This article originally appeared in
May 24, 2006
Copycats follow 'Da Vinci'
By ERIC J. LYMAN
CANNES -- Call it "The Da Vinci Queue."
With the film based on Dan Brown's international best-seller receiving
lukewarm reviews but overwhelmingly enthusiastic boxoffice numbers, there
is no shortage of would-be companion films standing in line to cash in on
the notoriety and success of "The Da Vinci Code."
The film raked a near-record
$224 million in worldwide
receipts on its opening
weekend, second only to "Star
Wars: Episode III — Revenge of
Some of the related films are Masterful Deception" that documents what it says are errors in the film and
documentaries that explore and
expand on some of the issues
brought up in "Da Vinci" (like
"Secrets of the Code"), and
some flat out refute the entire
premise of the film ("The
Charade of the Mona Lisa," for
example, or "The Dark Side of
the Da Vinci Code"). Even the
Vatican has played a role,
producing a documentary titled
"The Da Vinci Code — A
But most of the copycat films are old-fashioned thrillers that seek to appeal
to the same viewers attracted to the Ron Howard-directed blockbuster, such
as "The Da Vinci Treasure," "The Michelangelo Code" and "Stealing the
At least a dozen films in some way related to "Da Vinci" are being shopped
around at the Festival de Cannes and the parallel market. And that's not to
mention more than two dozen other films — most made for television or
released straight to video — already completed in the time between the
novel's success and the May 17 premiere of the film in Cannes. Among
those titles are "Time Machine: Beyond the Da Vinci Code," "Exposing the Da
Vinci Code," and "The Da Vinci Code Decoded."
For its part, Sony Entertainment says it isn't losing any sleep over the slate of
films that one could say are at the very least "inspired" by "Da Vinci Code."
"You know, they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," Sony's
head of corporate communications Jim Kennedy said. "I just look at it as a
testament to the cultural phenomenon this story represents. I don't think it's
a surprise at all, and if I had to guess, I'd even speculate that these films will
just attract more attention to the original film."
The writers, producers and filmmakers of the newer films are taking steps to
differentiate themselves from the pack.
"After 'The Da Vinci Code' book was published, there were something like 23
books inspired by it, and 'Secrets of the Code' outsold the other 22
combined," said Richard Guardian of Lightening Entertainment, which
produced the "Secrets" documentary. The book, a New York Times best-
seller, explores in greater depth some of the mysteries brought up in "Da
"I like to tell people that this is a book with some pedigree," Guardian said.
"It's not something slapped together in a few weeks in order to capitalize on
the success of 'The Da Vinci Code.' "
"Stealing the Mona Lisa" is a romantic
thriller based on a real 1911 heist of the
famous painting that plays a key role in
"Da Vinci Code." Although the story is
not directly related to that of the Sony
blockbuster, Claudio Braslavsky,
director of marketing and acquisitions
at America Video Films, the movie's
distributor, said the timing of his film's
release is not a coincidence.
"I think we have a really good film, but I
also think that timing is important and
that the film would attract less attention
if it were released at a different time,"
"The Charade of the Mona Lisa," which is being shopped around both as a
documentary and a film, also has a long story. Author Sharron Connelly says
she has been researching the story since 1984 and has uncovered her own
interpretation of a code based on Leonardo da Vinci's work, including the
theory that Leonardo painted himself into the "Last Supper."
"There really is a 'Da Vinci Code,' but Dan Brown got it wrong," Connelly said,
adding that she is in discussions with a British group to produce the
documentary version of her research. "My story tells the true code he
According to Angelo di Renzo, a retired film critic, author and adjunct
professor at Rome's Catholic University, the coattail phenomenon is a
"Sometimes these things can lead to an entire genre," di Renzo said. "In the
past it was this way with films based on comic books or based on airline
disasters. If someone discovers a formula that works, do you really expect
people not to try to copy it?"
And that is true even if the one doing the copying is the original source itself.
Basking in the glow of the successful opening weekend of "Da Vinci Code,"
Sony already is planning to bring Brown's other best-seller, "Angels and
Demons," to the big screen. Quoted in the London Times, Sony vice
chairman Jeff Blake said the studio was interested in producing a follow-up
film based on the book, which introduced Harvard symbologist Robert
Langdon, the character played by Tom Hanks in "Da Vinci Code."
"We are very interested in filming 'Angels and Demons,' " Blake said. "We
hope that the relationship with Dan Brown will be a long one. That could be
the next project."