Tuesday, August 9/10: See Update #3 at the bottom...
August 3, 2005: Last week I received phone calls from two of the most powerful, mysterious, and controversial institutions in the world: Opus Dei and The New York Times. And I lived to talk about it.
The first call, from Opus Dei, informed me that The Times was doing a piece on The Da Vinci Code movie and that my name had been given to the reporter, Sharon Waxman. The second call was from Waxman, who didn't know much about The Da Vinci Hoax, but was interested in my thoughts on the movie. In providing some personal background, I mentioned my first book, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"? She asked if I liked the Left Behind books and I assured her that I did not. "Oh, really?" she exclaimed in surprise. All I can figure is that she thought that since I was a Christian of some sort I must like the Left Behind books.
Anyhow, her article, "Sprinkling Holy Water on 'The Da Vinci Code'", is now published and available online (registration probably required). It almost pains me to say it, but it's a very good and fair piece. It's clear to me that Waxman is more than a bit frustrated that she cannot get any concrete info about the movie from the makers of the flick. She writes:
But "Da Vinci," set for release in May, is shaping up as one of the movie world's more complicated exercises - so much so that Sony has dropped a scrim of secrecy over the affair, refusing to discuss anything but the barest details. The script has been closely controlled. Outsiders have been banned from the set. And those associated with the film have had to sign confidentiality agreements.
The piece reports on the concern that many groups, including The Catholic League and Opus Dei, have about the very real possibility of a rabidly anti-Catholic movie. After all, the novel does essentially say that the Catholic Church is the most rotten, bloody, treacherous, woman-hating, and narrow-minded institution of all time, apparently surpassing even the Soviet Union, Communist China, and even the Republican Party. Sony, who is making the movie, consulted with Barbara Nicolosi, who in turn consulted with Amy Welborn, author of De-Coding Da Vinci (OSV). But will it be of any use? Here is my .02 worth:
"There's no way you can take out the central point of the novel, that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and the Catholic Church has done everything in its power, including murdering millions of people, to cover it up," said Carl E. Olson, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax, a book refuting the "The Da Vinci Code." He predicted that many devout people would be offended "unless they make a movie that bears a pale resemblance to the book, in which case they'd have a lot of irritated fans."
Let's face it: we're talking about Hollywood producers who are making a movie for one reason: to make money and lots of it. Controversy sells very well, so I expect that the movie will keep the main anti-Catholic ingredients and that the producers will try to appeal to fans of the novel and to people who haven't read the novel. Nicolosi states, in the article's concluding paragraph:
"The phrase I heard used several times was 'Passion dollars'; they want to try to get 'The Passion' dollars if they can," said Ms. Nicolosi, referring to her conversations about the film. "They're wrong," she added. "It's sacrilegious, irreligious. They're thinking they can ride the 'Passion' wave with this. And I said, 'Are you kidding me?' "
Somebody must be kidding someone. The makers of this movie surely recognize that Christians who actually believe in essential Christian doctrines, notably the divinity of Jesus Christ, will not see the movie. So why try to mollify them? Simply be secretive — which will only increase interest in the movie — and then let the thing rip on May 19, 2006. Or, could it be that Sony is really that utterly tone-deaf when it comes to American culture in general and Christianity in particular? Perhaps. We shall see...
UPDATE #1: Barbara Nicolosi (Act One, Church of the Masses) has a post about the interview that includes an account of a curious/bizarre/offensive comment made by the reporter to Nicolosi.
UPDATE #2: Amy Welborn posts about her interview with The Times and writes: "As I remarked to someone today...I am SO TIRED of talking about THIS STUPID BOOK. And it is stupid, people." Yes, it sure is. I suppose that if a slogan were applied to all of the hype and wild-eyed adulation given to this rotten novel, it would be "It's the stupidity, stupid!"
UPDATE #3 (August 9/10): After railing against "Reformation America" and "theocrats," in this column for Scripps Howard News Service, television host Bonnie Erbe (host of what, I know not) appears to lift my comments from above (in the New York Times piece) and make them her own:
If studio executives tamper with and tamp down the novel's controversial plot to placate "the devout," they also destroy the story's draw to the tens of millions who have embraced it. We all know Hollywood's true god is money. My guess is, studio fat cats would sooner offend followers of any other form of religious currency than risk forsaking even a fraction of their almighty dollar.
Very good, Bonnie. But remember, you heard it here first...