Protests Greet 'Da Vinci' Debut

Cast members and guests arrive for the screening of "The Da Vinci Code," at the 59th International film festival in Cannes, southern France, on Wednesday, May 17, 2006. (AP Photo/Laurent Emmanuel)
AP Photo/Laurent Emmanuel
The director huffed, offended believers protested and the critics carped as "The Da Vinci Code" premiered Wednesday and started its march around the world Thursday.

Ron Howard, who adapted Dan Brown's worldwide mega-selling novel to the big screen, had a suggestion Wednesday for people riled by the way Christian history is depicted in the film: If you suspect the movie will upset you, don't go see it.

"Da Vinci" opened at the Cannes Film Festival Wednesday with a black-tie premiere that brought stars Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen and Paul Bettany onto Cannes' famous red carpet.

Beforehand, Howard answered questions about "Da Vinci" protests around the world, and also in Cannes, where a Roman Catholic nun wearing a brown habit kneeled and said a rosary at the foot of the red carpet.

"There's no question that the film is likely to be upsetting to some people," Howard told reporters. "My advice, since virtually no one has really seen the movie yet, is to not go see the movie if you think you're going to be upset. Wait. Talk to somebody who has seen it. Discuss it. And then arrive at an opinion about the movie itself."

"Again: This is supposed to be entertainment, it's not theology," he said.

The screen adaptation, like the novel, suggests that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene and fathered a child. One reporter asked the cast if they believed Christ was married.

Star Tom Hanks quipped, "Well, I wasn't around."

Hanks said he had not felt pressure from religious groups. He added that his religious heritage "communicates that our sins have been taken away, not our brains." CBS News correspondent Richard Roth said Hanks also said audiences should recognize "this is not a documentary. This is not something that is pulled up and says 'these are the facts and this is what happened.'"

Christian groups from various countries, including South Korea, Thailand and India have protested the movie, planning boycotts, a hunger strike and attempts to block or shorten screenings.

Asian moviegoers were among the first in the world to watch "The Da Vinci Code'' when it officially opened Thursday. The film premiered at a Beijing theater hours before the Cannes Film Festival in France on Wednesday night.

China's official Catholic church urged its followers to boycott the movie, and bishops in India demanded the movie be shown with a disclaimer Thursday as viewers across Asia got a first glimpse of the controversial film.

The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which isn't governed by the Vatican, accused the film's makers of "violating religious ethics and morals and insulting the feelings of clergy and followers," the state-run Xinhua News Agency said. The church urged the country's more than 10 million faithful to avoid it.