By Hollie McKay
Promo images from “Noah.” (PARAMOUNT)
LOS ANGELES – Christians in Arizona didn’t like it.
Jews in New York didn’t like it.
A slice of the general population of Orange County, Calif. didn’t like it.
So the question in Hollywood now is: Will the upcoming $125 million “Noah” blockbuster sink, or float?
As first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, director Darren Aronofsky and Paramount Studios are battling over the final cut of the Russell Crowe, Emma Watson-starring “Noah,” which tested poorly at screenings for the three audiences mentioned above.
A source tells FOX411 that Paramount is determined to make a movie that is as biblically accurate as possible and appeals to those who go to church each Sunday, while Aronofsky – an independent filmmaker making his first big studio film – has a very different creative vision less in the line with scripture.
“Paramount is trying to keep it on track,” the insider said.
Some critics are upset that sticking to the Bible’s version of events is even an issue.
“You can’t stray from the Bible in a Bible-based film without upsetting a percentage of the Christian faith base. Interpretations may vary, but if the story changes, even a little, it’s deemed offensive,” entertainment and political publicist Angie Meyer-Olszewski, told FOX411. “When a studio releases a movie that’s biblical, they are playing a game of religious roulette.”
“Noah” has been plagued by plot problems since it got the green light. A leaked 2012 version of the script painted Aronofsky’s Noah as some sort of eco-warrior, and portrayed the famous flood as a punishment for man’s disrespect for the ecosystem, as opposed to sins against God. However, Dr. Ted Baehr of the family entertainment site MovieGuide.com – who has close ties to the production – is confident the film will ultimately satisfy religious audiences.
“The story is very thin, and they are trying to add to it,” he explained.
But not everyone thinks “Noah” has to follow the Bible’s lead. Others think the critically acclaimed director behind “Black Swan,” “The Wrestler,” and “Requiem for a Dream” has the right to tell the tale in whatever way he sees fit.
“Darren Aronofsky is a filmmaker, not a historian or theology professor so as an artist he can interpret the story of Noah however he wants,” argued L.A-based pop culture expert Jenn Hoffman. “Paramount might worry about offending people, but that shouldn’t be a director’s concern. Aronofsky only has to stay true to his own vision.”
Both the studio and its director have been quick to deflect any suggestion of internal sparring. Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore told THR that “Noah” is simply enduring a “normal preview process” and a rep for Aronofsky responded to the reports in Entertainment Weekly. “This is a long and collaborative process, and Darren and the studio are working together to make the best version of his movie that they can.” The rep said. “To comment on anonymous quotes only gives time and space to false rumors and gossip.”
Reps for Paramount, IMDB and Aronofsky did not respond to our requests for further comment.