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‘Angels & Demons’ 101: 16 facts about this blockbuster Tue. May. 12 2009 Constance Droganes, entertainment writer, CTV.ca

angels-and-demons-113_mPoised to make an unholy sum at the box office this summer, “Angels & Demons” is generating sky-high hype, much like “The Da Vinci Code” did three years ago. Cryptic symbols, grisly murders, a race against time to save Vatican City and Rome from annihilation…The taut twists and brain-teasing clues that made Dan Brown’s book a bestseller should make Ron Howard’s new movie a helluva good time.

The premise

Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned to CERN, a Swiss research facility known, to analyze a cryptic symbol seared onto the chest of a murdered physicist.

Langdon links the murder and theft of a container of antimatter to a vendetta against the Catholic Church orchestrated by the Illuminati, a 400-year-old secret society.

The inspiration

Reporting live from Rome, Canada AM’s film critic Richard Crouse revealed Dan Brown’s inspiration for “Angels & Demons.” Published in 2000, the idea came to the American author while touring the secret pathways under Vatican City. The walkways were built as escape routes should the Vatican ever be attacked.

Prequel or sequel?

Even though “Angels & Demons” was published three years before “The Da Vinci Code” Ron Howard treated this thriller as sequel to his previous film, not a prequel. Howard liked the idea that Robert Langdon, Brown’s hero, had been through one big adventure. It made Langdon a more confident character to bring to the screen.

More chances, less reverence

According to producer Brian Grazer, he and Ron Howard were too “reverential” when they adapted “The Da Vinci Code” to the big screen. Not this time. Here antiquity, technology and faith clash with some modern artistic liberties. The result, says Grazer, won’t be long or boring.

Hank’s big pay day

Looking impressively toned in a Speedo in this new flick, 52-year-old Tom Hanks will reportedly surpass his US$25 million-dollar “Da Vinci” paycheque. His rumoured take for “Angels & Demons” falls between US$29 and US$49 million. That makes Hanks the highest-paid actor in Hollywood.

Hanks’ new leading lady

So long Audrey Tautou (aka Agent Sophie Neveu). For this new instalment, director Ron Howard cast Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer, 39, as Vittoria Vetra, Robert Langdon’s brilliant physicist side-kick.

As the adopted daughter of “A&D’s” murdered physicist Zurer is ballsy. She’s tenacious. And the way this raven-haired beauty runs across Rome in heels is miraculous.

‘Angels & Demons’ budget mystery

Shrouded in secrecy, “Angels & Demons” exact production costs are a mystery. “The Da Vinci Code” cost US$125 million to make. Some scenes for “Angels & Demons” required filming in Rome at the height of summer. That alone should make this movie just as costly, if not more so.

Vatican blues

In April 2009, Ron Howard told The Associated Press that the Vatican interfered with efforts to get permits to shoot certain scenes of “Angels & Demons’ in Rome. The Vatican denies the charges. They have called them “a publicity stunt.”

The Illuminati

Whether you call them the heroes or hell raisers of Dan Brown’s book, the Illuminati, or “Enlightened Ones,” spawn all the action in “Angels & Demons.”

The underground group is based on fact. Its origins lie with the Bavarian Illuminati, which was founded in May of 1776. Since then conspiracy theorists have called this shadowy sect the “power behind the throne.” They believe the Illuminati infiltrated monarchies, governments and corporations to control world affairs and establish a New World Order.

Ambigram huh?

Used to convey key clues in this fast-paced thriller, the ambigrams in “Angels & Demons” use typographical designs to spell out words or phrases.

The design is usually very symmetrical and can hold two very different readings of the word or phrase depending on the viewpoint or directions from which they are viewed.

The most common way to read ambigrams is flipping them horizontally or turning them upside-down.

Location, location

Some scenes for “Angels & Demons” were filmed at Rome’s Piazza del Popolo and the Pantheon. The production had to build a scale replica of St. Peter’s Square since Vatican officers banned the movie from being filmed on its grounds.

Writer’s block

This movie became the first big-screen casualty of the Hollywood writer’s strike in 2007. Akiva Goldsman’s script still needed work when he went on strike with the Writers Guild of America. As a result, the production of “Angels & Demons” had to be postponed.

The Path of Illumination

To solve this new mystery, Langdon attempts to retrace the steps of the so-called Path of Illumination. It’s an elaborate process once used by the Illuminati to induct new members. The test involved following a series of subtle clues left in various landmarks in and around Rome.

The Altars of Science

Langdon’s chase through “Angels & Demons” takes him through four locations called the Altars of Science. Each represents the four elements: earth, air, fire and water.

Box office estimates

Ron Howard’s film adaptation of “The Da Vinci Code” earned more than US$750 million worldwide. Early predictions say “Angel’s & Demons” will make between $70 and $80 million in its opening weekend in North America.

Vatican reviews

Top church officials strongly objected to “The Da Vinci Code.” Its premise that Jesus married and fathered children was deemed blasphemous. Its unfavourable portrayal of the Opus Dei, the conservative Catholic movement, also added to the Church’s concerns.

Reviewers at the Vatican’s newspaper, however, have passed judgment on “Angels & Demons.” They call the religious thriller “commercial and inaccurate” but conclude it is “harmless” entertainment and no a danger to the church.

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