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One of the people that we all had to learn about at school was the great Leonardo da Vinci. He was presented to us as a magnificent artist, with great works like the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper.
What wasn’t shared by the art teacher was the other layers to the man, which included his prowess in architecture, maths, engineering, anatomy, geology and writing.
Upon discovering this with time, it became clear why many have called this man a genius. One of the people who was also in awe of Da Vinci while growing up was screenwriter David Goyer (pictured), who studied the man and came up with the hit show Da Vinci’s Demons.
“I was fascinated by him as a kid, because I had heard he had invented the machine gun and the helicopter and things like that and he just seemed cool. I wasn’t that interested in his paintings,” said Goyer.
So to make the show work, perhaps for an even wider audience, Goyer decided to look at Da Vinci as a man with multiple talents.
“Once the show was already going we had done some market research where they polled 2 000 people and 99 percent said they were interested in Da Vinci and they wanted to see a show about him. He seemed to have universal appeal,” explained Goyer.
But there had been literature on Da Vinci before Goyer’s show began, proving that the genius was truly a popular subject to people of all different backgrounds and tastes.
“There are over 50 fictionalised novels about him, toys based on his inventions and The Da Vinci Code. It’s the fact that he invented all of these things that we say he’s the world’s greatest artist, and probably thanks to The Da Vinci Code he’s synonymous with secrets and puzzles,” said the writer.
Getting into the head of Da Vinci and his achievements, Goyer marvelled at the reality that very few people of Da Vinci’s era had any idea how advanced his mind was.
“The man was born way ahead of his time. Some of the concepts he came up with weren’t even invented until 400 or 500 years later.
“For example, he was always obsessed with flight, even as a little kid, and that wasn’t invented until hundreds of years later,” said Goyer.
Coming to the show and what you will learn about Da Vinci, Goyer and his team seek to give you a fictional take on the life and times of a young Leonardo. That said, when you are portraying the life and times of such a great man, you have to pay as close attention to the subject as possible because the real information is there and people tend to compare. To make sure Da Vinci’s Demons would be a success, Goyer and his team did their homework.
“We’ve done a tons of research. First we have his notebook pages. He was known to have produced over 13 000 pages and only 6 000 or so are in existence, so somewhere down the line some went missing.
“So everything we know he has done is in half of those pages so it’s reasonable to assume that he also invented a bunch of things that are in the missing pages.
“He wrote letters and things like that. I’ve read all of his journals and it’s funny because sometimes they’re sketches, sometimes they’re journals and thoughts, and sometimes they will be like a grocery list on the back of a sketch.
“The machine gun is a grocery list of stuff that he had to buy. I held some of the pages in my hands. Another thing that is interesting is that even in his own time, people were making up stories. He was a mythical figure even by the end of his life and people were conflating his accomplishments.”
It is in the missing pages that Goyer has added some twists and turns that spice up the story and breathe life into the character.
This was, however, not evenly received by his fans.
“There was a lot of hue and cry in the beginning, when we were releasing the show, that we were daring to fictionalise some elements, which is kind of ridiculous. Almost any interpretation of history already has fictionalised aspects,” said Goyer.
With season two of Da Vinci’s Demons now upon us, Goyer spoke about what to expect without giving away any spoilers.
“You’ve got the intrigue going on with the Catholic church. After the events of season one, Rome and Florence formally declare war on one another, which really happened. Every citizen of Florence was excommunicated. They then set up an embargo that none of the other countries that dealt with Rome could deal with Florence,” he hinted.
• Da Vinci’s Demons airs Mondays at 9.10pm on Fox (DStv Channel 125).