Ron Howard on the Inferno challenge

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - September 28, 2016 - 12:00am

SINGAPORE — The film version of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons generated worldwide controversy. Will Inferno, third in the Brown trilogy, rattle more people?

Director Ron Howard is reunited with Tom Hanks in Inferno which was one of the three films showcased in the Sony Summit held recently in this city, including Ghostbusters: Answer The Call (released a few weeks ago) and The Magnificent Seven (reboot, still showing nationwide). Howard and Hanks, who reprises his iconic role as Robert Langdon (more on this in another story about Hanks), represented the movie at the Summit.

The Philippine STAR talked to both Howard and Hanks. First, let’s listen what Howard has to say:

Are you dealing with even higher stakes in Inferno than you did in The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons?

“Well, I felt very excited about this opportunity, you know, creatively as a director because it combines two things — an idea that an audience can connect with in a very modern contemporary way, you know, a thriller that is driven by something that we all think about. So it’s a controversial idea that doesn’t deal with the past. It’s all about the present. And the other thing is, you know, it’s a great role for my friend Tom Hanks. And it’s great to see him back on the clue path but it’s also fantastic to see the kind of dramatic opportunities and the acting opportunities that this particular thriller gives him.”

What was going on in your mind while making the Dan Brown trilogy over the past 15 years as far as belief in God and human relations were concerned? 

“First of all, the Dan Brown stories combine these sort of button-pushing ideas that offer the audience two things — you know, there’s the tempo, there’s the pace, there’s the clue path, there’s the looking back and this feeling that you’re going to have something to talk about when the movie’s over.

“And so, yes, there’s the action, you know, and that’s fun to do. The characters are interesting. They offer fantastic international casts. We’re very fortunate to be able to work with (Indian actor) Irrfan Khan on this, and have him join us in this installment. But the movies, therefore the books and therefore the movies, offer these very unique experiences for audiences, and they’re also unique for us as storytellers, as life experiences, to go to these places, capture the flavor of a place and use it in a story.”

Was doing Inferno more challenging than doing the first two films?

“For me as a director, the challenge came from the use of modern pressure and suspense of this question of taking the world’s crisis into one’s own hands and trying to correct the problem as a single, brilliant individual going up against another brilliant individual who’s trying to save mankind. And that’s very interesting, but the clue path, which is always fun in these movies, is built into the past — using Dante’s Inferno — and that gave me as a director a lot of interesting images to work with.”

What else did you find challenging about doing Inferno?

“Yes, the unique combination of entertainment values. The three films are thrillers, but they’re not the same formula as so many thrillers that we see. Some of them are really good; some are kind of average. These three films are different. They do combine a set of ideas and they do offer really interesting sets of characters. For me, this one has probably the most interesting set of characters and it also features really strong female characters which is something that I really liked about this story.” 

In Inferno, we see the nine levels of Hell, all of them scary. Which level of Hell in Dante’s Inferno scares you the most, and why?

“I don’t think you want any of them. The first level is, you know, kind of understandable. We’ve all committed those sins and it’s uncomfortable, but you want to work your way through there as quickly as possible, or try to get out because you certainly don’t want the ninth level.” 

With the character Zobrist, you have a very compelling antagonist who makes a really good point.

“You begin with a fascinating character from the book, but Ben Foster (as Zobrist) is a tremendous actor and he  brought so much intensity and creativity to the role. And, of course, I was encouraging that because I wanted that tension and that drama in the story.

“What Robert Langdon represents, however, is the application of brilliance. So Zobrist is a genius, undeniably, and is deciding to try to take it all into his hands. And Langdon is reasoning for using our intellectual power to work together to try to solve these problems and not take this kind of a crisis into one’s own hands. And that’s part of the central tension of the story.” 

Zobrist is mostly static and Langdon is running around all over the film. Zobrist is almost on the stage, on the camera, but Langdon is always running around getting beaten up. 

“Well, Langdon is the one forced to react. And again, what’s so interesting about the suspense element in this story is that Langdon isn’t even certain where he stands in all of this. He’s unclear as to what his role might even be. So it creates a lot of internal drama for Langdon and the characters around him.” 

Southeast Asia has very exotic landscape and a friendly environment of filmmaking. Can you see coming to Southeast Asia to make films?

“The answer would be yes. Now, Dan Brown creates these Robert Langdon mysteries so he takes the lead in that regard and we don’t really influence that. When he gives us a great story and a great setting, then we’ve been lucky to make those movies. But there’s no question that there are fantastic stories to be told here and the international film community understands that and I join that community in wishing to find a story to make here someday.” 

(E-mail reactions at entphilstar@yahoo.com. You may also send your questions to askrickylo@gmail.com.)

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