Da Vinci's Demons on Starz: 5 Things to Know -- Including Batman's DNA, Mona Lisa's Cameo

Da Vinci's Demons PreviewThis Friday on Starz, after the brawny Spartacus wages a final battle, a brainy real-life figure, Leonard da Vinci, takes center stage at 10/9c in the cabler’s new historical fantasy series.

Created by David S. Goyer (Batman Begins, Man of Steel) and set in 1477 Florence, the eight-episode Da Vinci’s Demons stars British thesp Tom Riley as the infamous artist, inventor and swordsman and visionary, a 25-year-old determined to make his mark and suffer no fools, oft at his own peril — such as when he tests the patience of the House of Medici. In the first hour alone, Leonardo outfits his apprentice in a flying apparatus, fashions a giant mechanical bird and, yes, sketches the occasional pretty (and pretty naked) lady.

Does it all seem like a bit much? You may be surprised. Goyer shared with TVLine the facts, more facts and hint of fiction behind his take on the definitive Renaissance Man.

LEO WAS ALMOST CLEO | Recalling the genesis of the series, Goyer says that when Starz reached out to him to bring his filmmaker sensibilities to a historical figure, “We talked about a variety of different people, ranging from Genghis Khan to Cleopatra — who they are developing a show about right now. But when da Vinci’s name came up, I just said, ‘Wow. For somebody who’s as famous as he was and who’s so well-known, it’s kind of crazy that no one’s every made a movie about him or have him be the lead of a TV show.'” After diving deep into research that, he says, oft cited Leonardo as “the most recognizable historical figure in the world, other than Christ,'” Goyer’s takeaway was: “Who better to do a show about?”

THIS HISTORICAL FICTION ISN’T SO FICTIONAL | Though the onset of Da Vinci’s Demons may give the uninitiated pause, even a cursory bit of research reveals the very real basis for his small-screen endeavors. “Like with any show, we created some things out of whole cloth,” Goyer allows, “but we did not do nearly as much invention as you would think.” Also, who’s to say what fills in the blanks in the man’s storied life? “At the time of his death, [Leonardo's notebook] had 13,000 pages — and we only know of about 6,000 to this day,” Goyer shares. “So I thought, if he created all that stuff within the pages that we know about, what the hell did he create in the other 7,000?”

GREAT ADVENTURE | Goyer stresses that this series is “a very different kind of beast” than, say, The Tudors and The Borgias. “I’m a big fan of cable TV right now. We’re kind of in a golden age with television, where some amazing stuff is being done,” he surveys. “But there aren’t a lot of just fun adventure shows on. A lot of people have told me they’re surprised that this is as fun as it is — and that it can also be funny,” in the vein of the UK’s Sherlock,Da Vinci's Demons 2013 of which Goyer is a huge fan. “I’m trying to do the kind of show that I would like to watch.”

DA VINCI’S NAME-DROPPING | Leonardo’s teacher, Andrea del Verrocchio, and his contemporary, Sandro Botticelli, are among the other famous faces who will pass through Da Vinci’s Demons, while others — including Medici mistress Lucrezia (Strike Back‘s Laura Haddock, photo), whom the artist covets — are based on real historical figures. “If we are fortunate enough to go a few more seasons, Michelangelo will absolutely be showing up,” Goyer assures. And though Leonardo’s most famous work is chronologically a far ways off from the series’ timeline, “We could see The Mona Lisa as soon as second season,” Goyer winks. “As evidenced even by the first episode, I’m a big fan of nonlinear storytelling.”

HE’S BATMAN | Goyer asserts “it’s not just possible, but probable” that the gadget-happy crusader Leonardo begot the Dark Knight. “[DC Comics vet] Bob Kane himself has said in interviews that Batman’s cape was based on Da Vinci’s ornithopter (see drawing) and that Da Vinci was one of the antecedents for Batman.” Holy Life-Imitates-Art! — Leonardo even has a dark memory pegged to a cave. “Da Vinci writes about it in his journals, and he sketched the mouth of the cave,” Goyer relates. “Something bad happened in that cave, and then he went on to build a flying machine. I mean, it’s kind of an eerie parallel.”

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23 Comments
  1. dean says:

    A live action Genghis Khan sounds a lot better.

  2. James says:

    I’m really looking forward to this show, I’m a huge fan of historical drama to have that with a Goyer flare is pretty orgasmic :)

  3. Susie says:

    Looking forward to this, now that Spartacus is ending I hope this will be something to take its place but looking forward to Steven Deknights new project Incursion.

  4. Well? says:

    What about the fact that he was almost certainly gay, will that be in the series? Why do I doubt Starz would agree to this series if he wasn’t cavorting with a lot of very beautiful naked women? And I don’t just mean sketching them.

  5. kirads09 says:

    They have now put too many good things I like against each other on Friday in my timezone
    Vegas, Grimm, Touch and now Davinci!
    Thank goodness for DVR and On Demand. I will catch up on this over the weekend.
    Looks fascinating.

  6. Rrrrrr says:

    I will absolutely not he watching this show. Why the hell would you make Da Vinci straight? It’s ridiculous. It’s just the kind if crap I’ve come to expect from a crappy American broadcast station- not a premium channel like Starz is supposed to be. Ridiculous and upsetting.

  7. Amy says:

    Still disappointed in Starz for cancelling “Camelot”

  8. I’m looking forward to this show it sounds really interesting and entertaining. I hope it’s as good as it sounds.

  9. ABC says:

    Looking forward to Tom Riley.

  10. AJ says:

    A Cleopatra series would be awesome.

    While I’ll watch the first episode, I’m a little disappointed by the apparent straight-washing that is going on with Leonardo’s character. Sure, they’ve said that Leonardo’s two sodomy charges will be addressed, but I have a feeling that they’ll be completely dismissed and instead there will be countless scenes of Leonardo cavorting with various females while any interest in males will be slightly hinted at, if even included. Then again, maybe they’ll include Salai and any number of Leonardo’s other rumoured male lovers. Or perhaps they’ll make him asexual (although that seems unlikely for Starz).

  11. Ana Bastow says:

    Although kind of more fantasy than history I will give this one a chance. #Davinci’sgroupie

  12. Brian G. says:

    How has no one seriously called this guy out yet?! Or am I the only one here who went to high school?

    Spartacus was quite real, too… And while there WERE some fictional characters in the series, 90% of the characters were based on real people.

    • Lynn says:

      Because it’s difficult to call out a guy who’s co-written Batman Trilogy and Man of Steel. Almost no one dare to do that.

  13. Sadbear says:

    As an Italian (from Italy) I feel deeply insulted by this and quite depressed. People would do anything for money I suppose.

  14. alix says:

    a truly awful show… took it off my planner, poor acting, no basis in truth, awful story, pure titillation, seen it/ got the t shirt! Incredulous at positive reviews- the brain dead, not the meek seem to be inheriting the world

  15. Doc Pisces says:

    The series is good entertainment value but dont expect to learn any real history from watching it.The episode where Da Vinci travels to Transylvania to mees Vlad the Impaler is a perfect hoot.
    Historical fact – DaVinci did travel to Hungary , but it was on behalf of Ludovico Sforza and he met king Matthias Corvinus, who incidentally was a great admirer of the Florentine Reneissance.

  16. Real.M.angelo says:

    I personally can’t wait til Michelangelo shows up. But they can’t do the David. They went kinda hard the first season with David’s bust in the workshop. And we all know Michelangelo did that. Plus Leonardo did a boy version in black.

  17. Mike says:

    I tried to watch the this series but the combination of straight-washing Da Vinci, cliche dialogue, and predictable story-line make it unwatchable. It’s disappointing to see the life of such a brilliant thinker so dumbed down. In the end the straightwashing is just one symptom of a larger problem: the show takes no risks.