By Mack Chico
“It’s totally different” from Hanks’ slicked-back coif of the original, insists producer Brian Grazer. “It’s better. Everything is more contemporary. “
The adaptation of Dan Brown’s novel continues the sleuthing adventures of Robert Langdon (Hanks), a Harvard expert in religious symbols who discovers a conspiracy to destroy the Vatican.
Da Vinci collected $758 million worldwide, but even Grazer says the movie moved a little slowly. Angels, by contrast, sprints from crypts, catacombs and cathedrals.
In adapting the hugely successful Da Vinci novel, “I think we may have been too reverential toward it,” Grazer says. “We got all the facts of the book right, but the movie was a little long and stagey.”
In Angels, opening May 15, “Langdon doesn’t stop and give a speech,” Grazer says. “When he speaks, he’s in motion.”
Set in and around the Vatican, Brown’s Angels includes the murders of cardinals, who are mutilated with mysterious symbols. Church officials banned the crew from shooting in key locales, sometimes revoking permits that had been approved, Grazer says.
“Weirdly, even though there was so much controversy on The Da Vinci Code, we were able to shoot everywhere,” Grazer says. “We were in London, France, so it was harder to catch us.”
Because Angels is largely set at the Vatican, “we were pretty much in exile from the religious epicenter of the world,” he says.
Da Vinci Code was rebuked by the church and others for its depiction of history. The fact that Angels didn’t spark as much debate makes its allure less assured.
Paul Dergarabedian of box office tracking firm Media By Numbers says Angels will need to impress critics if it hopes to find success.
“Da Vinci Code didn’t get great reviews, but had controversy to help the box office,” he says. “Better reviews could make up that difference for Angels.”
That doesn’t mean Angels won’t generate any controversy. The film centers on an act of terrorism at the Vatican and examines the tension between science and faith.
“We’re living in a world that’s much more unstable,” Grazer says. “Therefore, our energy is focused on belief. This looks at what would happen when you have an act of terrorism designed to undermine that belief.”
Despite the contemporary topics, Grazer says the movie has no political undertones. “Both parties, through different means, don’t want terrorism to exist in the world,” he says.
As for any evolution-vs.-intelligent design parallels, “I’ll leave that to others.”
But he’s happy to talk about Hanks’ head — and body.
“I’m telling you, he’s got a scene where he’s swimming in Speedos, and he looks fantastic,” Grazer says. “He’s going to add 10 years to his career with that scene alone, just watch.”