‘Noah’ Featurette: How to Build an Ark

Bryan Enk
Yahoo Movies

So how did director Darren Aronofsky and his crew pull off the construction of the ark for their upcoming Biblical epic, "Noah"? The old-fashioned way: They actually constructed an ark.

For at least the pre-flood part of the story, a good percentage of the "vessel to survive the storm" in "Noah" is an actual set, the design of which was inspired by "going back to what God tells Noah in the Bible," according to Aronofsky in this behind-the-scenes featurette.

The Bible doesn't provide just a basic description, either — there are actual measurements.

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"In [the Book of] Genesis, the dimensions of the ark are laid out: 30 cubits high by 50 cubits wide by 300 cubits long," says production designer Mark Friedberg, explaining that a cubit is roughly "the dimension of your elbow to the tip of your forefinger."

Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you shall make it: the length of the ark 300 hundred cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. You shall make a window for the ark, and finish it to a cubit from the top; and set the door of the ark in the side of it; you shall make it with lower, second, and third decks.…
—The voice of God, Genesis 6:14 - 6:16

'Noah' (Paramount Pictures)
'Noah' (Paramount Pictures)

The exterior set of the ark followed these guidelines and was "built to the actual scope described in the Bible," according to Aronofsky. The completed set, which took a year to design and six months to build, ended up being 55 feet tall and 85 feet wide. Some digital work was implemented to make the ark seem 500 feet long, though the physical version's length is still rather impressive at 165 feet.

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"[The Bible] basically describes a box," says Aronofsky. "It doesn't talk about a bow, it doesn't have to navigate. It's not like Noah was trying to take the ship anywhere — it just basically has to survive the flood."

The "rough and rugged" design of the ark, which Friedberg claims gives it its "vitality," also accounts for the boarding of several different kinds of animals, with dual ramps built for reptiles, a large doorway for mammals and high ceilings for birds.

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Aronofsky admits that such a practical set is a rare thing in Hollywood these days. "Movies don't really build things like this anymore," he says, and at least two of his "Noah" stars are rather impressed.

"The first day I showed up for exterior scenes, I saw the ark just lifting out of the ground," says Russell Crowe, who plays the title role. "It was an experience."

Even Emma Watson, who has traversed many large-scale cinematic worlds since before she was 10 years old, is rather taken with the ark.

"I've been fortunate enough to work on films with big budgets and amazing sets but I still think what Darren has pulled off is quite incredible," says the "Harry Potter" alum. "It feels very once-in-a-lifetime that I'll stand on a whole, physical ark."

"Noah" will open in theaters on March 28.