After conflicting reports from Paramount Studios and various trade magazines, it turns out that Russell Crowe, the star of "Noah," and writer-director Darren Aronofsky, did indeed meet with Pope Francis today, according to Deadline.com.
"Noah," an epic adaptation of the biblical story, has generated controversy among faith-based viewers concerned about its adherence to scripture. Christian writers blasted an early draft of the script as "anti-Biblical, "anti-human" and overly focused on environmental themes. In the Middle East, "Noah" is the subject of an Egyptian fatwa and has been banned by three countries.
In the midst of the controversy, Crowe was reportedly lobbying to meet with the Pope. Variety earlier this week reported that the Pope had canceled a meeting with the star, but Paramount responded that no meeting had been officially scheduled. The studio and the trade publication have been squabbling slightly over stories that focused on the negative reactions to "Noah."
Deadline, however, posted a report just before 5 a.m. today that said: "Crowe, director Darren Aronofsky and Paramount executive Rob Moore did in fact get to meet Pope Francis today, after the Vatican extended an olive branch and hosted the trio in the official VIP section of this morning’s Udienza." An udienza is an audience with the Pope.
“Pope Francis’ comments on stewardship and our responsibility to the natural world are inspirational and of the utmost importance.” Aronofsky said after the meeting. “When the opportunity to hear him speak in person on the anniversary of his first year in office I couldn’t miss the chance to listen and learn.”
The article doesn't specify the length or duration of the "Noah" team's meeting with the pontiff. Whether the filmmakers conducted a substantial conversation with Pope Francis or were simply part of a larger audience in the pope's presence isn't quite clear.
Deadline's Mike Fleming theorized that the "Noah" team initially played the meeting close to the vest out of fear of generating more negative publicity. "I think the studio was a little coy earlier in the week," Fleming wrote. "This was something that Aronofsky wanted to do after he’d just made this Biblical epic. He was going to be near Rome promoting it, and has been moved by the pope’s message of tolerance, feeding the poor and preserving the planet. But they didn’t want it to seem they were after some cheesy photo op to promote a Biblical movie."
"Noah," which also stars Jennifer Connolly, Emma Watson and Anthony Hopkins, is due in theaters March 28.