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How A Middle School Teacher Inspired ‘Noah’

Darren Aronofsky credits Mrs. Fried with the idea for the film, cast her in it

Stephanie Butnick
February 14, 2014
Russel Crowe in 'Noah.'(The Wrap)
Russel Crowe in 'Noah.'(The Wrap)

There’s a big story about Darren Aronofsky’s ambitious new film project, Noah, in The Hollywood Reporter this week, which details the embattled process of getting potential faith-based audiences on board with the various artistic liberties taken by Aronofsky in his depiction of the biblical story of Noah’s Ark. It’s an interesting look at how the support of Christian viewers can propel a film to success (see: The Blind Side), and the extent to which studios will accomodate their needs when marketing—and in this case, producing—a film.

But the best part, as Vulture points out, is the part about Mrs. Fried, Aronofsky’s middle school teacher, who Aronofsky credits with inspiring him to create the film. Here’s how the piece opens.

When Darren Aronofsky was a 13-year old in Brooklyn, he had one of those unforgettable teachers. Mrs. Fried dressed in pink and drove a pink Mustang; Aronofsky says she was “magical.” When she assigned his English class to write about peace, Aronofsky produced a poem about the dove that wings its way to Noah aboard the ark in the Bible. When the poem won a United Nations contest, it sparked Aronofsky’s nascent faith in his creative powers.

There is nothing better than the image of a teacher driving around Brooklyn in a pink Mustang. Nothing. Except maybe her coming back to New York from Florida dressed in pink to film her part in the movie.

Aronofsky asked his mother, herself a retired schoolteacher, to track down Mrs. Fried. She found her in Florida, and Aronofsky invited her to the set. True to form all these years later, she arrived in a pink car, dressed in pink. Aronofsky gave her a cameo in the film. You can spot her playing a one-eyed crone in a scene with Crowe.

Move over Russell Crowe, Mrs. Fried is Noah’s real star.

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.