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From Book to Screen
The phenomenal success of Dan Brown's novel, The Da Vinci Code, was just beginning to invade the public consciousness when producer John Calley was encouraged to read the book by Sony Chairman Howard Stringer. "I was crazed by it, fascinated. It was a first-rate thriller,” Calley recalls. He immediately optioned the film rights.

At the same time, Imagine Entertainment co-chairman Brian Grazer and his partner, director and producer Ron Howard, were also keen on adapting the book for the screen. Grazer was especially intrigued by some of its underlying issues: "Not only did I like The Da Vinci Code as an entertaining and exciting read, but there were certain profound things about the story that caught my attention. There were questions of history versus the creation of history — questions I found exciting and compelling.”

When Grazer and Howard learned that Calley had already optioned the rights, they approached him with their ideas about a movie version of The Da Vinci Code, and a partnership was formed.

Howard's wife was reading the book with her book group when he mentioned that he might direct a film version, and was delighted that their reactions were all glowing. He says: "I discovered the book more or less the way the whole world did — through amazing word-of-mouth. People are interested in it for different reasons and are personally impacted by it in a variety of ways.”

But the main reason he was eager to direct The Da Vinci Code has to do with his love of the adventure thriller genre. "This story has all the style and traditional suspense elements that make a movie work as an entertaining narrative,” says Howard. "It takes the viewer along with the confidence that it's headed in a particular direction but then surprises you in so many ways. That's why the story Dan Brown created so captivated his readers. It feels familiar as a mystery and as a thriller but then, wow, there's this fascinating turn of events.”

Calley was glad to hear of Howard's interest in The Da Vinci Code, having long searched for the right opportunity to work with the Oscar®-winning director. "I've always admired Ron,” says Calley. "He's skillful and moderate in the best sense, in that he never has an agenda. He was a great choice for this project, since he brings a kind of fundamental intelligence that is totally appropriate to the material.”

Having previously collaborated with screenwriter Akiva Goldsman on A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man, Howard felt he was the natural choice to adapt Dan Brown's book. "It was a pretty daunting task,” says Howard. "By the time we'd all decided to make it into a movie, the book had gone from being a big hit to being this historic success story. I'd already been working very closely with Akiva and he and I had some fairly deep conversations about the novel, because it's more than just believing it would make a good movie story. In choosing to take it to the screen you also have to ask yourself a lot of the questions that the book poses to the reader. I've never really been involved in a film project like this, one that not only generates feeling and emotion and is entertaining, but also really stimulates great conversation.”

Goldsman himself says he was a bit daunted by the task of adapting Brown's best-selling literary phenomenon to the screen, since so many people had read it and had visualized it in their own minds. "I was tremendously impressed by the book and had absolutely no idea how to adapt it, since it's such a complex, labyrinthine and intricate piece of fiction,” Goldsman confesses. "My inclination was to shy away from it. But then I sat down with Ron, and he had such a clear idea of what he wanted to do with it that he turned me around and gave me the confidence to try.”

Two-time Academy Award® winner Tom Hanks, who embodies D

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