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?’”
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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:
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!