The life of world-renowned symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is considerably more action-packed than that of most academics. So far, the character’s knowledge of art history and religious iconography has led him on a hunt for the Holy Grail in The Da Vinci Code, and entangled him in a race to prevent the Vatican being destroyed by an antimatter bomb in Angels and Demons. After going through all that, Langdon probably deserves an easy life of marking papers and giving lectures – but fate (and Hollywood) have other plans.

Inferno marks the third of Dan Brown’s best-selling Robert Langdon novels to be adapted by director Ron Howard, and it hits the ground running. Langdon wakes up in a Florence hospital with a head wound and no memory of the last few days. Before he has time to recover, an assassin bursts in and he is forced to flee, aided by the E.R. doctor who was attempting to treat him – Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones). As the pair try to restore Langdon’s memory, they discover that brilliant scientist Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) has created a virus deadly enough to wipe out half of Earth’s population – and Langdon holds the only key to prevent the virus from being unleashed.

Screen Rant got the opportunity to visit Florence for the world premiere of Inferno this month, and speak to both the cast and the director. Check out our interview with Ron Howard above, and read the transcript below.

Screen Rant: I’ve seen the movie, and what I really like about it is this idea of legacy, and the sacrifice that is sometimes required to leave that legacy, which I’m sure you understand as a filmmaker…

Ron Howard:  Yeah, very sophisticated reaction! But that’s what the Dan Brown stories offer. They entertain audiences in very different ways, and if you want to check your brain at the door and just go with the thriller, you know, that’s meant to be fun and pacy and be a real page-turner. If the controversies or the ideas or the history or some of the themes, if they reach you then they’re there, but I try never to stop the movie for it. So it’s an interesting sort of labyrinth to follow as a director, but very gratifying when audiences respond to it.

Ron Howard and Tom Hanks on the set of Inferno Inferno Director Ron Howard: We Could Be Creating Hell on Earth

Ron Howard and Tom Hanks at the Buontalenti Grotto in Boboli Gardens, Florence


SR: It seems like the throughline through all the movies it that it’s set at a meeting point between history and the future. For example, in The Da Vinci Code it was deciding whether or not to make this revelation, and then in [Inferno] and Angels and Demons, it almost verges into sci-fi territory, because it’s very much looking forward to the future…

RH: Looking ahead. This one in particular, though does not – beyond the Dante imagery of Hell, and the idea that we could be creating Hell on Earth as we speak, and we have, arguably… This crisis of overpopulation is so modern, and so present, it’s of the moment and the future, whereas the other movies depended a little more on theology and philosophy and history, and ideas that date back. So I think that gave this movie a kind of visual energy and intensity.

Ben Foster as Bertrand Zobrist in Inferno Inferno Director Ron Howard: We Could Be Creating Hell on Earth

Ben Foster as Bertrand Zobrist


SR: What do you think of Zobrist’s solution to the problem of overpopulation? It’s extreme.

RH: It’s very extreme, extreme is the word, and extend that a little bit and you get “extremist.” I think any time there is a bona fide crisis – of which there are many on this planet, at any given time – when society as a population, or as policy-makers are unwilling [or] afraid to face it head on, as uncomfortable as it might be, you create a vacuum. And inside those vacuums, well, this can be very dangerous territory, so that provides a lot of the danger and the tension in this story.

SR: What would you say his motivations are? Do you think Zobrist is interested in human life, or is he more interested in leaving his own legacy?

RH: I think he’s a person of great intellect and ego, and I do believe he thinks this is the solution, and bold and so forth. But he also – and it’s a bit of an Achilles’ heel for him, I’m afraid – he wants to be known as the architect.

SR: Thanks so much for your time.