Casting is fully underway for Noah, which will serve as Darren Aronofsky’s directorial followup to Black Swan. Thanks to the combined critical and financial success of that title, the indie filmmaker has managed to secure a hefty budget (early estimates were $130 million) for his Biblical retelling. Beyond that, the Noah script is said to feature some juicy roles – including that of the film’s namesake (who Russell Crowe will portray) and a coveted supporting actress part, which Emma Watson landed.

The next big role in Noah is said to be that of the prophet’s “nemesis,” a fellow who seriously questions that God would charge some commoner with preserving life on Earth (in the wake of an apocalyptic flood). Although Liam Neeson was long rumored to be a strong contender for the role, it recently came to light that Liev Schreiber (Wolverine) was a more legitimate contestant to play the character.

Deadline is reporting that “villain role” has instead been offered to Ray Winstone, who Aronofsky has deemed to possess the proper amount of “grit and size” required to convincingly handle the part opposite Crowe. It’s hard to disagree with the director on that count, given Winstone’s resume; the prolific character actor is well-renowned for his masculine turns in such films as Nil by Mouth, Sexy Beast, The Departed, Edge of Darkness, and even Beowulf (where Winstone played the title character, via motion-capture). That even holds true for Winstone’s most recent onscreen appearance, as a dwarf in Snow White and the Huntsman.

Ray Winstone in 'Snow White and the Huntsman'

Noah is based on the graphic novel co-created by Aronofsky and Handel; it marks the second occasion where those two have created a comic book that serves as a template for a film, after The Fountain. While Noah won’t have the (occasionally) confusing narrative layout of that project, it should likewise tackle some pretty lofty ideas about faith, redemption, and the interrelationship between humanity and the health of the planet. Obviously, most of those themes are inherent to the original Bible story, but Aronofsky has already voiced a desire to elaborate upon the environmental overtones of the tale – while also not censoring the more taboo topics featured in the religious source material.

It’s an ambitious task, for sure, but also one that Aronofsky and his cast seem capable of pulling off. Not to mention: those who recall how gorgeous the ethereal imagery of The Fountain was, are sure to be all the more excited to see what the filmmaker can create with a nine-digit budget at his disposal.

Noah is scheduled to set sail in theaters around the U.S. on March 28th, 2014.

Source: Deadline