Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard is a busy guy, and with more than enough projects peculating--doing a third film adaption of Dan Brown's books was not in the purview. "I am not under contract to do these Dan Brown mysteries. I love working with Tom Hanks and he loves playing Robert Langdon and I really enjoyed making the first two ["The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels and Demons.”], they were fascinating life experiences, but I did not expect to do a third one,” Howard divulged to Beliefnet. The latest Brown best-seller Inferno, was built around Dante Alighieri’s famous poem that talked about the journey of traveling the 9 circles of hell and being guided by the ancient Roman poet Virgil. One of the reasons Brown’s books strike a chord is his genius at translating the real mysteries of history into pulse-pounding thrillers for modern audiences. In Inferno, the underlying source for Brown’s inspiration is Dante’s Inferno. Dante, the great Italian poet of the 14th century, sought to describe the journey of the soul toward God, with the first step being the rejection of sin. Dante himself is led through of hell, where he sees unrepentant sinners punished by poetic justice: fortune tellers have their heads on backwards, unable to see what lies ahead; corrupt politicians with “sticky fingers” are submerged in boiling tar.
The greatest punishments are reserved for Dante’s greatest villains and for all his traitors: in Satan’s 3 mouths, to be chewed throughout eternity, are Cassius and Brutus, who murdered Julius Caesar and Judas Iscariot. Brown imagined what a modern idea of hell would be, coming up with two concepts that fit neatly together: on the one hand, an overpopulated world, in which billions of people are unable to find sustenance, and on the other, a disease that takes out half the world’s population. The tale is pretty gripping. “Without a doubt, Robert Langdon goes through his own personal hell at the opening of this movie as well,” Brown said in a press release. “He must decipher the artifact and follow a trail of clues to find out who wants him dead and why.” Touching on Dan Brown's work, Howard proposed that Brown invented the genre of popular entertainment that is fun, moves you and that is a page turner. Readers of the books or movie watchers can take the conflict in the movie serious enough to contemplate the issues that the story unearths. With this, and a thriller that is steeped in sin, religion and history? Howard knew he was hooked
"This story came along and I felt it was was probably the best movie story so far of all the novels," said Howard. In the film, Langdon finds himself following a trail of clues from Dante and the Harvard professor and symbologist is working to recover his memories after waking up in an Italian hospital with amnesia. He joins Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), who hopes to uncover the lost memories in a mad dash to save the world from a global virus initiated by terrorists. The consequences would devastate the human populous. The story “has one of those controversies at the center of it. It has to do with one of those hot-button issues that have to do with overpopulation and terrorist attacks,” said Howard, who filmed the story in Florence, Venice, and in Eastern Europe. “This makes for a very different type of thriller and it is a different movie-going experience.”
The timing for the film is fitting. Europe has seen an uptick in terrorist attacks. In 2013 alone there were 152 attacks. EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report (2016) painted a grimmer picture in Europe as 1077 people were arrested in the EU for terrorism-related offences in 2015. A little more than half of the threats took place in France, and over 200 attacks were carried across Europe last year. “Everyone can connect with the threat of terrorism and the fear of becoming targets of terrorists. Creating the solutions for this is where the controversy comes into play,” Howard offered. In a lot of ways the story was more modern and impactful as it relates to today.
Howard who has directed over 20 films which includes “Splash,” "Apollo 13,” “A Beautiful Mind” and “Cinderella Man,” believed it was the best acting opportunity for Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon. This time around the character is not as sure of himself. “I thought this was going to be very satisfying for me as an actor’s director and for the movie audiences who like the Robert Langdon character,” he said. The story dives deeper into how a genius (Langdon) applies their super power in a way that is thought provoking and the impact it has when used for the good.
In order to create a story that is authentic, the scenes need to be realistic. Make sense, but moviegoers could be unaware of the painstaking process. Filming on location is always a logistical nightmare, since they filmed in Turkey, Istanbul and Budapest for "Inferno." Yet, it is part of the thrill. "In this movie we were able to use the locations more than in the previous movies. Part of the fun of these movies is transporting audiences not in a postcard kind of way. It is part of that mystery. We love watching Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon in these places. It’s part of the logistical challenge of creating these movies, because you want to bring the audience to this real place as often as you possibly can. In some instances you have to replicate portions of it, and we have done that in the past.”
Howard admitted that he learns something new during the filming process. Whether it is the actors or the people who work behind-the scenes, there are always lessons.“Inferno” provided unique experiences since there were religious tones from Dante’s poem. Howard along with the actors started reading the medieval literature about a man’s temporal and eternal destiny. “We began to talk about it and we all agreed, that not only was he defining a version of hell in very graphic terms for Western civilization, but he is reinventing the modern horror genre. It became interesting to find a way to use that Dante imagery and build it into this story. It’s everything you’ve seen repeated in every great shock moment in a cool horror film.” Dante was in exile from Florence from political discourse in 1302 and drew from these experiences to use in his works.
Howard, 62, said he loves to explore different storylines and admitted he just loves the work he does. “I love the medium, I love the work. It’s fun, it’s thrilling, taking some creative risk is a blast.” Howard does love to work. He is also an executive producer with Brian Grazer on the documentary of MARS, a six-part global event series premiering on Nov. 14 on National Geographic. The documentary predicts our one-way maiden mission to Mars and our future as an interplanetary species. Howard has always been fascinated with space travel and "I think it is of value to the rest of us." "Inferno" stars Irrfan Khan, Omar Sy, Ben Foster and Sidse Babett Knudsen.