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INT: Roland Emmerich

05.27.2004

Director Roland Emmerich returns to raze a few more cities in his latest flick, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW. The German filmmaker, who first gained prominence with the Alien-invasion epic, Independence Day, possesses a knack for annihilating major metropolitan areas. First he did it with huge, laser-emitting flying saucers (INDEPENDENCE DAY), then he employed a giant lizard (GODZILLA). This time it’s a super-sized storm, triggered by runaway global warming, that does the trick. You’ve got to hand it to the Teutonic auteur. Roland Emmerich is the Texas of action/sci-fi directors – he does everything bigger. He doesn’t waste his time with quaint small towns – he goes straight for the big time, taking out the City of Angels in one spectacular sequence. But that’s just the beginning – eventually, he takes on the entire Northern Hemisphere.

Emmerich, speaking in a thick German accent, stopped by the St. Regis Hotel in Century City last week to talk about making THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, in theaters this Friday.

ROLAND EMMERICH

You seem to have a thing for destroying cities.

You know, I knew this question would come when I do this movie, but I felt it was such a, in a way for me, important thing to do that I, because of that reason, did it again. After Independence Day I didn't want to do it again because I didn't want to repeat myself. But I also thought that this movie is very different is from Independence Day and all my other movies. When you find something where you can give people a message and still make it an exciting movie, you get very, very excited about something. You probably even work harder than you normally do.

So, how much of this is based on actual science?

I'm a filmmaker, not a scientist. But I had a very smart and intelligent screenwriter, who did a lot of research, so he tried to keep it as accurate as possible.

Could it really happen in 8 days?

No, that's pure fiction. But global warning lead to another ice age -- that's happened before, so we know that.

What was the most challenging aspect of making this film?

There's a rule in Hollywood -- stay away from water and stay away from snow, and I had both, so I was quite nervous about it but actually it worked pretty well. Shooting went very well.

Were you worried that people might be sensitive about destroying New York after 9/11?

We were very sensitive; if that much water would hit the Statue of Liberty, it would crumble, but in our movie it still stands. For me it's a symbol that a lot has changed. There's not really much destruction in New York besides the weather and it's a natural force so it's not like any destruction.

But Los Angeles gets leveled.

That's my comment to Hollywood. (laughs)

It seems like there was more humor in Independence Day.

Yeah, I couldn't see the same kind of tongue and cheek humor, you know? It's like aliens, the movie didn't have to take itself so seriously. This movie has some humor too, but it's a little more subversive, it's a little more hidden.

You also have people crossing the border – to get to Mexico.

Well, that's what interested me about it. I also was really surprised when I read about global warning can lead to another ice age. Everybody knows that the industrialized nations are the worst offenders. Europe and North America can their warmth from the Gulf Stream, so if this Gulf Stream shuts down, we will have an ice age in Europe and America, that means that we cannot live here anymore. Everybody has to go south.

Because it's an American movie, I thought, “OK, great, they have to all go to Mexico – what will Mexico do?” Again, it's a little bit of a Utopia, we had a scene in there which we cut out that you will see on the DVD where the Vice President comes storming into the Oval Office and says, “The Mexicans have closed the border. We can open it by force if we want to!” And we cut it out because we thought that, in a situation like that, this would not happen, it would be more like: how can we deal with the fact that this is happening? It's a little like Sept. 11, the whole world in a way was one.

You also make some not-so-subtle references to Bush and Cheney.

Well yeah, when you make a movie about global warming causing a new ice age that takes place in America, you have to portray a government. If you want to make it real you have to portray it somewhat, the political government which is in place right now. And it's a fact that they kind of don't do anything. They think it's all a big hoax.

You seem to have a penchant for Quaids. In Independence Day you had Randy Quaid and in this you have Dennis.

I wanted to work with the whole family! No, you know what? It's a coincidence. I saw THE ROOKIE and I thought that Dennis was really the age now where he's feels very much for me like a Harrison Ford 10 years ago. He grew older and I always liked him as an actor -- he's a terrific actor. From that moment that I saw The Rookie I could not think of anyone else in the part. The same thing with Jake, I could not see anyone else but Jake in this film.

You made a real effort in this film to keep it a personal story.

Yes, I think it's very important because I listen, sometimes, to criticism, you know? And you know what? A lot of times the criticism is unfounded, but in a way there's an overall criticism of Hollywood movies that they're more effects than story. It's like broad comments and I think we filmmakers have to learn from that comment and try to do better. You always try to make a great movie, nobody makes movies bad on purpose, so we worked very hard to keep the human [part].  Don't forget that we didn't have a real happy ending so we had to invest a lot into the people so that paid off in the end, so you have a good feeling about the movie.

How have visual effects changed since Independence Day?

It’s quite different, you know? Because visual effects are constantly developing. The good news is that you can do more. The good news is that you can pretty much do everything. The bad news is it’s all done on computers, so you’re dealing with a lot of people. Sitting on the box all day, doing stuff.  And it’s very hard to guide these people in the direction that you want to have the shot. So you have to kind of figure out a way to do that. That’s very frustrating. It’s not really there yet. We started with one company, you know? And it didn’t work.  Because they very much saw us as a client. And we didn’t like that.  So at the end we ended up with 12 companies, because of that.  Because the were all of the sudden competing with each other.  Everybody wanted any work on this movie. And we had a lot of time, so we could sometimes, if a shot didn’t work in one company, we said, “Well, the others, they could do it.”  And then it became like more competition.  And that made it work better. 

There’s a lot of films these days made with like a thousand effects shots. I don’t know how they want to make that, that every shot is good. So, even in like very good visual effect movies, like Lord of the Rings, there’s a couple of shots in there which probably, the director had to cut in, because they were running out of time. And I ran out of time, too, even though I had much less shots than, we had like 450 shots and 120 were like restaurants, which were pretty easy.

What did you learn from your experiences making Godzilla and the Patriot?

I always felt that GODZILLA was a much better movie than the critics think.  And you will see this like kind of a – and I know this for a fact – it’s like the favorite movie of all my friends’ kids. And they watch it over and over and over again. So, it cannot be all bad. Secondly, I think THE PATRIOT was a different step for me, because it was a script from somebody else. Also, I had the first time worked with a really, really, very powerful actor who was a very good actor and he had much more power than I had. And for me it was a great experience that he accepted me, as a director.

And then after Patriot, I had all kinds of other subjects and interest in other things, and then I kind of discovered this book, “The Coming of the Global Super Storm,” written by two science fiction guys. And I first saw it totally as science fiction. But then I realized while researching it, because I was I somewhat felt compelled to research it. And I said, “How much was real science?” And that immediately made me want to do this movie. And then I kind of said, “Let’s use all the strengths, the stronger aspects of my movies, to sell this to the audience.”  Because I felt compelled to sell this to the audience.

Are you a fan of disaster movies?

I'm a fan of all movies, but disaster movies in particular I discovered when I was doing Independence Day because we realized all of a sudden, the aliens are like a disaster over humans, they're more like locusts. I re-watched all the disaster movies and realized how relevant they are because in disaster movies, there's also a common noble person as the face against a totally extreme overwhelming enemy – and has to live up to the ... and make decisions in this life.

What’s your favorite disaster movie?

The Poseidon Adventure because it's very character-driven.

What’s next for you?

Probably a movie about the authorship question of Shakespeare. Or another movie called Coordination. It’s actually a political thriller about a coup d’etat in America. Or it’s a movie that I wrote with my composer together. (He) is a good friend of mine. And he wrote a script about...it’s called 10,000 B.C. and it’s about a mammoth hunter.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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