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The Da Vinci Code - Stars at Waterloo as controversy mounts

The Da Vinci Code stars at Waterloo

Story by Jack Foley

THE stars of The Da Vinci Code attended a photo call at Waterloo station on Tuesday as a train named after the book and the film set off from London to Cannes in an attempt to set a new world record.

Members of the cast, including Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou, joined director Ron Howard and author Dan Brown on board the Eurostar vessel, which is travelling to Cannes the day before the film receives its global premiere at the film festival on May 17.

It will be the first time that a Eurostar train – which normally operates between London, Paris and Brussels – takes travellers from London to Cannes.

And it is hoped that the train will set a new record for the longest ever non-stop international rail journey, by travelling the 888 miles (1421 km) between Lodnon and the south of France.

The publicity stunt took place as Christian groups in many Asian countries stepped up their protests against The Da Vinci Code film ahead of its global release on May 19.

In India, the film’s release is likely to be delayed after Islamic clerics in Mumbai (Bombay) backed a call by Catholics for a boycott.

The country is home to 18 million Catholics, an estimated 200 of whom have complained about some of the film’s content, thereby prompting the government to temporarily halt the film’s release as it seeks to address concerns ahead of any screening.

Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, the country’s information and broadcasting minister, has requested a special screening so that he can judge the issue for himself.

He explained: “We are a secular country and on any sensitive issue, we should take action after we examine every aspect. We have to be careful.”

His comments came after the head of the Catholic Secular Forum, Joseph Dias, began a “hunger strike until death” unless the film is banned. His group described The Da Vinci Code as “offensive” because it breaches “certain basic foundations of the religion”.

In South Korea, meanwhile, there have been unsuccessful attempts to ban the film by the Christian Council.

The issue was taken to court where Chief judge, Song Jin-hyun, declared the claim was without merit.

He commented: “As it is clear that the novel and movie are all fiction, there is no probability that the movie can make viewers mistakenly believe the contents of the movie are facts.”

And in Buddhist Thailand, the censor board is seeking to cut 10 minutes from the end of the film, after being persuaded by critics that they were “blasphemous”.

It is also seeking a disclaimer before each screening to make clear that the story is a work of fiction – although the final decision rests with a government appeals panel.

In the UK, meanwhile, prominent Catholics have continued to push for a health warning on the film despite comments by director Ron Howard that one wasn’t merited.

They have conducted a survey of 1,000 people that suggests that reading Dan Brown’s novel could undermine a belief in Christian traditions.

Dr Austen Ivereigh, co-ordinator of the DVC Response Group, which comprises priests, monks, theologians and members of Opus Dei, told the BBC: “For many it is fiction, but an alarming number of people take its spurious claims very seriously indeed.”

The film opens in UK cinemas on Friday when it is hotly-tipped to go straight to the top of the box office.

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