Hardly anyone has understood the genre of conspiracy thriller as well as world best-selling author Dan Brown. His five novels about Harvard professor Robert Langdon – the Indiana Jones of symbolism – are among the best-selling books of all time. “Illuminati” deals with the longstanding conflict between church and science, “Da Vinci Code” connects Leonardo Da Vinci with conspiracy theories about Jesus Christ, “The lost symbol” is based on legends about the Freemasons and the last part of the book series “Inferno” is concerned dealing with Dante’s “Divine Comedy” and a, um, pandemic. So it’s all dystopia.
In 2006, “The Da Vinci Code” was filmed by “A Beautiful Mind” director Ron Howard, starring Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Sir Ian McKellen and Jean Reno. The film achieved fantastic box office results despite mediocre reviews. In 2009 “Illuminati” followed, which showed Hanks again in the role of Langdon. A full seven years later he took on the role in Dan Brown’s latest work “Inferno” again – this time alongside “Rogue One” star Felicity Jones, Omar Sy, Ben Foster and the Bollywood legend Irrfan Khan, who died last year.
On Saturday, February 20, 2021, Vox will present the second part of the “Illuminati” trilogy at 8:15 p.m. – So look forward to an exciting television experience full of chases, ritual murders and guesswork. You can read the best background information on the film series here beforehand or at the same time.
15 exciting facts about the Dan Brown films “The Da Vinci Code – The Da Vinci Code”, “Illuminati” and “Inferno”:
1. “The Da Vinci Code – Da Vinci Code” triggered a gigantic wave of outrage on the part of the Catholic Church.
Many cardinals, nuns and members of the organization “Opus Dei” complained that the thesis that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene and had a child with her was a “heretical claim”. The uproar was so great that in some cases even the shooting of the film was hindered: For example, a Catholic nun protested for twelve hours in front of the Anglican Cathedral in the city of Lincoln to prevent the film. In addition, another nun is reported to have prayed in front of the building where Tom Hanks was filming “The Da Vinci Code” for two days.
2. All three films were not very well received by the critics, despite fantastic box office results.
At the preview of “The Da Vinci Code – Da Vinci Code” at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006, the film produced only “silence and occasional laughter” from around 2000 film critics, reports the Süddeutsche Zeitung from the same year. The film review website “Rotten Tomatoes” also shows that of a total of 220 individual reviews of the press or film blogs on “The Da Vinci Code – Da Vinci Code”, only 55 – and thus 26 percent – were positive. In the third part of the “Inferno” trilogy, the whole thing looks even worse: There the film only received a whopping 23 percent positive reviews.
3. In order to be allowed to shoot in the Louvre Museum in Paris, the filmmakers had to adhere to numerous strict guidelines.
For example, no light was allowed to fall on the “Mona Lisa” – in order to still achieve this effect, a total of five copies of the masterpiece were made. In addition, the crew was not allowed to paint on the museum floor. For this reason, the scene in which the body of Jacques Saunière is found in the middle of a pentagram had to be re-shot in the studio.
4. The name of the police inspector from “The Da Vinci Code – Da Vinci Code” can be translated with a swear word.
The grim policeman is called “Bezu Fache”, which translated into French means something like “angry fucker”. Dan Brown later said in an interview that he chose the name because of Fache’s high temperament.
5. All three films were produced in the wrong order.
The first film “The Da Vinci Code – Da Vinci Code” is actually the second part of the book series, the second filmed blockbuster “Illuminati” is the first novel in the Langdon books and “Inferno” – the third film adaptation – is actually the fourth Part of the book series.
The reason for the mess is simple: In 2003 Sony acquired the film rights to the two novels “Da Vinci Code” and “Illuminati”. When Ron Howard was planning to film “The Da Vinci Code,” he was unsure of the project’s success, so he directed the mystery thriller as a stand-alone film. When, contrary to his fears, the film turned out to be a worldwide success, he began working on “Illuminati”.
Then the “Solo: A Star Wars Story” director started the implementation of the fourth book “The Lost Symbol” – but this dragged on for so long that Dan Brown published his fifth Langdon novel “Inferno” in the meantime. Without further ado, the filmmakers changed course and ignored “The Lost Symbol”.
6. In “The Da Vinci Code – Da Vinci Code” several small Easter Eggs are hidden.
In the film, for example, you can briefly recognize a gargoyle at the “Rosslyn Chapel”, which was modeled after the face of director Ron Howard. The choice of the paintings shown in the film is no coincidence either: the poster next to the elevator in the Louvre shows Carvaggio’s picture “The Boy in the Well” – an allusion to the fact that Robert Langdon fell into a well as a child and has suffered from claustrophobia ever since.
7. There have been several actors considered for the role of Robert Langdon.
Ron Howard originally wanted to work with actor Bill Paxton, who died in 2017 – but he declined the role due to scheduling conflicts. Russell Crowe was long discussed for the role, but Howard eventually returned to his good friend and colleague Tom Hanks, with whom he had already worked on two films. Other names that have been in the running for a short time include Ralph Fiennes, Hugh Jackman, and George Clooney. On another note: The role of Camerlengo Patrick McKenna (ultimately played by Ewan McGregor) in “Illuminati” was offered to Leonardo DiCaprio by Tom Hanks personally – but Tom Hanks declined.
8. The crew for “Illuminati” was (of course) not allowed to shoot in Vatican City – so they had to get creative.
The filmmakers first traveled to Rome as tourists in order to photograph everything as accurately as possible. As a result, not only the interior of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel were faithfully reproduced in the Sony Studios, but also the entire St. Peter’s Square in its original size. In addition, due to lack of money and space, several sets had to be used twice: St. Peter’s Square and Piazza Navona, as well as the churches of Santa Maria del Popolo and Santa Maria della Vittoria.
9. While filming, the crew got in the way of a wedding procession.
On one day of filming, the crew accidentally got in the way of a wedding procession headed to church. When Tom Hanks noticed this, he took matters into his own hands and led the wedding party through the whole set to the church so that the bride could get to her wedding on time. As a thank you, Hanks and Ron Howard were invited to the wedding – but they had to cancel due to their busy schedule.
10. Numerous cameos are hidden in “Illuminati”.
At the beginning of the film, in Langdon’s house, you can see a photo of Sophie Neveu (played by Audrey Tautou) on a shelf. Ron Howard also hired his wife Cheryl Howard as a scientist at CERN and his father Rance Howard as one of the cardinals. And that’s not all: if you look closely, you can briefly recognize the German actress Jutta Speidel in front of the Pantheon, who happened to come across the filming in Rome.
11. All love stories from the books have been omitted from the films.
In Dan Brown’s novels, Robert Langdon begins a relationship with the atomic physicist Vittoria Vetra (played by Ayelet Zurer in the film) in “Illuminati” at the end of the book, but it ends again in “Da Vinci Code”. At the end of Inferno, Langdon also had a relationship with Dr. Sienna Brooks (played by Felicity Jones) one. Both liaisons have been removed from the film adaptations.
12. In the book “Inferno” it is revealed that Dr. Sienna Brooks gave up her first name “Felicity” as a child. In the film, Sienna is played by actress Felicity Jones.