Tom Hanks in Inferno

When it comes to adapting Dan Brown's best-selling novels on the big screen, director Ron Howard's the definitive expert... primarily because no one else has attempted it to this date. Howard helped bring Brown's most wide-known novel, The Da Vinci Code, to movie theaters, and followed up that smash hit with Angels & Demons -- a story that actually precedes Da Vinci on the Robert Langdon timeline. Loyal Dan Brown readers will know, then, that Inferno -- the next adaptation from Howard and Tom Hanks -- skips over a popular book in Brown's biography, The Lost Symbol, and I was curious why.

Earlier today, Ron Howard jumped on the phone to talk Inferno, the movie's new trailer, and his work on Dan Brown's books, in general. And over the course of our conversation, I asked him why they skipped over The Lost Symbol, a Robert Langdon mystery set in Washington, D.C., and hopped right to Inferno. The way Howard explained it to me:

Cinematically, when Lost Symbol came out, I think our feeling, my feeling was that it's a terrific, another terrific novel. It's great material, but it felt like, coming close on the heels of Angels and Demons and Da Vinci Code, that thematically and tonally, it might feel a little bit too much like the other books, at that particular moment. [Inferno] immediately felt like a cinematic next step, and that excited us. Lost Symbol is outstanding and you know, someday, something important has to be done with it.

At that point, I asked Ron Howard if that meant he was keeping it in his back pocket as a fourth possible Dan Brown adaptation, to which he replied:

Well, we had scripts on it. We've had scripts on it, and that was the other thing. We just never could just internally crack it, to the point that we felt like this is, something we're dying, that we just have to sort of, we have to tell, and we believe audiences are going to want to see it. Each and every one of these has never been a situation [where] we're contracted to do them and we're backing into a release date, sort of doing any of the things that the other franchises tend to need to do. This has been a matter of getting a great Dan Brown book, seeing how the adaptation goes, see if it reaches that point where the studio and Tom and myself and Brian Grazer all look at each other and say, 'You know, we must make this.' And that's how we felt about Inferno.

So, Dan Brown fans, The Lost Symbol isn't off the table. But according to Ron Howard, they tried to crack it, they couldn't quite figure the story out -- it similarly finds Robert Langdon racing around an historical city solving buried clues and trying to attempt an evil-doer from completing a task. However, if Inferno does well critically and financially, you can bet that a fresh pass will be made on those existing Lost Symbol scripts, and Tom Hanks' Robert Langdon may run, yet again.

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