American director Ron Howard was refused permission to film scenes in Rome churches for his latest movie, Angels and Demons, because the story does not respect religious feeling , Rome Vicariate said Monday.
Howard is currently in Rome shooting the film, an adaptation of American author Dan Brown's prequel to The Da Vinci Code in which Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon races to prevent a terrorist plot against the Vatican.
Two key scenes in Brown's book take place inside the churches of Santa Maria del Popolo, where Langdon finds the body of a cardinal who has been buried alive, and Santa Maria della Vittoria, where Langdon arrives to find another cardinal burning to death.
''It's easy to understand the reasons why permission was denied to film in the Rome churches,'' said vicariate press spokesman Marco Fibbi, adding that the request from the film's producers was turned down a year ago.
''We don't give authorisation to film in church every day, and if we do it is done for documentary or historical reasons. Shooting films are an exception, but the subject must be compatible and not clash with moral and pastoral criteria''.
Fibbi said the vicariate could not support ''morally offensive'' films ''harmful to religious feeling'' like The Da Vinci Code, whose subplot focuses on the theory that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had descendants.
But Fibbi added that he was not questioning the artistic value of Dan Brown's works.
''They may be very nice works of fantasy,'' he said.
Howard, who also directed The Da Vinci Code with actor Tom Hanks in the starring role, will shoot footage of the churches' exteriors before recreating the interiors in a Hollywood studio.