In Columbia Pictures' new action-thriller Angels & Demons, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) has a new partner in his quest to save the Vatican from the Illuminati. She is an Italian scientist named Vittoria Vetra (played by fast-rising actress Ayelet Zurer of Vantage Point, Munich).
Directed by Ron Howard, Angels & Demons is based on Dan Brown's novel, published in 2000, three years before The Da Vinci Code, and the first to feature Robert Langdon, an expert in religious symbolism. Zurer describes Angels as a "heart-stopping thriller played out to the magnificent backdrop of ancient Rome and the Vatican City."
The character of Vittoria Vetra works for CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire or European Council for Nuclear Research), the world's largest particle physics laboratory. Situated in Switzerland, CERN initiated the operation of its Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest particle accelerator, during production. The experiments resulting from the LHC are set to change our view of the Universe we live in; they will investigate the reason for nature's preference for matter over antimatter, and they will probe matter as it existed at the very beginning of time.
In the film, Vetra's work at CERN surrounds a small canister of antimatter that is stolen, and becomes the ultimate weapon of mass destruction, threatening the Vatican and, indeed, the very foundations of the Catholic Church.
Zurer prepared for her role not only by reading up on the kinds of experiments conducted at particle accelerators like that at CERN (and watching YouTube videos on the Large Hadron Collider), but also by reading Bill Bryson's book A Short History of Nearly Everything at Tom Hanks' recommendation.
Of her character, Zurer says, "Vittoria interested me because she represents that generation of women who are highly educated and in professions that are still male-dominated. At the same time, she has a life and she hasn't given up her sensitivity for her career. She is a deliberate thinker, not easily rattled. Ron definitely did not want her to be a hysteric. She's also not religious. She has nothing to do with God. But she has a lot of respect for religion because she grew up with someone who was deeply religious."
Zurer considers having Tom Hanks as her screen partner as a blessing. "He is a unique human being," Zurer says. "He was truly touched by the Gods in many ways. He is very talented, very smart, and very funny and on top of that he is so sensitive and he has such an amazing ability to understand all the people around him but to still be quiet and he has no ego. He is also such fun to be with. On set, he almost never goes back to his trailer and he will put a table and chair out on the set and he will sit there with his computer and his writing materials and you can sit down with him and talk to him. He might be busy sometimes, he might be writing, but he is there—he is very available to you. And we were there together almost every day.
Opening in the Philippines starting May 15, Angels & Demons is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.