Tom Hanks: "Ignorance Is One of Our Greatest Threats"

Tom Hanks - photocall for Inferno - FLORENCE, ITALY -Getty - H 2016
Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images

The two-time Oscar winner spoke about the need for voter education at the 'Inferno' premiere in Florence, Italy.

In Inferno, Tom Hanks suits up once again as Robert Langdon, the genius symbologist who must use clues from Dante's epic Divine Comedy to fight a new global threat: a plague against overpopulation meant to wipe out half the planet. 

But for the two-time Oscar winner, the real "inferno" today is ignorance, which he described as a chaos overtaking the planet. He spoke to the press Thursday in Florence, Italy, where the film will have its world premiere Saturday.  

"Ignorance is one of our greatest threats: the idea of being able to solve complex issues with simplistic solutions. Just think about what happened in the Middle East. Or about the decision that we Americans find ourselves having to take every four years,” Hanks said, calling on voters to educate themselves properly and ask the right questions before entering the polls.

The new film from Ron Howard was shot in Florence and Venice, and on greenscreens representing Turkey. Felicity Jones plays Dr. Sienna Brooks, Langdon’s partner in solving the mystery, and Ben Foster portrays Bertrand Zobrist, the villain scientist. Omar Sy and Irrfan Khan co-star.

Hanks described the film's approach to adapting the best-selling book from Dan Brown. “It’s this very concept of hell as created on Earth. Dante describes a very specific place that you go,” said the actor. “The Zobrist in our film, with the idea of overpopulation, really puts forward the idea that we are creating our own version of Dante’s 'Inferno' here in the real world.

“There are any number of places you could go on the planet Earth and the environment is hellacious and the people are held in slavery and there’s any number of degrees of misery that are in fact created by ourselves one way or another,” continued Hanks. “So the concept of 'Inferno,' to me, is one that can be avoided, but only if everybody understands what the problem is and works to avoid it.”

Hanks also spoke of the appeal in reviving his role of Langdon, after previously capturing the character in The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons. “This gives me the greatest opportunity on the planet, for somebody like myself, because I get to play the smartest guy in the room,” said Hanks.

“Now I can fake that. You give me the right amount of verbiage and just enough time to do the right amount of research, and I can convince you that I may be the smartest man in the room,” he continued. “The gift that Dan Brown gave me an actor is to play a guy who is always curious, who is always opinionated and is always searching for an answer, whether he has or does not have it.”

For Howard, the joy of the experience was in shooting in the Renaissance city. “As a director, you could not hope for a more beautiful city than Florence,” he said. “There’s no possibility of a bad shot here.”

The helmer also was greatly inspired by the visual power and long-lasting relevance of Dante’s epic poem. “The way those ideas have survived to this day surprises me,” said Howard. “My personal idea of 'Inferno'? Not realizing the full potential of every minute."