'Noah' star Russell Crowe pays visit to Archbishop of Canterbury

(Photo: Lambeth Palace)The Archbishop of Canterbury with Russell Crowe

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby welcomed Hollywood actor Russell Crowe to his official residence on Tuesday ahead of the UK release of Noah on Friday.

The Archbishop's office said the two men discussed faith and spirituality during the short private meeting at Lambeth Palace.

Crowe appeared at the UK premiere of the film in London's Leicester Square on Monday alongside fellow Noah stars Jennifer Connolly and Emma Watson. 

Noah has been controversial with Christians and Muslims even before it hit theatres, with several Muslim-majority countries banning it and some Christians boycotting it out of a belief that it is unbiblical.

The film's stars have been outspoken in their defence of director Darren Aronofsky's take on the film.  Crowe, who told the BBC that playing Noah had been his "most difficult" role so far, said in an interview with Good Morning America last week that judging the film before seeing it was "bordering on absolute stupidity". 

"Now, I think, people are seeing the movie and they're realising how respectful it is and how potent it is," he continued.

"The great thing about this film, whether you're somebody of faith or not, is that you come out of this movie and you want to talk...about our stewardship of the earth, our relationship to animals, what is spirituality, who am I in this world, all these fantastic subjects for conversation."

Emma Watson, who plays his daughter Ila in the film, said the Old Testament story of Noah had to be adapted for the big screen so that there would be dialogue and more roles for women. 

"If we had gone with exactly the original story, Noah doesn't say anything until he steps off the ark. You would have been watching a silent film," she said.

The Damaris Trust, which has produced resources for churches to use in conjunction with the film, hosted a screening for Christian ministry leaders at Paramount Pictures' London base, where the feedback from those in attendance was overwhelmingly positive.

The resources include film clips and short videos exploring the movie's themes that can be used alongside discussion starters.  Damaris is encouraging church groups to go and see the film together and use the resources afterwards to dig deeper into the questions and issues raised by the movie.   

The head of Damaris Trust, Nick Pollard, is enthusiastic about people going to see the film, saying it has "great potential to draw people into the Bible".

"Of course it is not a word-for-word retelling of the biblical story - it is far more than that," he said.

"Whilst faithfully telling the core story, this film brilliantly takes us into the mind of Noah and sets his task and the flood in the wider context of the whole biblical narrative.

"As someone who loves the Bible and has read (and preached on) the Noah story very many times I am sure that this film has a marvellous potential to encourage people to think about questions of faith and doubt, righteousness and wickedness, judgment and mercy, and the relationship between humanity, the world and God.

"It can stimulate people to look at the original story for themselves. It can provoke a national conversation about the Bible."