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CNN SUNDAY MORNING

Interview With Dan Brown

Aired May 25, 2003 - 09:45   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: And you just saw this week's New York Times best seller list for hard cover fiction books. Number two, if you didn't note it, is "The Da Vinci Code." It debuted as number one several weeks ago.
It's a thriller that leaves readers hanging after each chapter in it. And author Dan Brown raises the question -- a number of questions. I won't give away right away what we're talking about. It's a fascinating story, Dan. Thanks very much for being with us this morning.

DAN BROWN, AUTHOR, "THE DA VINCI CODE": Thank you.

SAVIDGE: How did you come up with this plot? Is it true that there is a code somewhere in da Vinci's work?

BROWN: There are many codes in da Vinci's works. I first learned about them while I was studying art history at the University of Seville in Spain. Later, I married an art historian who happens to be a da Vinci fanatic. And from there, there was no escape. I ended up studying it for many years.

SAVIDGE: You've had an interest in codes, obviously, in government agencies. We've seen that in previous work. How did it all come together with an artist of such prestige?

BROWN: Leonardo da Vinci was a man centuries head of his time. He was fascinated with secrets. He was one of the first cryptologists, and he devised many ways to keep information secret, and portray it in ways that most people, when you look at a painting, don't really see. That's really what the book is about. When you look at paintings like the Mona Lisa, the Last Supper, that there is really more there than meets the eye.

SAVIDGE: Obviously, you were just looking at the Last Supper there. When we talk about da Vinci and your book, how much is true and how much is fabricated in your storyline?

BROWN: 99 percent of it is true. All of the architecture, the art, the secret rituals, the history, all of that is true, the Gnostic gospels. All of that is -- all that is fiction, of course, is that there's a Harvard symbologist named Robert Langdon, and all of his action is fictionalized. But the background is all true.

SAVIDGE: All right. Which brings us to the issue of who is sitting to the left of Christ at the Last Supper. There has been some talk that it's a rather feminine kind of individual. Of course, we know it is St. John. But some say it's Mary Magdalene worked in.

BROWN: That is a source of great controversy among art historians. There are certainly those who claim that that figure is a poorly rendered and effeminate version of St. John. There are those who claim that it is actually Mary Magdalene. I happen to feel the latter. Da Vinci was skilled enough as a painter, that if he had meant there to be some sort of androgynous controversy there, he certainly would have had the skills to avoid that, had he not wanted it there.

SAVIDGE: All right. Dan Brown, we've got to leave it there, unfortunately. I'm looking forward to reading the book. Unfortunately, there's a long line in the newsroom.

The name of the book is "The Da Vinci Code." Dan Brown, the author, thanks very much for joining us this morning to talk about it.

BROWN: Thank you.

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