Sony rallies spinmeisters as protest hits London shoot

“The Da Vinci Code” may be a worldwide bestseller that spawned a big-budget pic toplining Tom Hanks, but not everyone is bowing down at its altar.

Anticipating the kinds of protests that hit the film’s London shoot last week, execs at Sony Pictures and Imagine have enlisted a handful of consultants to ease the pic’s reception and to counter any backlash by Catholics and evangelicals against the film.

They’ve also reportedly sought advice from various experts in Christianity and Catholicism on how to soften potentially inflammatory material in the book.

Surprisingly, given the country’s Catholic base, the film’s first weeks of shooting in France were free of protest. But when lensing moved to the U.K., the pic ran into obstacles.

Director Ron Howard wanted to shoot at Westminster Abbey, but he was denied due to the “theologically unsound” nature of the book. So London’s Lincoln Cathedral was enlisted as a stand-in

But last week, Catholic nuns, led by Sister Mary Michael, held a 12-hour prayer vigil outside the cathedral to protest the filming.

The production is bolstering Lincoln’s coffers with $180,000 to aid some long-needed building improvements, and the shoot was sanctioned by Alec Knight, dean of Lincoln Cathedral.

But Sister Mary’s vigil on the steps of the church provided a visible reminder that the central premise of Dan Brown‘s book and the film — that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had a child — will be a hard sell with evangelicals.

“The Church should not be accepting money for something that is not a true story,” Sister Mary told the Times. “To a believer, any believer, what is happening is blasphemous.”

So far, Sony and the Imagine camp are keeping mum about how closely the film will mirror Brown’s text. But they’re no doubt aware that the same Christian base that turned out for “The Passion of the Christ” will be waiting to see how Hollywood cracks the “Code.”

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