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Russell Crowe brings 'Noah' to life

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"Noah" docks at the box office this weekend, firmly planted in the good graces of Hollywood film critics and towing a deluge of outrage among several religious groups and some Middle Eastern countries that have banned the film altogether.

But let's take a step back to the beginning. After Darren Aronofsky made "Requiem for a Dream," "The Wrestler," or most recently "Black Swan," the Old Testament might seem like unlikely subject matter for his worldly sensibilities. But in reality Aronofsky's fascination with Noah and the great flood has been incubating for 32 years. It all started with an award-winning poem he wrote as a seventh-grade student in the class of Ms. Fried, who has a cameo in the film.

Now an Oscar-nominated writer-director with about $130 million dollars to play with, Aronofsky circled back to the epic survival parable with Russell Crowe in mind for the lead. Crowe recalls the conversation they had when Aronofsky brought the idea to him.

"He said 'I have two promises. First promise, you don't have to wear sandals. And promise number 2 I'll never have you on the bow of a ship flanked by a giraffe,'" Crowe said.

To create a modern interpretation that would convey the gravity of this apocalyptic chronicle, Aronofsky and his co-writer first had to figure out what their cast would say. God does most of the talking in Noah's chapters in Genesis, with Noah speaking for the first time after exiting the ark.

"There were to things we wanted to do from the get go, not contradict anything in Genesis, and figure out how to bring those things to life for a 21st Century audience," said co-writer Ari Handel.

In modernizing Genesis, the film repackages Noah's story as the world's first climate-change and renames God as the Creator, two artistic liberties that do not sit well with some in the religious community.

Weathering feedback -- be it good or bad -- is something Crowe will become even more familiar with as he leads a crew of his own in "The Water Diviner," his directorial debut.

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