By Jeff Jensen
May 11, 2009 at 04:00 AM EDT

Angels & Demons

  • Movie

Starring: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgård
Directed by: Ron Howard
Release date: May 15

Howard’s 2006 adaptation of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code was met with protests from Christians, who were furious over its Married…With Children conspiracy theory of Jesus. The upshot: a $758 million global smash. But the Oscar-winning director believes Angels & Demons — adapted from Brown’s earlier novel (though the movie is positioned as a sequel) — won’t stir similar ire. ”It certainly deals with big themes like religion and science…but it doesn’t carry the same outrageous charge,” says Howard. Still, says costar Zurer (Vantage Point): ”We have someone getting murdered in the Vatican! Of course people are going to be upset!”

Angels is an equal-opportunity offender: The story is set in motion by a gruesome killing in one of the most secretive sanctuaries in science, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, better known as CERN. Code-cracking academic Robert Langdon (Hanks) and a CERN scientist (Zurer) scramble to stop an underground society of church-hating free thinkers known as the Illuminati from incinerating the Vatican with a canister of antimatter. ”The film is a ticking-bomb thriller,” explains Howard.

Somehow, ill feelings from Da Vinci did seem to linger. Just days before shooting began last year in Rome, Howard learned that local officials had become wary of the production, though they stopped short, he says, of ”formally rescinding permission” to shoot at key sites. Then, on the second night of a two-night shoot inside a mausoleum known as St. Angelo, the electricity was cut off. ”Someone literally turned the lights out on us,” says Zurer. ”By hook or by crook,” Howard says, ”we got what we needed.” And he promises one additional improvement over Da Vinci: Hanks’ hippie hairdo is gone. ”Apparently there was a lot of chatter about the long hair, so we gave Langdon a trim.”

Angels & Demons

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 138 minutes
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  • Angels & Demons