Russell Crowe broke his silence about his much-publicized trip to Vatican City last week, sharing details about why it was so important for him to visit Pope Francis.
Crowe, who had been tweeting the Pope about his upcoming Biblical adventure for weeks, landed in Rome on March 19, along with director Darren Aronofsky and Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore. Studio executives had hoped the trip would serve as a photo-op, but an actual photograph of Crowe and the Pope never surfaced.
Instead, the "Noah" team received seats in the VIP section of St. Peter's Square, along with thousands of others, to listen to the Pontiff's sermon on fatherhood, which fell on Father's Day in Rome. Crowe wouldn't say if he exchanged words with the Pope.
"Look man, I don't really want to keep going around in that circle, because the thing that was most significant for me was the kindness shown," Crowe said at the U.S. premiere of "Noah" at New York's Ziegfeld Theater. ""We had an incredible experience. It was humbling. It was beautiful."
Crowe added that as a non-Catholic, "I've never really felt any connection with the Pope before. This guy is different."
"He's a very inspirational person," said the film's director Aronosfky, an atheist who adapted the story of Noah's Ark into a $150 million epic. "His first sermon he was talking about how we all need to be stewards of the planet, which is a big part of the Noah story."
But did he actually meet the Pope?
"We were totally inspired by his presence the whole time," Aronosfky said, ducking the question.
"No, I didn't meet with him," said producer Scott Franklin. who also made the trip. "He gave us great seats, VIP seats, and we were guests of his. The energy was something you could barely experience in life."
Franklin acknowledged controversy surrounding the film from Christian churches concerned it takes too many liberties, but he pointed out that those critics hadn't seen the movie yet. "I think any time you make a film about the Bible where people hold the text so sacred, you're going to start some controversy," Franklin said, adding that the creative team "didn't get swayed by it."
"They were no Christians when Noah was around," said Mark Margolis, who plays Magog in the film. "There weren't even Jews. He was before all that. I think sailors will like it: it's very nautical."
Margolis explained that Crowe visited the Vatican because "he was looking for some, if possible, positive response, but apparently the Pope did not see it. Maybe the Pope bought the pirated Chinese version, which is probably all over the world," he joked.
The premiere was attended by Paramount chairman Brad Grey; Jennifer Connelly; Emma Watson, who plays Ila in the film; David Chase; 50 Cent; Ian Somerholder; and Stephen Baldwin, who isn't in the film, but said he was attending as a born-again Christian to support Aronofsky.
"I think there were questions about some content of the film being Biblically accurate," Baldwin said before the screening. "For me, it doesn't make sense. All Christians should go and support this film, because it allows for this conversation, which is cool."
The after-party was held at the Central Park Boathouse, where many VIPs nibbled on the vegan-only dishes of pasta and salad overlooking the water. Guests stayed until after midnight, and carpooled out of the park in black town cars. When asked what he thought of the film on his ride home, Baldwin replied, "It was funkier than I expected."