Finally, the Code
- Kurt Langley () - May 14, 2006 - 12:00am
Amid calls for a boycott and threatened legal action, the thrilling murder investigation that unearths the biggest cover-up in human history comes to the big screen in Columbia Pictures’ passionately awaited suspense-thriller "The Da Vinci Code."

From director Ron Howard, producer Brian Grazer and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, the Oscar-winning team of "A Beautiful Mind," comes the film version of Dan Brown’s "The Da Vinci Code", one of the most popular and talked about novels of our time, with a cast headed by two-time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Alfred Molina, Paul Bettany and Jean Reno.

In the film, famed symbologist Professor Robert Langdon (Hanks) is called to the Louvre museum one night where a curator has been murdered, leaving behind a mysterious trail of symbols and clues. With his own survival at stake, Langdon, aided by the police cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Tautou), unveils a series of stunning secrets hidden in the works of Leonardo Da Vinci, all leading to a covert society dedicated to guarding an ancient secret that has remained hidden for 2,000 years.

Langdon and Nevue set off on a thrilling quest through Paris, London and Scotland, collecting clues as they desperately attempt to crack the code and reveal secrets that will shake the very foundations of mankind.

The phenomenal success of Dan Brown’s novel, "The Da Vinci Code" was just beginning to invade the public consciousness when producer John Calley was encouraged to read the book by Sony Chairman Howard Stringer. "I was crazed by it, fascinated. It was a first-rate thriller," Calley recalls. He immediately optioned the film rights.

At the same time, Imagine Entertainment co-chairman Brian Grazer and his partner, director and producer Ron Howard, were also keen on adapting the book to the screen. Grazer was especially intrigued by some of its underlying issues. "Not only did I like ‘The Da Vinci Code’ as an entertaining and exciting read, but there were certain profound things about the story that caught my attention. There were questions of history versus the creation of history–questions I found exciting and compelling."

Howard adds: "I discovered the book more or less the way the whole world did–through amazing word-of-mouth. People are interested in it for different reasons and are personally impacted by it in a variety of ways."

But the main reason he was eager to direct "The Da Vinci Code" has to do with his love of the adventure thriller genre. "This story has all the style and traditional suspense elements that make a movie work as an entertaining narrative," says Howard. "It takes the viewer along with the confidence that it’s headed in a particular direction but then surprises you in so many ways. That’s why the story Dan Brown created so captivated his readers. It feels familiar as a mystery and as a thriller but then, wow, there’s this fascinating turn of events."

Having previously collaborated with screenwriter Akiva Goldsman on "A Beautiful Mind" and "Cinderella Man," Howard felt he was the natural choice to adapt Dan Brown’s book. "It was a pretty daunting task," says Howard. "By the time we’d all decided to make it into a movie, the book had gone from being a big hit to being this historic success story. I’d already been working very closely with Akiva and he and I had some fairly deep conversations about the novel, because it’s more than just believing it would make a good movie story. In choosing to take it to the screen you also have to ask yourself a lot of the questions that the book poses to the reader. I’ve never really been involved in a film project like this, one that not only generates feeling and emotion and is entertaining, but also really stimulates great conversation."

Screenwriter Goldsman says he was a bit daunted by the task of adapting Brown’s best-selling literary phenomenon to the screen, since so many people had read it and had visualized it in their own minds. "I was tremendously impressed by the book and had absolutely no idea how to adapt it since it’s such a complex, labyrinthine and intricate piece of fiction," Goldsman confesses.

Tom Hanks, who embodies Dan Brown’s protagonist Robert Langdon in the film, also acknowledges the challenges in trying to adapt such a successful book for the big screen. "You have to give every reader what they’re expecting, because, quite frankly, the book is really good," says Hanks. "You could change it, make it different, but you’d better be sure you’re also making it better. Akiva’s job in adapting something that is as specific as ‘The Da Vinci Code’ is a monumental task, because of all of his great instincts as a screenwriter about what makes for a good cinematic narrative."

The filmmakers frequently conferred with Brown during the writing of the adaptation. "Dan made himself accessible in the most understanding, collaborative kind of way, in terms of his acceptance of the fact that of course the screenplay was not going to be a verbatim version of the novel," remembers Howard. "He knew we were going to have to streamline it somewhat. But he was a really important resource in helping us interpret things he had learned or read including several things he discovered after he wrote the book, which have found their way into the script. So, our movie is in some ways a kind of an updated, annotated version of ‘The Da Vinci Code’."

"The Da Vinci Code" opens in theaters across the Philippines on May 18.

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