Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.
TV URBAN LEGEND: The Da Vinci Code was nearly adapted for the third season of 24.
One of the great characteristics of 24 is that every season could tell a dramatically different type of story. The character of Jack Bauer gives the producers a major advantage as he works in all sorts of different plots, so you can essentially just place Bauer in the middle of any kind of plot and he’ll adapt to it.
This is what 20th Century Fox does with their popular film character John McClaine. As we’ve previously featured in Movie Legends Revealed, the first three sequels to Die Hard were based on existing stories with John McClaine just added to them. Heck, the third Die Hard film, Die Hard With a Vengeance, was nearly Lethal Weapon 4 before it became Die Hard 3. So with that in mind, Fox could easily adapt another story for 24. In fact, that’s what they tried to do years ago with the third season of 24. The story they tried to adapt? The Da Vinci Code!
The Da Vinci Code was the second novel by Dan Brown to feature the symbologist Robert Langdon. The first novel, 2000’s Angels and Demons, sold very well, but was certainly not the sensation that The Da Vinci Code turned out to be in 2003, where it ended up becoming the second-highest selling book of the year (it would have been the highest-selling book in most years, but 2003 saw the release of the first Harry Potter novel in three years, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, so Brown had to settle for being an impressive #2 for the year). The Da Vinci Code saw Langdon pulled into a vast conspiracy involving the Holy Grail and whether the Grail contains documents proving that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene.
The book became a worldwide sensation but upon its release in April of 2003 it did not automatically set the world on fire. Therefore, when 24 co-creator and then-executive producer Joel Surnow first read the book in early 2003, soon before the second season of 24 finished airing in the United States, he thought that there was actually a chance that they could purchase the rights to the book. He contacted Brian Grazer, one of the producers on 24, and asked him to try to get the rights to the book for the then upcoming third season of 24. Grazer later recalled, “It quickly became clear that we had no chance,” as sales were gaining quickly enough that Brown knew that the odds were that he could get better offers. Specifically, he thought that the book could be adapted into a movie. And sure enough, towards the end of 2003, after the book was now a cultural phenomenon, Sony Pictures acquired the rights to the book from Brown for a cool six million dollars. Amusingly enough, Sony then hired Brian Grazer to produce the film. So Grazer went from trying to get the book for himself for a TV show to producing the book as a blockbuster film for Sony (Grazer has so far produced two films featuring Langdon, 2006’s The Da Vinci Code, 2009’s Angels and Demons and he is producing a third Langdon film, Inferno, for a 2015 release. All three films are directed by Ron Howard and star Tom Hanks as Langdon).
The third season of 24 ultimately revolved around the prevention of a deadly virus being released in Los Angeles by a former government agent (played by Arrow‘s Paul Blackthorne).
Can you even imagine Jack Bauer getting involved in a Vatican conspiracy? Certainly sounds hard to believe that that would ever have worked.
When reader Lynn J. wrote in with this suggestion, though, he seemed to think that the 24 producers got further with Brown than they really did, so I don’t think that this really counts as “The Da Vinci Code was nearly adapted into a season of 24,” so I’ll go with the legend as…
STATUS: Basically False
Thanks to Lynn for the suggestion! And thanks to Newsweek for the Grazer quote.
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.