TV URBAN LEGEND: The Da Vinci Code was nearly adapted for the third season of 24.
With the return of Agent Jack Bauer with 24: Live Another Day on Monday, all eyes will be on the plot of this new event and how the producers tie everything together following the franchise’s four-year hiatus. Bauer gives producers a major advantage, as they can place the character in the middle of virtually any plot and he’ll adapt to it. That’s what 20th Century Fox does with its popular film character John McClaine: As we’ve previously featured in Movie Legends Revealed, the first three sequels to Die Hard were based on existing stories, with McClaine just added to them. Heck, Die Hard With a Vengeance, was nearly Lethal Weapon 4 before it became Die Hard 3. So with that in mind, Fox could easily adapt another story for its new season of 24. In fact, that’s what executives tried to do years ago with the third season. The story they tried to adapt? The Da Vinci Code!
The Da Vinci Code is the second novel by Dan Brown to feature the symbologist Robert Langdon. The first, 2000’s Angels and Demons, sold very well, but was certainly not the sensation that The Da Vinci Code turned out to be two years later, when it became the second-highest selling book of the year (it would have been the highest-selling book in most years, but 2003 saw the release of the first Harry Potter novel in three years, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, so Brown had to settle for No. 2). The Da Vinci Code saw Langdon pulled into a vast conspiracy involving the Holy Grail and whether it contains proof that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene.
The novel became a worldwide sensation, but upon its release in April 2003 it didn’t immediately set the world on fire. Therefore, when 24 co-creator and then-executive producer Joel Surnow first read the book in early 2003, soon before the second season of 24 finished airing in the United States, he thought there was a chance they could purchase the rights. He contacted Brian Grazer, one of the producers of 24, and asked him to try to get the rights to the book for the then-upcoming third season of 24. Grazer later recalled, “It quickly became clear that we had no chance,” as sales were gaining quickly enough that Brown knew the odds were he could get better offers. Specifically, he thought the book could be adapted into a movie. And sure enough, toward the end of 2003, Sony Pictures acquired the rights for a cool $6 million.
Amusingly enough, Sony then hired Grazer to produce the film. So he went from trying to nab the book for a TV show to producing the blockbuster movie adaptation. (Grazer has so far produced two films featuring Langdon, 2006’s The Da Vinci Code and 2009’s Angels and Demons; he’s producing a third Langdon film, Inferno, set for a 2015 release. All three films are directed by Ron Howard and star Tom Hanks as Langdon.)
The third season of 24 ultimately revolved around the race to prevent a deadly virus being released in Los Angeles by a former government agent. Can you imagine Bauer getting involved in a Vatican conspiracy? Certainly sounds hard to believe that that would ever have worked.
When reader Lynn J. wrote in with this suggestion, though, he seemed to believe the 24 producers got further with Brown than they really did, so I don’t think this really counts as “The Da Vinci Code was nearly adapted into a season of 24,” so I’ll go with the legend as …
STATUS: Basically False
Thanks to Lynn for the suggestion! And thanks to Newsweek for the Grazer quote.
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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