Director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) is well underway with shooting on his new, Christopher Nolan-produced Superman flick Man of Steel, so a new casting tidbit is comes as something of a surprise. For reasons unknown, Julie Ormond (Curious Case of Benjamin Button), originally cast as Superman a.k.a. Kal-El's Kryptonian mother, has been dropped in favor of Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer.
Zurer hasn't blown up here in the states, but she's made a splash with big name directors like Steven Spielberg (she played Eric Bana's wife in Munich and Ron Howard (co-starring alongside Tom Hanks in Angels & Demons). Now she'll be cozying up to Russell Crowe, who has been cast as Supes' alien dad Jor-El. Zurer certainly has a penchant for snagging notable leading men.
While Ormond in the role would have assured a quality performance (I'm guessing scheduling conflicts were the reason behind the change-up), fans should be happy to see a rising star like Zurer take on the role. If it all goes well, it could mean more work for the actress in the future—hopefully on Earth this time.
Man of Steel co-stars Henry Cavill, Michael Shannon and Amy Adams and hits theaters June 14, 2013.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
After Robert Langdon cracked the Church’s most controversial code in the last film what could possibly make the Vatican come begging for his services again? Using Dan Brown’s lesser-known bestseller Angels & Demons as the basis director Ron Howard and star Tom Hanks return with this crackerjack story revolving around the reemergence of the Illuminati an ancient secret and wickedly powerful brotherhood. Determined to make the Church pay for its sins against science they’ve planted a deadly ticking time bomb somewhere in the heart of the Vatican – just as a new Pope is set to be elected. Langdon joins up with beautiful Italian scientist Vittoria Vetra in a race against time through crypts catacombs cathedrals and hidden vaults as they follow the “Path of Illumination” to save Catholicism’s venerable headquarters from certain destruction.
WHO’S IN IT?
With a thankfully restrained hairstyle Hanks returns as celebrated Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon. He might as well have worn running shoes because the action is ramped up to the max in Angels & Demons turning this colorful drama into something that could have been called The Pope Ultimatum. It’s THAT intense. This is Hanks’ most vivid turn as an action star and he delivers proving movies don’t get much more exciting than this. As his pretty cohort Vetra Ayelet Zurer is every bit his equal a much more effective female lead than the miscast Audrey Tautou was in the critically reviled 2006 blockbuster Da Vinci Code. Ewan McGregor offers a complex turn as the Camerlengo the Pope’s number two and acting head of the Vatican during this period while Stellan Skarsgard brings authority to his role as head of the Swiss Guard. And veteran Armin Mueller-Stahl is simply terrific as a wise and dignified Cardinal at the center of the papal conflict.
If the slow-moving and overlong Da Vinci Code was more cerebral and Hitchcockian in tone Angels & Demons is just the opposite: an exhilarating heart-stopping thriller that doesn’t let up for a minute. Howard’s entire production is a first-rate example of Hollywood craftsmanship delivering a summertime diversion that cooks on all burners. The backdrop of the mysteries and machinations behind the fiercely-guarded veil of the Catholic Church adds a layer of intrigue to the proceedings keeping us hooked throughout with cool twists and turns.
Brown’s novel is basically pulp fiction filled with expository dialogue which has been transferred in a clunky fashion to David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman’s otherwise tight screenplay. Hanks and Zurer come close to Hardy Boys-style delivery as they attempt to awkwardly lay out “clues” and mounds of technical mumbo-jumbo in a believable fashion – not an easy task for the best of actors. You’ll also have to suspend belief as the story is largely implausible. But hey this is a summer movie – the cinematic equivalent of a good beach read – and the filmmakers know exactly how to play it.
A sequence where one of the hostages is being burned at the stake in a cathedral will keep you on edge as director Howard’s experience with setting movie fires (Backdraft anyone?) really comes in handy. The big denouement is one for the ages as well but we won’t reveal anything more about it except to say that a helicopter is involved.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
The “cardinal” rule with blockbuster mysteries like this is to see it in a theater before someone tells you how it ends.
One of Angels & Demons’ key departures from its source novel involves a romantic subplot between hero Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks, reprising his Da Vinci Code role) and his female counterpart, Italian physicist Vittoria Vetra (Munich’s Ayelet Zurer). To be more precise, there isn’t one. That is, unless you count the occasional fleeting glance.
So why were the novel’s love scenes left on the cutting room floor? In an exclusive interview with Hollywood.com’s Katie Bain, Zurer insisted that they were omitted purely for pacing reasons: “There was really no time to grab a kiss anywhere,” the Israeli-born actress explained. “The story is not a love story … But there is some flirting going on, and for sure Vittoria notices Professor Langdon, almost right away.”
Zurer's performance opposite Hanks has thus far has received positive marks from critics, most of whom consider her a major upgrade over Da Vinci's Audrey Tautou. Angels & Demons opens nationwide this Friday, May 15th.
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Yesterday, Entertainment Weekly magazine reported that Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer would star opposite Tom Hanks in Angels & Demons, the prequel to 2006’s Da Vinci Code.
Today, reports have surfaced that Ewan McGregor is in talks to join the thriller. He would play a powerful Vatican insider who assists Hanks’ Robert Langdon.
The character is Camerlengo Carlo Ventresca, also known as Janus, the late pope's closest aide, notes The Hollywood Reporter.
The Angels & Demons story centers on religious art scholar Langdon, who finds himself entangled with powerful forces with ancient roots: the Illuminati and the Catholic Church, Variety explains.
Zurer will play Vittoria Vetra, an Italian scientist who joins forces with Langdon.
Ron Howard is directing the film, which is set to begin shooting in Europe in June before moving to Los Angeles.
Zurer, who is best known in her native Israel, has appeared in U.S. films including Munich and Vantage Point.
McGregor is currently shooting I Love You Phillip Morris with Jim Carrey.
Vantage Point gives us just that--a birds-eyed view of an assassination/terrorist attack on the U.S. president. In Spain at a landmark outdoor summit on the global war on terror President Ashton (William Hurt) is shot and a bomb explodes killing hundreds of people. For the rest of the film we see the same 15 minutes over and over but from different points of view: There’s a CNN-like news producer (Sigourney Weaver) who is the first to witness the events; the Secret Service agents (Dennis Quaid and Matthew Fox) assigned to protect the president; an American tourist (Forest Whitaker) videotaping the historic event; a Spanish cop (Eduardo Noriega) who suspects what’s going down by the surreptitious actions of his girlfriend (Ayelet Zurer) at the rally; and most importantly the head terrorist (Said Taghmaoui) who orchestrates it all. Through each of these individual perspectives we learn the truth behind the assassination attempt--and as far-fetched as it is it still isn’t pretty. This is an all-out action thriller folks--quiet subtle performances are not required. Quaid goes full blast as the veteran Secret Service agent who has already taken a bullet for the president once before and is still a bit skittish about it. But his loyalty to the president never wavers and it’s through his determination to find out what happened that propels the story forward. Fox also plays it to the hilt much like he does as Jack on TV’s Lost but the actor has a certain movie-star quality to him; he could easily transition from TV to film. Whitaker unfortunately has to play the big schlub with a heart--which at this point seems a tad beneath the Oscar-winner--but he still gives it his all. Hurt’s Head of State is another one of those dream presidents we wish we had. Taghmaoui (The Kite Runner) and Zurer (28 Weeks Later) are adequately cold-hearted as the terrorists while Edgar Ramirez (Domino) effectively emotes as a reluctant member of the terrorist cell forced to do their bidding while his brother is being held captive. Did we mention that the terrorists were cold-hearted? Right. Vantage Point’s trio of film editors (Stuart Baird Sigvaldi J. Karason Valdis Oskarsdottir) must have either thought they’d died and gone to heaven or hell depending on how much of a pain it was to cut the film. Whatever the scenario together with newbie director Peter Travis they keep the action taut and suspenseful. Each character’s POV lends itself to more information as the plot unfolds piece by piece culminating with a whopper of a car-chase scene that should leave you clenching your teeth. The use of electronic devices in the attack is also noteworthy as the main terrorist basically accesses his PDA to 1) shoot the president 2) explode bombs and 3) send the pictures of the destruction to all his friends. OK he actually doesn’t do that last part but he certainly could with that handy device of his. The only drawback to the whole scenario is the implausibility of it all--and the lack of back story. Suspending disbelief we can do but in Vantage Point’s case a little explaining would have helped.