"Angels & Demons" director sees Vatican meddling

Sun May 3, 2009 2:08pm EDT
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By Phil Stewart

ROME (Reuters) - Director Ron Howard accused the Vatican on Sunday of trying to hamper the filming and the Rome roll-out of his new movie "Angels & Demons," and challenged Catholic critics to see the film before condemning it.

The movie sequel to author Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" will premiere in Rome on Monday, with fictional symbologist Robert Langdon returning to the big screen to help the Vatican rescue kidnapped cardinals and find a ticking time-bomb.

The Vatican was outraged by "The Da Vinci Code" and the Rome archdiocese made no secret about denying Howard authorization to film parts of the follow-up inside its churches.

Howard said the Vatican also exerted its influence "through backchannels" to try to prevent him from shooting in areas around certain churches and got an event related to the film's premiere canceled, he said.

"There was supposed to be a reception or screening here in Rome that had been approved and I suppose that the Vatican had some influence over that," Howard told a news conference.

A Vatican spokesman declined to comment.

Fanning controversy, a 102-year-old Italian bishop was quoted in Italian media over the weekend calling the film "highly denigrating, defamatory and offensive to Church values and the reputation of the Holy See."

"My only frustration as a film-maker is that we actually reached out a couple of times, going back to March, to sort of offer opportunities for bishops and others just to see the film. And those opportunities have all been declined," Howard said.   Continued...

<p>Director Ron Howard gestures as he poses during a photocall for his new movie "Angels &amp; Demons" at Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome May 3, 2009. REUTERS/Tony Gentile</p>