Russell Crowe Meets With U.K. Church Leader to Discuss 'Noah'

LONDON – Russell Crowe topped local headlines after visiting one of the U.K.'s top church leaders ahead of the imminent rollout of biblical epic Noah in British movie theaters.

The New Zealand-born Oscar winner met the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, for what has been described in the British press as a "short private meeting."

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Reports in The Telegraph, The Guardian and on the BBC News website suggest the pair met to discuss religious issues raised in the Darren Aronofsky-directed epic.

Crowe met with Welby at Lambeth Palace, the British capital residence for the Church of England leader after the U.K. premiere of the film in Leicester Square on Monday.

The two men reportedly discussed issues of "faith and spirituality", reports said.

The movie, currently number one at the U.S. box office having grossed $43.7 million in its domestic debut, has been surrounded by controversy and criticized for its loose interpretation of the familiar biblical story of the man, an arc and his animals.

Crowe's meeting with Welby follows the actor's brief public visit with the Pope at the Vatican last month.

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Crowe and the team behind Noah were at Francis' weekly audience last Wednesday in St. Peter's Square and local observers say they briefly met the pontiff.

Crowe had politely lobbied the pontiff via tweets to watch the film.

Aronofsky was also in attendance in Rome, despite having labeled his own movie "the least biblical biblical film ever made."

The director recently defended his version of Noah on U.S. TV against "environmental wacko" accusations, telling CNN's Christiane Amanpour: "It was very clear to us that there was an environmental message [in the Bible]. To pull that message out of it, we think, would have been more of an editing job than just sort of representing what's there."

Noah stars Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson and Ray Winstone.

Paramount is opening the movie in British cinemas on April 4, just ahead of the Easter holiday.

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