Hurricane Sandy shut down production on a number of movie and television productions on the East Coast. It is not without some irony that Paramount Pictures’ Noah, a $125 million epic starring Russell Crowe and directed by Darren Aronofsky, had to halt production due to the hurricane.
The film about the Biblical flood and ark postponed shooting last week, but the big question is what will happen to the movie’s colossal boat. Aronofsky’s production team built two massive ships – one inside a Brooklyn sound stage, the other in the water at Oyster Bay, NY. Oyster Bay, a small inlet on the Long Island Sound, was very much in the path of Hurricane Sandy, with local flooding and wind gusts of up to 63 mph reported in the area.
The outdoor ark, which measures 450 feet long and is 75 feet tall and 45 feet wide, was not intended to be seaworthy. With production on the film wrapping up soon, the ark was scheduled to be used only sparingly in the weeks ahead and was partially dismantled before the “perfect storm” hit. It is still unclear how much damage, if any, the vessels endured, but if the boat sustained damages from the storm, it may need to be repaired, which would delay completion of the movie’s final scenes.
Noah will be the first Biblical film Hollywood has turned out in many years. Although popular in the 1950s and 1960s, when such films as The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur, and The Bible were produced, films derived from the Bible saw a decline starting in the 1970s until now. Noah will connect with religious Americans who “may not necessarily go to more than one or two movies a year,” said Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore.
In addition to Noah, Steven Spielberg is in talks with Warner Bros. to direct a film about Moses called Gods and Kings. Another Moses project, Exodus, is in development at 20th Century Fox, with Ridley Scott expected to direct. Sony Pictures is developing The Redemption of Cain, a supernatural film loosely inspired by the fratricidal tale of Cain and Abel, a project slated to be Will Smith’s directorial debut.
The current appeal of producing stories from the Bible could involve several factors, chief among them that studios do not have to bother with acquiring screen rights, as the Bible is public domain. Also, with all of the stories of floods, fires, and other disasters, Biblical projects lend themselves to being highly visual films that could benefit from the recent advances in computerized special effects and 3D.
As for Noah, Paramount’s Moore said his studio plans to market the film to both the secular and more religious moviegoing public. “To the frequent moviegoer, we’ll be selling it as an action-adventure movie with spectacular visual effects and with great filmmakers and an amazing cast,” Moore said. “[We will also be] directly appealing to groups who we hope will come to it as a way to talk about and think about a story of faith, either with their family or even potentially reaching out to youth groups.”
Noah is scheduled for a March 2014 release. As for the current delay in production, last week Crowe tweeted: “Sitting in a Hurricane, just like any other day … I’ll wait to see what blows in with the wind.”