‘Inferno’ Banking on Tom Hanks, Ron Howard and International Appeal

Inferno Premiere Tom Hanks
Michael Buckner/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

On their third film and their third premiere, the cast and crew of Ron Howard’s “Inferno” said on Tuesday night in Los Angeles that the thriller and the larger franchise built on Dan Brown’s novels remains fresh, because of the many layers of story-telling.

“The movies entertain different people in different ways,” director Howard said on the red carpet before the premiere at the Director’s Guild. “If you want to look at that controversial, hot button issue, with overpopulation you can do that with this film. If you want to just live in the world that the movie transports you to, you can just go on that ride. And if you really want to get into nuts and bolts of the clue path and the mystery and suspense, that is laid out there too.”

The formula appears to be working, as “Inferno,” — third in the series, following “The DaVinci Code” and “Angels & Demons” — has already hauled in $100 million worldwide, following earlier premieres in Florence and Berlin and openings in much of Europe. The film debuts Friday in the U.S., Canada, China and Japan.

Tom Hanks returns as professor Robert Langdon, on the trail of a series of clues tied to Dante. Trying to stave off a world calamity, Langdon is battling not only a shifting cast of villains but his own amnesia. He is on the clue trail from Florence, to Venice to Istanbul, along with a new sidekick, Dr. Sienna Brooks, played by Felicity Jones.

Hanks said he thinks the human, non-super-hero scale of the characters in the film series keeps audiences coming back. “It’s all of a very human dimension,” said Hanks. “We owe it all to Dan Brown because he writes these really great puzzles that are fun to solve, with a backdrop of some history that’s interesting to lay into …But I think the fact there is a human dimension really raises the stakes and the appeal.”

Tom Rothman, chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Motion Picture Group, said the film’s international settings and its international cast have contributed to “Inferno’s” opening success. “It’s a reminder of the big-movie movie ability that Hollywood has and how that can translate to European subject matter,” Rothman said. “And you can see there is still a great appetite for Tom Hanks in that character and for the way Ron Howard interprets it.”

Jones, previously of “The Theory of Everything,” filmed “Inferno” just before going into production with Disney and LucasFilm’s stand alone “Star Wars” adventure, “Rogue One,” in which she plays heroine Jyn Erso. Jones said she had to adopt a strikingly different mind set for the two roles.

“Sienna is a Type A personality. She is probably somebody who likes doing yoga and keeping in good shape,” Jones said, “whereas Jyn has had to defend herself. She is a bit of a loner. She has had to be tough so she’s much more aggressive in the way she moves. Her physicality is a bit rougher than Sienna’s.”

While selling “Inferno” was the business of the night Tuesday, Hanks made such a big splash hosting “Saturday Night Live” last week, that half his questions seemed to be about David S. Pumpkins, the creepy, Halloween inspired character he played in one skit.

“I guess they sold out the costumes already,” Hanks quipped. “And people have been yelling out, [creepy, ghoulish voice] ‘Any questions?’ So I guess, there you have it — vox populi.