Two by two, including the arks used to film 'Noah'

NEW YORK — The ark in "Noah" should be the ultimate petting zoo, but a warning sign on the film's massive set here tells visitors to keep their hands to themselves: "Animals are fragile. Please do not touch."

There are fake mammals crowding one deck, artificial lambs lying with ersatz lions on another, mounds of rubber snakes and turtles and lizards in one corner, stuffed birds of all feathers molting somewhere else.

"It's like jellybeans in a jar," producer Mary Parent said of the quantity of prop animals residing in the ark. "If you can guess the right number, you win a prize." And just so that every beast and person, including Noah (Russell Crowe) and his passengers (including Jennifer Connelly, Logan Lerman and Emma Watson), don't go hungry, there are barrels of grain and racks of dried fish everywhere.

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Due March 28, the biblical tale is one of the season's more curious projects. It has been floating around Hollywood for a decade, with various cast iterations (Christian Bale, Michael Fassbender) coming and going. Along the way, "Noah" passed through Universal and MGM before being picked up by Paramount and given a budget of more than $100 million. (It was co-financed by Regency Enterprises.)

There were two arks employed in the production (one outdoors and one inside), each built to represent a vessel 450 feet long, 45 feet wide and 75 feet tall. To complement all of the physical artificial animals, a visual effects team will add thousands of digital creatures to be taken aboard to survive the great flood.

The script hews closely to the Book of Genesis account and is aggressively not a sword-and-sandals throwback but, rather, is set in an unspecified moment in history.

Director and co-writer Darren Aronofsky ("Black Swan," "The Wrestler") might seem like an unusual pick to adapt one of the Bible's most enduring and powerful stories, but he said he's wanted to tell the story on screen since he was a teenager.

"We completely wanted to respect the text," said Aronofsky, who co-wrote "Noah" with Ari Handel, "and build a story out of what the text was saying."


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