Why Tom Hanks And Ron Howard Skipped Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol On The Way to Inferno

Tom Hanks in Inferno

It has been a decade since director Ron Howard and his leading man, Tom Hanks, started deciphering author Dan Brown's literary puzzles for the big screen. Starting with The Da Vinci Code in 2006, the Robert Langdon series extended through Angels & Demons and continues later this month with Inferno, and adaptation of the most recent Brown adventure that sends Hanks on a mission through Florence, Italy to stop a global terrorist. Die hard fans of Brown's works, however, will realize that by fast-forwarding to Inferno, Howard and Hanks overlooked the third book in the Robert Langdon timeline -- the D.C.-set The Lost Symbol from 2009 -- and I wondered if there was a reason.

Luckily, I was able to sit down with Tom Hanks in Florence, Italy to discuss Inferno and his work on this fast-moving franchise, and when it comes to The Lost Symbol, he told me:

That was interesting because we actually worked on [Lost Symbol] for a while to see if there was something, and at the end of the day, Washington, D.C. and the question of the Masons was very reminiscent of the theoretical dilemmas of both The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons. We had to say that we don't quite think there is something [there] to truly hang on. But, Dan Brown, who is very secretive, is working on another one. We have no idea if it's going to come down the pike -- if we're going to want to jump on it or not. We'll see. The good news is contractually, we don't have to. [Laughs] This is all our voluntary actions.

So it sounds like, even in Inferno is a huge hit, the idea of Tom Hanks and Ron Howard going back to adapt The Lost Symbol is a non-starter, because the plot and themes are too similar to what the duo did in The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons. These stories have been told out of order before. In the book sense, Angels came before Da Vinci, but Ron Howard and Sony chose to start with Da Vinci because that novel was a global sensation. After audiences flocked to the first Robert Langdon story, the studio greenlit its predecessor, and Angels did well at the box office, as well.

Dan Brown, meanwhile, is working on his fifth Robert Langdon story, Origin, which has a 2017 release date, and I assume that's the project to which Tom Hanks refers when he says that if it "comes down the pike," they may consider it. Ironically, earlier this year, Ron Howard explained why they had a tough time cracking the story of The Lost Symbol, leading to them passing on it. You can read his insights into that film's development here. And here is Tom Hanks talking Inferno and The Lost Symbol:

Inferno, directed by Ron Howard, stars Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Ben Foster, Omar Sy and Irrfan Khan in another thriller that has Robert Langdon racing the clock to unravel historical mysteries and prevent a massive disaster. It hits theaters in the U.S. on Oct. 28.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.