Hanks: Don't Take 'Code' Too Seriously

In this image provided by NBC Sunday May 7, 2006 "Da Vinci Code" star Tom Hanks (right) in his opening monologue on Saturday Night Live-- fields questions from Catholic clergy (Chris Parnell) and Jesus (Jason Sudeikis) on the controversy surrounding the film of the best-selling novel. (AP Photo/HO) AP Photo

Actor Tom Hanks has a message to critics of his latest film, "The Da Vinci Code": Relax.

In an interview with a London newspaper, Hanks said, "We always knew there would be a segment of society that would not want this movie to be shown.
"But the story we tell is loaded with all sorts of hooey and fun kind of scavenger-hunt-type nonsense," Hanks told London's Evening Standard.

Religious leaders across the world, mostly Catholic, have objected to the film and the book because of its allegations that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and has descendants.

"If you are going to take any sort of movie at face value, particularly a huge-budget motion picture like this, you'd be making a very big mistake.

"It's a damn good story and a lot of fun... all it is, is dialogue. That never hurts," Hanks said.

The film opens in the United States May 19.

Despite the widespread outcry, the leader of Opus Dei, the conservative Catholic organization depicted in "The Da Vinci Code" as a murderous, power-hungry sect, says some good might come out of the movie, according to an interview published Friday.

The film version of Dan Brown's runaway best-selling novel debuts in France on May 17, which happens to be the 14th anniversary of the day the late Pope John Paul II beatified Opus Dei's founder, Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, who was made a saint in 2002. Beatification is the last formal step before sainthood.

The current head of Opus Dei, Monsignor Javier Echevarria, said he thumbed through the book.

"I don't have time to waste on little novels for the naive," he was quoted as saying in an interview in Milan daily Corriere della Sera.

Echevarria contended that Opus Dei came under attack because of the organization's "attachment to the pope, our loyalty to the church, our rigor for the orthodoxy of faith."

He was interviewed by Vittorio Messori, who co-authored John Paul's best-selling book "Crossing the Threshold of Hope."

Messori wrote that Opus Dei's Web Site has seen a jump in hits, and that the group "has taken advantage of a good opportunity" from the negative image the book gives of it.

"For us who believe in Providence, there isn't any apparent evil which does not reveal itself to be in reality a good thing," Echevarria was quoted as saying.

Although a Vatican official has called for a boycott of the movie, Opus Dei has decided against such a tactic, which could possibly backfire for the Church by drawing more attention to the film.

In Canada, a Muslim leader in Calgary said "The Da Vinci Code" is a betrayal of Islam and should be boycotted.

Sayed Soharwardy, president of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, said the film and bestselling novel it's based on mocks his religion by questioning one of Islam's most important prophets: Jesus Christ.

"Dan Brown used the real Jesus to propagate his fabricated research," Soharwardy said.

"This kind of movie is not frequent but if we don't stand up to these movies, they'll become more frequent."

The plot of the movie, which opens May 19, centres on the idea that Jesus had a child with Mary Magdalene and the ancient bloodline still exists, a secret fiercely protected by a sect of the Catholic church.

Soharwardy said because the film taints the notion of Jesus — the most oft-mentioned prophet in the Qur'an — as pure and sinless, it could convince people the story is real.

"Jesus is not an ordinary human being," he said.

"He's part of my faith and deserves to be treated with honour and respect."

While other films, notably Martin Scorcese's version of the Last Temptation of Christ, have raised the ire of the faithful, Soharwardy said the profile of "The Da Vinci Code" is much larger and could influence a much wider audience.

He added plans to boycott the movie have been well-received by Christians as well as Muslims.

While insisting he doesn't believe in censorship, Soharwardy said he believes the film "should not have been produced."

The Islamic Supreme Council, which has about 200 local members, is planning to stage a protest of the Da Vinci Code on the day the film opens.
Last March, Genoa Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said the runaway success of the Dan Brown novel is proof of "anti-Catholic" prejudice.

"The distribution strategy has been absolutely exceptional marketing, even at Catholic bookstores - and I've already complained about the Catholic bookshops which, for profit motives, have stacks of this book," the cardinal said.
  • Sean Alfano

Comments