A very special tourist
Tom Hanks in Florence on the red carpet of the movie 'Inferno'
He doesn’t know it, but we had met before: at six o’clock in the morning on May 3, 2015, on the set of the Inferno film. I was one of the extras in Ron Howard’s movie. I had to walk back and forth along a street behind Palazzo Vecchio, from 6 am to noon. And there was always a man behind me running from something or someone. I caught a glimpse of him running past. The day after, I realized that that man was Tom Hanks. The second time we met it was on a more formal occasion, in Palazzo Vecchio’s Salone dei Cinquecento. A year had gone by and the film was being premiered in Florence. “Hey man, I know you! You were an extra in the movie, weren’t you?” That’s what Tom Hanks said, when I asked him what it was like to shoot in Florence.
Two thousand people gathered at the Teatro dell’Opera from all over the world for the film premiere: in addition to a few lucky Florentines, there were Japanese, Norwegian and Australian journalists. They were all glued to the screen, watching Tom Hanks either chasing or being chased, with a spectacular and yet menacing Florence as the backdrop.
The Boboli Gardens, the Vasari Corridor, Palazzo Vecchio, the Baptistery: all places of charm and death, wonderful and grim at the same time.
Viewers from all over the world got a glimpse at Florence’s dark side.
Tom, what kind of relationship did you have with Florence while shooting the film?
Well, there was nothing “infernal” about it. To me, Florence was Renaissance splendor, the beauty of the greatest architecture in history, and also the best ice-cream I’ve ever had!
Were you fascinated by the city?
On the first day of shooting, on May 3, after the last shot of the day, I stopped for a moment to take some pictures of Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio with my mobile phone, when the square was still closed and the equipment was being removed. And the Gates of Paradise by Ghiberti… they leave you gaping in amazement.
What is the point of the film, in your opinion?
All Dan Brown books deal with faith-related matters. And Inferno is no exception. While the Da Vinci Code offered a reflection on divinity and Angels and Demons on creation- whether it was God or the Big Bang- this film asks questions about Hell. What happens in Hell? What is it like?
Where do you think Hell is?
According to the film, Hell is what we create on earth: a devastated environment, people reduced to slavery, the many degrees of poverty and inequality, these are all hells created by man. Hell on earth can be avoided if each and every one of us sees these problems and helps prevent them.
What is the best thing about a film such as Inferno?
We all like a good story. The best way to spend two hours is to spend them with a storyteller. Whether at a movie theatre or by the fireside, it doesn’t matter. And Inferno is a great story. Both Dan Brown and Ron Howard are two great storytellers. Dan Brown’s books are page-turners and Ron Howard does the same with his films.
What would your personal hell be?
I am a lucky man: I have lived a clean, honest, very rewarding life and I have been spared the worst experiences of suffering so far. But there comes a time in everyone’s life when you wake up at three o’clock in the morning and ask yourself: what happened to me? However, there’s hardly anything I can complain about. If I were to realize that I have not used my potential to the fullest every single minute, well, that would make me feel in hell.
What might this film do to help Florence?
Well, maybe more people will go visiting Florence’s museums thanks to the film. And that would be wonderful. For Florence, which has millions of tourists anyway, but especially for them.
You return for the third time as Robert Langdon, the symbology professor and leading character of Dan Brown’s series. What do you like about him?
Well, being able to play him is a great opportunity, I get to be the smartest guy in the film! If you give me enough time to prepare and a good script, I can make anyone believe it, for at least as long as the film runs.
Florence, Venice and Istanbul are the film’s locations. Which city do you feel more affinity with?
I loved shooting in Florence and Venice. Even shooting before the green screen that was supposed to be Istanbul wasn’t bad! (he laughs).