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Whither ‘The Lost Symbol’ Movie?

Since its release in 2009, Freemasons have been especially interested in the highly publicized plan by Sony Pictures to being Dan Brown’s novel, The Lost Symbol , to the big screen. The fraternity is at the heart of Brown’s story that features “symbologist” Robert Langdon, the primary character of his first two colossal hits, Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons.  And Masonic landmarks in Washington, DC like the House of the Temple and the George Washington Masonic National Memorial play roles in the story’s location. Both of Brown’s previous books were made into big budget films, and most of us believed that a Lost Symbol film would be the next project tackled by the production team.

Unfortunately, despite more than two years of announcements and conflicting news stories about the script and the film’s development, Brown’s fourth Langdon novel, Inferno, was released in the interim, and Sony quickly announced that it would be the next Langdon film they would tackle instead. Inferno will be released in October.

From the website today:

Currently, it isn’t known if the producers plan to release The Lost Symbol. It was originally in production after Angels & Demons. The producers feel confident that The Lost Symbol will eventually be released. Sony felt Inferno was a better fit to be released this year, with the option to release The Lost Symbol in 2017.

Dan Brown fans feel Inferno may be the best Robert Langdon movie to date. If this movie can outshine the success of The Da Vinci Code, the release of The Lost Symbol would be guaranteed. Angels & Demons wasn’t as successful as they thought it was going to be. Sony is giving it one more shot and felt hopeful that Inferno will make the fans fall in love with Robert Langdon all over again.

Readers of The Lost Symbol should be able to recognize some of the problems with transforming it into a film. As anyone who has ever been involved with filming locations in the city knows, Washington DC is one of the toughest places on earth to shoot in, with miserable traffic, security, permitting, and other challenges. Also, at the present time, the US Capitol is covered in scaffolding as part of a major restoration project of the building’s dome. That is a visual hurdle for the story, as the Capitol is central to the book’s opening chapters. But that could easily be remedied with some CGI work, or just by waiting until the contractors finish.

More challenging is the story itself, which has bedeviled several scripters so far, including Brown himself.  Extended portions of the plot take place in total darkness – not exactly visually exciting for a multi-million dollar picture. That could be changed and solved. But tougher to deal with is Brown’s central plot point: that if the American public saw a Youtube video of high-ranking elected federal officials and other government bigwigs actually engaging in creepy Masonic ritual, (especially the ultra-secret 33rd degree!) it would shake the country to its very core, and maybe even cause a national crisis. Exclamation point.


Actually, it’s a shame for us as a fraternity, because the underlying message of the book is that we’re really a pretty decent and admirable little clot of men, all the way through the story. And one of the characters at the end of the novel recounts an explanation of the “lost word” that is truly more nuanced, symbolic, and satisfying than what we actually impart in our degrees.  If made eventually, I continue to believe it would be a wonderful method by which millions of people would be introduced in a relatively sane manner to the underlying message and philosophy of the Craft. At least in the U.S., there was a time when the overwhelming majority of the population respected us and knew who and what we represented. These days, not so much. 

But that might not really sell too many movie tickets.

Because of its international locations and globe trotting plot, Inferno was judged by Sony to be a potentially more exciting story to tell onscreen, so we will all have to wait and see how it does before a decision gets revisited on The Lost Symbol. That’s sad news for us as Freemasons, just from a purely selfish public relations point of view. But it might be better news for rest of the moviegoing public.

While we wait, if you are a Mason who has read The Lost Symbol already (or plan to), forgive me the absolutely shameless conceit of reminding everybody that my own book, Deciphering the Lost Symbol: Freemasons, Myths and the Mysteries of Washington, D.C., is specifically a Masonic guide to the origins, symbols, philosophy, and locations in Brown’s novel…

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