Emma Watson.

The actor said having a friend around made the experience of making a movie with Aronofsky and stars Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly less daunting.

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"It's nice to have a friend around and someone that you're familiar and comfortable with, and made it …easier when you're walking onto such an intimidating set like this one," Lerman said.

It was Aronofsky, however, who made Watson feel more comfortable.

The Harry Potter alum said she thought the Black Swan filmmaker would challenge her, which was what she wanted.

After working with him, Watson said the director gave her more confidence as an actress.

"[He's] given me the confidence to stand in my own space and take my time with things," she explained. "I used to have a tendency of speaking very quickly and rushing things, and Darren just said, 'No, we want to hear what you have to say ...Take your time and communicate in a way that's honorable and as real as you possibly can, and be brave.'"

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Lerman, who told THR that Aronofsky's involvement was what first made him want to do the movie, was impressed by the filmmaker's grace under pressure.

"Most directors get overwhelmed, especially with the scale of this big of a film," the former Percy Jackson star said. "And he always knew what he wanted and had a very meticulous, very detailed vision, and he never seemed to stumble."

Handel added that although Noah has a much bigger budget than Aronofsky's previous films, at more than $125 million, the core elements are the same as those on his smaller pictures.

"The essential things are the same, which is you're struggling to make everything as coherent as you can and make the story go together as well as you can," Handel said. "There's obviously more tools, and there's therefore more complexity and more things that could go wrong, but fundamentally the concerns are the same."

The Manhattan premiere of the Paramount-New Regency film brought out a number of high-profile execs from both companies, including New Regency's Arnon Milchan, Paramount CEO Brad Grey and vice chair Rob Moore and Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman.

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