It might not have been the private film screening Russell Crowe campaigned for on Twitter, but it looks like the biblical actor and the team behind Noah got to briefly meet Pope Francis on Wednesday after all. The meetup follows a day of conflicting reports on a rumored Vatican meeting. Yesterday, Variety reported that the Pope had "cancelled" a meeting with Crowe and Noah director Darren Aronofsky. In response, Paramount denied that such a meeting had ever been scheduled. Crowe and Aronofsky were in Rome for a press tour and the Tuesday premiere of the film in Italy.
Here's how the meeting apparently came through after all: every Wednesday, Francis holds the papal equivalent of office hours for the public. Crowe, Aronofsky, and a handful of others behind the film showed up to meet the Pope, probably after reserving (free) tickets, presumably weeks in advance. The Hollywood Reporter piece on Crowe and Aronofsky's meeting contains few details, but we can make an educated guess at the extent of the meeting (which was not open) based on how the "office hours" normally proceed. These weekly audiences are an opportunity for the faithful to get blessings and hear the Pope speak in a slightly less formal setting. During the peak summer season, tens of thousands of people show up.
This gels with how the celebrities themselves have characterized their time at the Vatican. Aronofsky's statement on the meet was complimentary to the Pope's message at Wednesday's weekly audience. “Pope Francis’ comments on stewardship and our responsibility to the natural world are inspirational and of the utmost importance,” he said, according to the Wrap, adding, “When the opportunity to hear him speak in person on the anniversary of his first year in office I couldn't miss the chance to listen and learn.” And according to Crowe, the team may have asked Francis for a blessing:
Ciao Roma, my love for your eternal light just grows deeper. Thank you holy father @Pontifex for the blessing— Russell Crowe (@russellcrowe) March 19, 2014
These weekly meetings are no doubt the easiest way to get an audience with the pope, and Crowe and co. are hardly the first celebrities to take advantage of them. Last April, musician and artist Patti Smith shook Pope Francis's hand during a weekly audience in St. Peter's square.
Crowe and Aronofsky's papal meeting comes in the midst of a prolonged controversy over the biblical epic, after some Christian groups accused the film of being too unfaithful to the original scripture.
That controversy has, at times, caused tension between Aronofsky and Paramount, especially after the production company tested what they believed to be more Christian-friendly cuts of Aronofsky's film and added a disclaimer" to the film's marketing materials. In the middle of all that, Crowe sent a bunch of tweets to the Pope's twitter account, lobbying for a private screening and a blessing of the film. Although Francis is a noted film buff, it's unlikely that Noah will get the papal endorsement Crowe asked for: the Vatican's official line on Francis's viewing habits is that he doesn't watch movies at all.
Noah opens in theaters on March 28th.