Meet the Teacher Who Inspired Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Noah’

Darren Aronofsky's teacher Vera Fried on
Dave Allocca/StarTraks

And read the poem the 13-year-old director wrote in her class

The most popular guest at the Paramount Pictures premiere of “Noah” on Wednesday night in New York was decked out in a bright pink ensemble with matching boots.

Vera Fried, who admitted that her wardrobe came from a Suits for Less discount store, isn’t a trained actress. She’s Darren Aronofsky’s former seventh-grade teacher.

The director of “Noah” contacted his old instructor three decades later to thank her. “She inspired me in the seventh grade to become a writer,” Aronfosky told Variety. “She said, when you write your first book, dedicate it to me.” And he did: there’s a inscription to Fried in his “Noah” coffee table book.

Fried, who is now retired in Delray Beach, Florida, from a lifetime of teaching in Coney Island, N.Y., said she wasn’t familiar with Aronofsky’s work when he reached out.

“I didn’t hear from him for 33 years, and then he sent me the unpunctuated email,” Fried says, noting that the teenage Aronofsky used to punctuate perfectly.

“Do you know how he found me?” Fried asks. “They wouldn’t give him my phone number at the school. His grandma went to a Hadassah meeting in Brooklyn, stood up and said, ‘Does anyone know Vera Fried?’”

SEE MORE: Emma Watson Addresses ‘Little Mermaid’ Casting Rumors

Fried says the idea for “Noah,” a big-screen $125 million adaptation of the story of Noah’s Ark, goes back to when Aronofsky was in the seventh grade. She gave him a class assignment to write a poem about peace, and he told his own version of the Biblical story.

Fried entered the ode in a local contest for her students at Mark Twain IS 239. “He was headed for a math career,” Fried recalled. “When the poem came back, I said, ‘Here kid, you won.’”

In addition to the book dedication, Fried also landed two brief parts in the film, which shot in Iceland and New York.

“The very first scene, I was a corpse floating past like that,” Fried said, as she did an imitation of a dead body. And she’s also an extra who has a brief exchange with Crowe in a crowd scene.

Fried said she enjoyed working with Crowe, but doesn’t consider him attractive. “I like older men,” confessed Fried, who refused to disclose her age. “Anthony Hopkins would have done it for me.”

She plans on seeing the film again in her Florida town and standing up and yelling, “That’s me!” during her big scene, but Aronofsky told her not to at the premiere.

He had another surprise planned for his teacher. At the Ziegfeld Theater, after introductory remarks, he called Fried to the podium and handed her the old poem, which he asked her to read out loud in front of Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson and the industry crowd.

Here’s the full text:

The Dove
A Poem by Darren Aronofsky
January 13, 1982

Evil was in the world
The laughing crowd
Left the foolish man at his ark
Filled with animals
When the rain began to fall
It was hopeless
The man could not take the evil crowd with him
But he was allowed to bring his good family.

The rain continued through the night
And the cries of screaming men filled the air
The ark was afloat
Until the dove returned with the leaf
Evil still existed.

When the rainbows reached throughout the sky
The humble man and his family knew what it meant
The animals ran and flew freely with their newborn
The fog rose and the sun shone
Peace was in the air
And it soon appeared in all of man’s heart.

He knew evil would not be kept away
For evil and war could not be destroyed
But neither was it possible to destroy peace
Evil is hard to end and peace is hard to begin
But the rainbow and the dove will always live
Within every man’s heart.

At the after-party at the Central Park Boathouse, Fried told Variety she had no idea Aronofsky still had the poem. “I was crying,” she said. “If he has some of his other papers, I’d take them.”

Editor’s note: All line breaks from the poem are approximated, based on what we think a 13-year-old Darren Aronofsky would do!

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 10

Leave a Reply

10 Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Michael Bronowitz says:

    I had her Sep 82 to Jun 83

  2. Michael Bronowitz says:

    Best English teacher I’d ever had. JHS 239 Mark Twain, Coney Island Brooklyn. Think Pink.

  3. Thanks for such an inspirational movie story… I say this as Christian who believes this EPIC event really occured and as a GED Professor in deltona, FL. Much success to this movie and I will be wat hing it Saturday with friends.

  4. I have the privilege and delight of being acquainted with Vera Fried. She is the mom of my son’s wife’s mom, Sherri Miller; I suppose that would make her my son’s grandmother-in-law. A very lovely and interesting lady. Best wishes and congrats, Grandma Vera.

  5. Jason says:

    If Diversity is so great, why does it take a Police State to enforce?

  6. PETER says:

    Sweet. I hope all the detractors of NOAH read this.

    • SARS says:

      The movie shouldn’t rest on this to be good. If its good great. If its bad this story shouldn’t justify it. People can hate the movie but love the story behind it. The two are separate.

  7. Chris Leblanc says:

    IS 239 is in CONEY ISLAND, not Staten Island.
    Coney Island is Brooklyn.

More Film News from Variety

Loading