In the much-hyped build-up to Passion of the Christ in 2004, Mel Gibson screened the polarizing film for Pope John Paul II, who may or may not have endorsed it by saying, “It is as it was.” The Pope later met with actor Jim Caviezel and blessed him in a priceless photo op that helped promote the movie.
Paramount and the team behind Noah were likely hoping for a similar boost this week, with the film having its Italian premiere on Tuesday. Russell Crowe, who plays the Bible figure as action-hero, had been tweeting Pope Francis in recent weeks, urging him to screen Darren Aronofsky’s $130 million movie about the great flood. It’s unclear whether the pontiff has seen the film, but a planned meeting between the film’s star and Francis was canceled after the Vatican reportedly grew concerned that Crowe’s celebrity would turn the Pope’s dignified weekly general-audience meet-and-greet into a media frenzy. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Paramount dropped its plan once news of Crowe’s possible appearance became public.
Though it must feel like a missed opportunity for the film, Crowe can take solace in knowing that the Vatican apparently considers him a bigger star than Caviezel.