Michael Urie, Dan Brown, and Hannah Cruz on Bringing THE DA VINCI CODE To Life On Stage
20 years ago Dan Brown gave us The Da Vinci Code, and since then, millions upon millions of copies have been sold and read around the world. The beloved mystery thriller follows Harvard professor and symbologist Robert Langdon and cryptologist Sophie Neveu as they solve a murder at the Louvre, unraveling a centuries-old mystery of the Holy Grail.
In 2006, director Ron Howard turned the story into a hit film franchise starring Tom Hanks, and now two decades later, the story is making its US Stage debut at Ogunquit Playhouse. I recently caught up with author Dan Brown, Michael Urie (Langdon), and Hannah Cruz (Neveu) to discuss bringing this thriller to the stage. Our conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
Theatrely: So Dan, when did you first hear it was being adapted and did you think it would ever work on a stage?
Dan Brown: You know the book was quite popular and many people were interested in making it into a musical, or play, or cartoon, etc. It wasn't until about two years ago that Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel sent me a draft which made me believe it could be done. For the longest time I really did not think it would ever work. The writers really turned it into something beautiful, and so fun. It is such a thrill to see it come alive.
Speaking of these characters, Hannah and Michael, what was your first interaction with the story? Did you read the book, see the movie, are you brand new to it?
Hannah Cruz: I've read many of Dan's books so I was very familiar with the story! I was so intrigued when the script first came to me, I blew through it so quickly. It seemed crazy to me that this could be adapted into a play because it is such a dense story, and so much information but they have beautifully adapted it and really boiled it down to the human relationships — the story stems from family and loss and the thirst for knowlendge and connection. It's really such a thrill to be a part of it.
Michael Urie: Totally, I am a huge fan of all of the Langdon books, and just the character Robert Landgon, he's just a cool guy! I love adventure stories, folks who find themselves in these sitations are always the most fun on stage. As an actor, the two most fun things to play on stage is to have to solve something and then being a fish out of water. When I found out they were bringing this to the stage I really wondered how do we put a fast-paced multi-location adventure story on its feet, and ya know, they did it! The set is awesome and mixed with incredible projections and lighting and sounds, it's awesome.
Dan, as the author, was there a specific moment in the story that you were excited to see happen on stage?
Brown: Well, when I wrote the book, I was just hoping that somebody bought it. Other than my mother and a few of her friends. I wasn't really imagining a major motion picture or a stage play. I was just happy that the story worked. And now, you know, almost 20 years since I wrote it, this just feels like a rebirth. It feels like a little bit of a renaissance for Robert Langdon. He'll exist in a different medium and a different kind of world, and I love that.
So Spamalot and Chicken & Biscuits, this is not. Suffs and Only Gold, this is not. We don’t often see thrillers on the stage. How exciting is it as an actor to dive into something that's very different?
Cruz: Oh, my gosh. I strive to the best of my ability to make every project vastly different from the one I did before; because that's just one of the great things about being an actor. The thing about this project that's excited me the most I think has been the stage combat element of it. I've never gotten to do anything like that in any kind of show, and here I am fighting people. It's been a huge thrill for me because it ticks a lot of boxes that I've always wanted to do as an actor.
Urie: I'm a language geek, so I love doing Shakespeare and big chunks of texts. Solo plays or long monologues, it is just so fun to me. This is actually sort of like Hamlet for me since there is so much mystery and intrigue and big language. And this play really delivers on that.
I wonder, in general, what makes a good adaptation in your opinion?
Brown: You know, quite simply, did it preserve the heartbeat of the source material? And you have to understand, I learned that the hard way, making movies with Ron Howard. It's a different telling of the source material because it has to be, and that is even more accentuated on a stage. Has this group of people maintained and preserved the heartbeat of the story, the pulse, the themes, the color, the tone, all of it. And in this case with this play, I happen to know they have so I am very happy with it.
Cruz: It has to be a new facet of the same stone. It just has to be a new side of it but the core of it has to remain the same.
Ogunquit Playhouse! Why are you excited to be working here at this particular theatre?
Cruz: I mean, I love being by the beach. I jumped in the ocean this morning, truly the best way to start the day. I love getting out of the city. It is such a beautiful privilege to be able to do this because the city is tough .I feel so at home here and to still be able to do what I love every night, it's the best of both worlds. It's perfect.
Urie: I love doing regional theater because I love getting out of the city and I love getting to be in a new area and learning all about it. I've actually never been to Maine at all but I love it here, and there is nothing better than an audience that prides itself in their theatre, and I know this one defintetly does.
The Da Vinci Code is now in performance at Ogunqit Playhouse through September 23, 2023. For tickets and more information, visit here.