'Da Vinci Code' Sequel Racing Against Deadline

Columbia has set a February start date for the "Da Vinci Code" sequel "Angels & Demons," which assumes the film will have a shootable script.

According to Variety, screenwriter Akiva Goldsman is huddling with producers Brian Grazer and John Calley, plus director Ron Howard to come up with a finished version of the Dan Brown adaptation before the WGA's current pact expires on Oct. 31.

Assuming that everything goes according to plan, "Angels & Demons" will shoot around Europe starting in February and hit theaters in December 2008.

That would put Howard on a tight leash next year getting both "Angels & Demons" and "Frost/Nixon" ready by the end of the year. The former "Happy Days" star finished shooting the adaptation of Peter Morgan's Tony-winning play just last week.

Although it was savaged by critics, "The Da Vinci Code" made made more than $750 million worldwide last summer.

"Angels & Demons" actually preceded "The Da Vinci Code" in Brown's original chronology. In the book, code-breaking Harvard egg-head Robert Langdon (returning star Tom Hanks) finds himself in the midst of a series of murders connected to the Vatican and to the shady Illuminati.

If a shooting script is in place, expect to hear major "Angels & Demons" casting news soon.