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Ron Howard Talks About the Catholic Church's Reaction to 'Angels and Demons'

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Tom Hanks Angels and Demons

Tom Hanks and Ayelet Zurer in 'Angels & Demons.'

© Columbia Pictures
Angels and Demons finds Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon back in action and on the trail of the Illuminati, a secret brotherhood thought to have been eliminated by the Catholic Church. The pope is dead and Langdon, played once again by two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks (Philadelphia, Forrest Gump), is called upon to help find four missing cardinals, the favorites to be elected the next pope. The Illuminati have threatened to kill one cardinal each hour leading up to midnight, followed by the ultimate act of vengeance - they're prepared to set off a bomb at midnight that will wipe out Vatican City. As one of the foremost experts on the Illuminati, it's up to Langdon to decipher the clues and stop the destruction.

Dan Brown's controversial Langdon books have had leaders of the Catholic Church up in arms, and at the press conference leading up to Angels and Demons' world premiere in Rome, director Ron Howard was asked about the Catholic Church's negative response to Angels and Demons. Although the subject matter isn't quite as controversial as The Da Vinci Code's,* Angels and Demons is definitely not being embraced by Catholic leaders.

"Any time we sought any sort of cooperation from the Catholic Church related to filming inside churches in England or France or Scotland, we were always denied," explained Howard. "So we didn't expect cooperation and to be honest, we didn't really seek cooperation as it related to making Angels and Demons. I did expect some complications there. You know, when you come to film in Rome, the official statement to you is that the Vatican has no influence over Rome. The permits that you receive from the city are between you and the city of Rome. Everything progressed very smoothly, but unofficially a couple of days before we were supposed to start filming in several of our locations, it was explained to us that sort of through backchannels and so forth that the Vatican had exerted some influence. And that we were requested, it would be difficult for us to gain the kind of support we needed if we wanted to shoot in a couple of areas where some particular churches were in the foreground. Rather, in the background. Normally what's in the background if you get your permit, it's okay to shoot there and so forth."

Howard added, "I suppose we could have contested this. We didn't. We navigated that and made the movie. I think we successfully managed to take people on the Angels and Demons experience. That was my goal as the director."

Author Brown is apparently satisfied with the film version of his novel. Brown's next Langdon novel hits stores on September 15th and while he didn't disclose any details on the much-anticipated book, he did express a desire to see Howard behind the camera should a film ever be made of The Lost Symbol. "I can tell you two things about the novel. One is I'm not saying much about it. The novel takes place in 12 hours. And I can also tell you I am very certain that some day in the hands of Ron Howard, it's going to make an absolutely terrific movie. That's all I'm saying."

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Angels and Demons hits theaters on May 15, 2009 and is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, disturbing images and thematic material.

* - The events in Dan Brown's bestselling book Angels and Demons take place prior to The Da Vinci Code, however the film version of Angels and Demons is set after The Da Vinci Code.

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