The folks at Sony Pictures are undoubtedly still swooning with relief that The Da Vinci Code overcame bad reviews and is roaring to worldwide grosses beyond $700 million. This happy state of affairs has already led to speculation in Hollywood about the next installment, Angels & Demons, based upon an earlier Dan Brown book. With these numbers, another film would seem to be a foregone conclusion. The question is whether key members of TheDa Vinci Code team will return for Round Two.
"We are definitely planning to make this movie with Ron Howard and Tom Hanks," says Sony Pictures chief Amy Pascal. Sony has hired The Da Vinci Code screenwriter Akiva Goldsman to write Angels & Demons, but there's no deal with director Ron Howard or Tom Hanks. And many question whether either will return. One player involved with the production already got an e-mail about a rumor (a fanciful one) that Steven Spielberg will direct the next film (such an interesting idea for the founder of the Shoah Foundation).
Going through the opening of The Da Vinci Code had to be one of the most complete agony-and-ecstasy experiences for any filmmaker—and that's leaving aside the stress of dealing with the religious objectors. First the picture was savaged by reviewers, and then it opened huge. It's nice to make money, but even the rich and successful don't like to be heaped with public scorn. So, there's a strong incentive for the principals to declare victory and move on.
Despite Pascal's unequivocal insistence that Hanks and Howard will return, some informed speculation holds that Sony could live without either of them for the next installment. The talent on The Da Vinci Code is expensive, and some at the studio—looking at the film's extraordinary success overseas—give a measure of credit to a strong international cast, including Jean Reno, Ian McKellen, and Audrey Tautou. Since Angels & Demons is set before the events of TheDa Vinci Code, a younger (and cheaper) male lead might work out fine.
Meanwhile, Hanks has movies lined up, including Charlie Wilson's War, about the congressman who supported Afghan rebels fighting the Soviets, and The Great Buck Howard, for which he is both actor and producer. Ron Howard is taking the summer off and then will direct another film. Even Goldsman is otherwise engaged at the moment: He's going to work on I Am Legend with Will Smith and won't even start on a Da Vinci Code sequel until fall—if then. So, if Sony wants to line up Angels & Demons, it might have a long wait. But with another Spider-Man ready to go for next summer, maybe the studio can afford to be patient.