It's been nearly a decade since director Darren Aronofsky first announced plans for his own take of the biblical myth of "Noah" and his famous ark. But according to "The Fountain" and "Requiem for a Dream" director, it wasn't until the project had a cast in place that the vision for the film really started to gel.
"The day we cast Russell Crowe, it all changed," Aronofsky told MTV News during the L.A. Junket for the movie. "You start with an artist like Russell and they're going to bring so much to it."
Crowe stars as the title character, a good man on a ravaged proto-Earth who receives a divine message that a terrible flood is on the way. Beyond the bible story basics, Aronofsky's version has a tinge of the fantastic, with stone angels, armies of armor-clad marauders, and magic.
For the director, it was a chance to reclaim some of the elements of Noah's oft-told story that may have been smoothed out over years of retelling.
"I think the Noah story has very much been co-opted into this parable for kids about Noah and the animals and an old man with a white beard," Aronofsky said. "But if you look at the actual story, it's not a kids' story at all, it's the first apocalypse story — it's about the end of the world."
For the director, it's a story about destroying "the thing you love most in the world" — whether it's the film's unseen creator sending a great flood to wipe out humanity, or a late-film turn where Noah questions whether he and his family will even be allowed to survive.
"It's about justice," Aronofsky explained. "And over the course of the film, mercy and grace are learned. And that's very much what happens to Noah in this story."
Beyond the script, the project required the cast to adopt rugged, biblical-era looks; something that allowed one of Aronofsky's long-standing filmmaking traditions to fit right in.
"Generally, I don't shave and I don't cut my hair over the course of a film. That's kind of a tradition of mine." Pointing at his freshly-shaved head, the director added, "I start off the film looking like this, and end up a woolly bastard at the end."
But who did the beard better? The director, or his star, Russell Crowe?
"Russell beat me, though," Aronofsky laughed. "He had a thicker, bigger one by the time we were done."
As for what's next for the director — we couldn't get him to commit to another shot at the "Wolverine" franchise, even if Fox offered him the gig again — Aronofsky says he's taking a break.
"I have no idea what I'm gonna do next," Aronofksy said. "I've been working on 'Noah' for three years, and I just need to take a break and breathe in."
"Noah" is in theaters today (March 28).