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Studio orders script for ‘Da Vinci’ precursor

Akiva Goldman will adapt ‘Angels & Demons’ for the big screen
/ Source: Reuters

Buoyed by the box-office success of “The Da Vinci Code,” Columbia Pictures is planning to turn author Dan Brown’s first best-selling religious thriller, “Angels & Demons,” into a movie, the studio said Tuesday.

The Sony Corp-owned film distributor has signed a deal with Oscar-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldman, who adapted “Da Vinci Code” for the big screen, to create a script for a sequel based on “Angels & Demons,” a Columbia spokesman said.

“Angels,” a bestseller published in 2000, was Brown’s first novel to introduce the character of Robert Langdon, the crime-solving Harvard professor of iconography and religious art played by actor Tom Hanks in the “The Da Vinci Code.”

A studio spokesman confirmed a report in Daily Variety that no deals have yet been reached for Hanks or “Da Vinci” director Ron Howard to return for the “Angels” project, but that both would have first crack at the new film.

Variety also said the studio was planning to reunite the producing team of Brian Grazer and John Calley for the “Angels” project.

In addition to “The Da Vinci Code,” Goldman’s screen credits include “Batman & Robin,” boxing drama “Cinderella Man” and “A Beautiful Mind,” for which he won the Academy Award for best adapted screenplay.

Columbia acquired feature rights to “Angels” and all future novels involving the Langdon character, as part of its 2003 acquisition of film rights to Brown’s “Da Vinci Code.”

Despite mainly negative reviews from critics at its world premiere at the Cannes film festival last week, “Da Vinci” went on to score the second-biggest opening tally of all time at the global box office, raking in nearly $232 million worldwide.

The film, like the book, teams up Langdon with a young French cryptologist (played in the movie by Audrey Tautou) to solve a murder mystery entwined in the works of Leonardo Da Vinci and a supposed alternate history of Christianity.

A central premise of the story is that Jesus fathered a child by Mary Magdalene, and that a clandestine society has for centuries protected the identity of Christ’s living descendants from agents of the Christian Church.

In “Angels,” another murder investigation leads Langdon on a quest to thwart a plot by an ancient group, the Illuminati, to blow up the Vatican during a papal conclave.

After grossing $77.1 million domestically in its first weekend, “Da Vinci” generated another $8.9 million on Monday, an extremely robust weekday box-office figure for a film primarily aimed at an adult audience.