Director Ron Howard claimed Sunday that the Vatican interfered with efforts to get permits to shoot certain scenes of his "Angels & Demons" religious thriller in Rome -- a charge the Vatican said was purely a publicity stunt.
The film, which stars Tom Hanks and is based on the novel by Dan Brown, has its world premiere today in Rome.
At a news conference Sunday, Howard said he hadn't sought cooperation from the Vatican based on the opposition he encountered filming "The Da Vinci Code," another Brown novel that angered many Catholic leaders.
But he said the Vatican nevertheless exerted influence regarding his filming permits, and he was told it would not be possible even to shoot scenes in Rome that had churches in the background.
He said he felt that he was able to preserve the overall "Angels & Demons" experience despite the restrictions by recreating scenes on sets. For the Sistine Chapel alone, some 20 members of the production crew -- posing as tourists -- took photos of all the frescoes, floor mosaics and paintings of the tiny chapel where popes are elected, until they were told to stop, the film's Web site says.
"Angels & Demons" features Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon of "The Da Vinci Code" fame, played by Hanks in the movie. In the film, the Vatican turns to Langdon after the Illuminati kidnap four cardinals considered front-runners to be the next pope, and threaten to kill one an hour and then explode a bomb at the Vatican.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, refused to comment on Howard's allegations about church interference, saying the charges were designed purely to drum up publicity for the film.