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Ron Howard accuses Pope of scuppering Dan Brown movie

Vatican condemns director for bad faith publicity grab

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Hollywood film director and former Fonz sidekick Ron Howard has accused the Vatican of a dark plot to knobble his latest blockbuster Dan Brown adaptation, Angels and Demons.

Howard reckons the Pope and his helpers used "back channels" to scupper attempts to film around key landmarks in Rome. The production team had already been banned from filming in the Vatican.

Angels and Demons is the predecessor book to The Da Vinci Code. In it, the suave handsome academic Robert Langdon thwarts a plot conspiracy to destroy the Vatican using a flask of antimatter. Along the way, a succession of candidates for the vacant position of Vicar of Rome are discovered murdered, and all sorts of other un-Christian behaviour exposed.

The Vatican has a bit of problem with Dan Brown's work, perceiving it as somewhat anti-catholic in its outlook. This has been put down to his tendency to portray elements of the church embarking on murderous attempts to suppress what it sees as threats to its monopoly on truth. The Da Vinci Code famously portrayed the Universal Church as nothing but a patriarchal plot to suppress the "truth" that Jesus had fathered children with biblical era ex-good time girl Mary Magdalene, and that his descendants walked the Earth to this day. In Scotland, to be exact.

Of course, it may be that the organisation responsible for some of the greatest works of art and literature in Western civilisation simply thinks Brown's books and the films based on them are a bit crap. And tourist authorities in Rome may think they've got enough on their hands dealing with the faithful visiting Il Papa without having to deal with hordes of film fans who seem unable to distinguish fact from cinematic fiction.

According to the BBC, Howard told a news conference: "When you come to film in Rome, the official statement to you is that the Vatican has no influence.

"Everything progressed very smoothly, but unofficially a couple of days before we were to start filming in several of our locations, it was explained to us that through back channels and so forth that the Vatican had exerted some influence."

Shockingly, said Howard, the Church pulled strings to ensure that the filmmakers could not film in two buildings in Rome... large buildings, with crosses on the top. You know, churches.

For its part, the Vatican has shown it is fully cognisant of the powers of the dark side - or the Hollywood publicity machine in this instance - with a Vatican spokesman condemning Howard's statements as a lame attempt to drum up publicity for the film. ®

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