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Film

Blockbuster 'Inferno' sends Tom Hanks puzzling through Dante's circles of hell

Dan Brown's best-selling novel "Inferno" reveals a virus that could wipe out half of the world's population. In the film, Tom Hanks, aka Professor Langdon, and co-star Felicity Jones run to stop that from happening.

After the blockbusters "The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels & Demons," Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks will be depicting for the third time symbology professor Robert Langdon in "Inferno."

Those who have read the novel by Dan Brown know what it is all about, those who haven't are probably able to guess. Once again, movie-goers can expect exciting adventures filled with codes, riddles and symbols.

But who is really behind all those complicated stories? A look into Dan Brown's background explains his passion for history of art, and for numbers, riddles and symbols.

Fascinated by science and religion

Dan Brown was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, in 1964. With his father being a math professor and his mother a church musician, he developed a fascination for the paradoxical interplay between science and religion that was to become the main theme of his famous novels later on.

Initially, however, Dan Brown did not dream of becoming a writer. While studying English at a university in his home town, he was more interested in music. He sang in a choir, and after studying history of art for two years in the Spanish city of Seville, he started writing songs. Experimenting with synthesizers and recorders, he taught himself how to compose music.

In 1991, Brown moved to Los Angeles where he joined the National Academy of Songwriters. That's where he recorded an album consisting mainly of melancholic love songs. It was a flop.

Later on, he blamed his shyness and his lack of presence on stage for the failure of his music career.

How a failed musician became a best-selling author

Leaving his musical aspirations, Dan Brown turned to teaching. Accompanied by his wife Blythe, a painter and art historian, he moved to the East Coast. There, he taught English at the Phillips Exeter Academy, where he had once studied himself. Besides teaching, Brown began writing books.

Dan Brown in Cologne (picture-alliance/dpa)

Dan Brown promoting "Inferno" in Cologne, in 2013

The turning point in his career came about by coincidence in 1994, during a vacation on the Pacific island of Tahiti. At the beach, Dan Brown picked up Sidney Sheldon's novel "The Doomsday Conspiracy" and was totally enthralled by it.

It was Sheldon's novel about an American secret agent combining facts and fiction that inspired Brown to write his debut novel "Digital Fortress" in 1998. Brown gave up his career as a teacher in order to focus on writing.

"Digital Fortress" didn't become a huge success, but it already contained the basic elements of Brown's later bestsellers. Brown focused on symbolism, codification, history, religion, art and architecture.

Two years later, Brown achieved his major international breakthrough with "Angels & Demons." His mythical story dominated by symbologist Robert Landon inspired millions of readers worldwide.

Achieving international fame with hard work and conspiracy theories

Dan Brown's stories are highly complex and require a lot of research. Brown tended to work on several books at once while travelling around the world and speaking with experts and scientists.

Usually, he is already at his desk at four o'clock in the morning. After working for an hour, he does some exercises.

Filmstill Illuminati (Imago/Unimedia Images)

Robert Langdon and Vittoria Vetra make an important discovery in "Angels & Demons"

Thanks to hard work, he quickly became a world star. His novel "The Da Vinci Code" catapulted him into new spheres. The recipe behind his success is conspiracy theories, the contradiction between science and religion, cryptography, symbol, keys and riddles. Obviously, this mixture of facts and fiction attracts countless readers around the world.

"The Da Vinci Code" sold more than 50 million copies worldwide, and was translated into more than 40 languages. Equally successful were the film adaptations of Brown's novels grossing over 1.2 billion dollars - even though they obtained rather negative reviews.

"Inferno," based on Dan Brown's novel of the same title, is about yet another case to be solved by Robert Langdon, who travels from Italy all the way to Istanbul. The story, just like the film, is reminiscent of Brown's earlier works.

Tom Hanks once again stars as Robert Langdon, the film is once again directed by Ron Howard. "Inferno" hits German movie theaters on Wednesday and US movie theaters on October 28.

Dan Brown is already busy with the next novel of his Langdon series, entitled "Origin." It should be published in English in September 2017.

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