Aside from its sleuthing scholar and a continuing penchant for bizarre religious conspiracy theories, there wasn’t much carry-over for director Ron Howard between “The Da Vinci Code” and adapting Dan Brown’s “Angels & Demons.”
And though Howard has nothing but positive things to say about making “Code” ($758 million in worldwide box-office returns has a way of alleviating the sting of bad reviews), he does sound like a free man these days when talking about bringing Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon back to the screen.
“I could take more liberties, that’s for sure,” Howard says. “With ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ people were making documentaries about the book and writing scholarly analyses. That kind of familiarity was a little intimidating. Here, I felt more comfortable taking what was already a potentially strong movie story and making the movie I wanted to see.”
That movie, which will be framed as a sequel even though “Angels” preceded “Da Vinci” on the bestseller lists, has Tom Hanks returning as Langdon, who this time must stop a nefarious secret society called the Illuminati from annihilating Vatican City.
“Angels,” which opens May 15, is a much more straightforward tale than its cinematic predecessor, possessing a looser, rawer tone that lent itself to the kind of filmmaking approach Howard honed last year with “Frost/Nixon.”
“The films informed each other a bit,” Howard says. “The thing they shared was the need to create as much suspense and tension as possible around every scene. We prepped both movies at the same time and there was some carry-over in the spontaneous feel I wanted both movies to have.”
Spontaneity was essential in another way too. Howard began shooting in Rome last June, right in the heart of tourist season. The filmmakers reserved the Pantheon for two days, only to be told -- while shooting -- that they’d have to stop because the site had been booked for a wedding.
“Tom ended up taking charge of the logistics of both our movie and the wedding,” Howard recalls. “We’d sneak in takes between cars arriving. Tom walked the parents in and handed off the bride. And you know what she told him? ‘Your hair is much better now that it’s shorter.’
“Like I said,” Howard adds, laughing, “there’s very little carry-over between the movies.”
SUMMER MOVIE MEMORIES
‘There’s no crying in baseball!’
“A League of Their Own,” July 1, 1992