Dark Fantasy Author Mark Morris On Adapting Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Noah’

 

Dark fantasy author Mark Morris recently spoke with me about the process of novelizing Darren Aronofsky’s film Noah:

When he has a vision about a flood sent to destroy all life on earth, Noah knows what he must do. Together with his family, he must save two of every living animal. He must build an ark. Noah has to evade the many dangers that would see him fail and leave the world to ruin, and overcome his own struggles to fulfill his mission. This is the epic story of one man’s attempt to preserve life for a new world.

You’ve been a writer of horror, science fiction, and thrillers for a long while. How did you get tied into Noah?

It was purely through my publisher, Titan, and my agent. I’d previously written a Spartacus novel for Titan at very short notice, after which they had bought an original crime/horror/dark fantasy trilogy from me, the first book of which, Obsidian Heart: The Wolves of London is out in October. My editor at Titan thought I’d be a good fit for the Noah book and so offered it to me. As I thought it sounded an intriguing project, and regard Darren Aronofsky as one of the most interesting and innovative film-makers in the world, I said yes.

Noah, of course, is a Biblical tale, but the director, Darren Aronofsky, took his own direction with the plot, and then you wrote an adaptation. It’s a little mind boggling, and reminded me a little bit of Robert Downey, Jr.’s line from the film Tropical Thunder: “I’m a dude playing a dude disguised as another dude!” How did you handle all of this?

To be honest, I worked purely from the script written by Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel — or rather, I worked from a couple of scripts, which were similar but not the same and which I mixed and matched together. The thing with doing movie tie-ins is that you can’t stray too far from the source material — which in this instance, I hasten to add, was the script and not the Bible story.

Did you approach Noah as a fantasy story? How did your literary background inform your approach to the material?

I guess I did approach Noah as a fantasy story — but then again, as I’ve said, movie tie-in novelisations don’t give you much scope to expand and embellish the material. Plus you have to write them incredibly quickly, so there isn’t even much time to read and research around the subject. My approach was simply a case of bringing the script alive in novel form. Obviously films and novels are different media, and while there are definite overlaps, there are certain visual techniques you can use in film which don’t work in prose-writing. Therefore I had to find ways to adapt and incorporate those elements without losing anything and whilst still remaining true to Aronofsky’s vision.

I know that spin-off authors usually have a very short window in which to complete a novelization. How much time did you have and what did you do to stay on track?

I had 4 weeks to write 80,000 words. In that instance it’s just a case of breaking it down, reducing it to statistics and targets — 20,000 words a week; 3,000 words a day; 2,000 words to 5 pages of script etc.

What if I’m not especially religious, or don’t follow an Abrahamic religion? Will I still enjoy Noah?

I would think so. I’m not religious at all, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading and adapting the script. You don’t necessarily have to believe in something to enjoy it — for example, you don’t have to believe in ghosts to enjoy a good ghost story — and, first and foremost, Noah is a great adventure story about a man fighting against the odds in a hostile, violent world.

If you could adapt any other Biblical story into a novel, what would it be?

I actually don’t know enough about the Bible to be able to answer that. All I know are the basics — Mary, Joseph, the stable in Bethlehem and the three kings; the burning bush and the feeding of the five thousand; the disciples and Mary Magdalene; Herod; Judas Iscariot and the Last Supper; the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. I only knew the basics of the Noah story before tackling the novel — the Ark, the flood, the animals. But, you know, if I’m offered an exciting story to adapt, which contains good and interesting characters, I’m happy to tackle anything.