If "The Da Vinci Code" was already feeding the flames of controversy with its challenge to the basic tenets of Christianity, actor Ian McKellen managed to pour a refinery tank's worth of gasoline on the fire on this morning's 'Today' show, asserting that the Bible should carry a disclaimer saying that it is "fiction." Video: Windows Media or Real Player, Plus audio MP3
Matt Lauer, in his second day "On The Road With The Code," was in Cannes for the film festival, where the Code will have its debut. It has already been screened to some critics, who have given it decidedly mixed reviews.
As I reported here, NBC reporter Melissa Stark yesterday dipped a timid toe in the sea of controversy when she interviewed Code director Ron Howard, asking how he reacted to the controversy the movie has created . . . for the Church! Sounding more like a sensitivity trainer than a Hollywood director, Howard offered up some ambiguous prose about it being healthy thing for people to engage their beliefs.
Lauer took the bull of controversy more directly by the horns when he interviewed the cast and director Howard today. Said Lauer:
"There have been calls from some religious groups, they wanted a disclaimer at the beginning of this movie saying it is fiction because one of the themes in the book really knocks Christianity right on its ear, if Christ survived the crucifixion, he did not die for our sins and therefore was not resurrected. What I'm saying is, people wanted this to say 'fiction, fiction, fiction'. How would you all have felt if there was a disclaimer at the beginning of the movie? Would it have been okay with you?"
There was a pause, and then famed British actor Ian McKellen [Gandalf of Lord of the Rings], piped up:
"Well, I've often thought the Bible should have a disclaimer in the front saying this is fiction. I mean, walking on water, it takes an act of faith. And I have faith in this movie. Not that it's true, not that it's factual, but that it's a jolly good story. And I think audiences are clever enough and bright enough to separate out fact and fiction, and discuss the thing after they've seen it."
With the camera focused on McKellen, one could hear a distinctly nervous laugh in the background, seeming to come from either actor Tom Hanks or director Howard. McKellen's stunning bit of blasphemy is likely to test the adage that all publicity is good publicity.
Update: MRC's Brent Baker has noted that ABC's World News Tonight has picked up on the story.
Jake Tapper: "Today at the Cannes film festival in France, the creators of the film tried to quell the controversy."
Tom Hanks: "This is not a documentary. This is not something that is pulled up and says, 'these are the facts. And this is exactly what happened.'"
Tapper: "Though one actor's comment seems likely to only inflame matters."
Ian McKellan on NBC's Today: "Well, I'd often thought the Bible should have a disclaimer at the front saying, 'this is fiction.'"