Until Death Do Us Part - Jonas

Isnin, Mei 18, 2009

#434. Angels, demons and a secret society

ACADEMY Award-winner Tom Hanks reprises his role as Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon in Angels & Demons, the highly anticipated sequel to 2006’s The Da Vinci Code.Based on the best-selling novel by Dan Brown, it is directed by Ron Howard who also directed the first movie.

The story focuses on the resurgence of the Illuminati, a legendary secret society, whose arch enemy is the Catholic Church.Langdon travels to Rome, where he joins forces with Italian scientist Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer), to stop the Illuminati from destroying Vatican City.Packed with nonstop action, the movie follows the duo as they travel through sealed crypts, dangerous catacombs and deserted cathedrals in their mission.

“Langdon enters into Angels & Demons with an icy relationship vis-à-vis the Vatican because of the events in The Da Vinci Code,” said Hanks.

“He has a great knowledge of the church’s rituals and history but he is not necessarily a welcome person. There is power grab at the Vatican in the guise of the hijacking of the papal election and, in spite of his history with the church, Langdon is called in to try to prevent it.”

“When I read Angels & Demons, I was engrossed by the idea of the Illuminati,” said Howard, whose The Da Vinci Code collected more than US$750 million (RM2.2 billion) worldwide.

“The secret society was said to include Galileo and Bernini. What happened to them? Were they really crushed? Did they really leave us? There are those who believe that the Illuminati have survived as an organisation and are with us in secret today, influencing our everyday lives, government policy decisions, and corporate strategies.”

The movie also stars Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgard, Pierfrancesco Favino, Nikolaj Lie Kaas and Armin Mueller-Stahl.

Here’s an excerpt of an interview with Hanks.

Question: What’s the hardest thing about playing Langdon?
Answer: Figuring out how his mind works; how he leaps from one conclusion to next so deftly.

He’s a Symbologist with an encyclopaedic knowledge of codes, riddles, symbols, games, puzzles — and history — who can connect each in context.

He is, perhaps, the only man in the world with such a job and such an expertise. Without authenticity, Langdon may as well be speaking phonetically.

Q: Is the film faithful to the book?
A: The book was written when there were rudimentary computers, fewer media outlets and no Internet.

Dan wrote that the selection of a new Pope was a non-story, covered by skeleton crews of a few TV networks.

Now, the choice of the new Pope is a mass media event. The book has a modernised culture. And no one jumps out a helicopter without a parachute.

Q: What did you like about the story?
A: The purity of the argument — the Big Bang versus Genesis — neither of which impacts our daily existence but speak to our spiritual selves.

Faith versus Science requires work and passion on both sides — unless you toss up your hands and say “Who cares?”

Each argument does something sublime by honouring the Mystery.

Q: Is it fair to say that the story plays into two very modern paranoia — terrorism and a belief that there’s more going on behind the scenes than we know?
A: Everyone has seen the results of terrorism, and conspiracy theories are tagged to just about everything that happens in the world.

The two often go hand in hand, and in the case of Angels & Demons, the goal is not riches but influence.

Q: Ayelet Zurer told me that she visited the Vatican as a tourist before filming started. How was your experience there?
A: I’ve been to Rome many times and, of course, visited the Vatican. The first time, I was on my honeymoon and had to carry long pants to put over my cargo shorts. No admittance otherwise. Good thing we read Fodor’s Guide.

Q: Did you research the Illuminati? If so, what’s your view of the organisation? What’s fact and what’s fiction?
A: I did research on the era of the Illuminati — re-reading William Manchester’s A World Lit Only By Fire and a tonne of other material.

I read history all the time, so it was a pleasure. The material I responded to took the steam out of the conspiracy aspects of Angels & Demons but added to the creepiness of the murders. Langdon had a lots of facts to extrapolate.

Q: Ayelet said you and Ron were accessible on set. When you were starting out in your career, were there more established actors who gave you good advice and were kind to you?
A: I learned by the example of the people I worked with. In television, (actress) Holland Taylor was the epitome of professionalism and class. Always prepared, always playful, always working to make a scene live beyond the page. We were doing (the 1980s TV sitcom) Bosom Buddies.

Q: Producer Brian Grazer said that The Da Vinci Code was more of a puzzle movie and that Angels & Demons is more of an action movie. Do you agree?
A: The Da Vinci Code was a scavenger hunt through antiquity — fascinating to be a contestant.

Angels & Demons is a horse-race through modern Rome, and you’re riding a foaming quarter horse in the thick of the pack.

Q: You’ve played Langdon before. How is it like playing a character for the second time? I believe that’s the first time in your career (apart from Woody in Toy Story of course) that you’ve returned to the same character. Why?
A: Nothing is easy — be it the first time or the 21st. Each moment is brand new.

Each idea has to be connected to a reality. Each beat has to be created fresh. Familiarity may help you — the audience has knowledge of Langdon’s past and carries his experience from the first film — but still, Langdon begins Angels & Demons at square one.

Q: In broad terms, the book and presumably the film deals with an issue that’s as topical as ever — Creationism vs Darwinism. What do you think this will add to the debate? Indeed, should it be seen as adding to the debate or should the film be regarded purely and simply, as entertainment?
A: The debate has long been defined and has gone beyond the realm of argument into one of personal belief. No film will ever push the debate over the edge for either side.

Q: Did Dan Brown come on set? If not, did you have any contact with him prior to shooting or during filming?
A: Dan was around much more on

The Da Vinci Code — as we had so many questions and so many elements to translate from his book onto the screen.

He was in Rome when we started filming Angels & Demons, and visited the set throughout the shoot. I think he and Ron talked with each other constantly over
long distance.

Q: You’ve worked with Ron several times before. Has the relationship changed since Splash and Apollo 13? If so, in what way?
A: Ron treats me the same way as he did on Splash. He wants me to show up prepared and to have ideas. Then, as now, he never stops asking me (and the rest of the cast) “what do you make of this scene?”

Q: You’ve said before that you’re very interested in history and Rome is a treasure trove of historic sites and monuments. Did you get the chance to explore during your time off there?
A: Better than exploring Rome, I was able to experience the city. We lived there for a month, working almost every day in postcard settings surrounded by layers of history.

Walking for an espresso and watching a Euro Cup match in a small café were times to treasure.

A few moments in between takes meant we could take in the street, the building, the view. We were smack in the middle of Ancient Rome, The Holy Roman Empire, and World War II.

Q: What’s he like as a director? He gives the appearance of being incredibly calm when he’s at the helm for these big films. Is that the case?
A: Ron is prepared, frantic, calm, panicked, under-the-gun, and certain of his shot list all at the same time. He is, at heart, a collaborator on the set, trusting everyone to follow their instincts when doing their job.

Q: It’s reported that you helped a bride access the Pantheon Church when you were filming there, holding up the train of her wedding dress and escorting her down the aisle. Is that true? If so what happened?

A: Who knew the Pantheon was available for weddings? We had two scenes and one day to get them in front of one of the most famous public buildings in the world.

That bride and her father deserved a grand entrance no matter that some movie was shooting. Her limo couldn’t deliver her to the door, so I offered my arm so she could get hitched.

It was a nice moment for all of us on the movie — we’ll all remember that wedding day. She was beautiful and a great sport. The groom’s a lucky man. The wedding went on and we made our day.

Q: Ron said he’s not a big puzzle solver. Are you? Do you like that aspect of the story?

A: Like Langdon, I love a game of logic that can only be solved with a combination of lateral thinking and a knowledge of the facts.

Like Langdon, I always want to win. Unlike Langdon, I’m usually in third or fourth place.

Courtesy of Buena Vista Columbia Tristar Films (Malaysia)

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