A chat with Roland Emmerich, Roland Emmerich interview, 2012, Independence Day
Roland Emmerich

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If you’re watching a movie that chronicles the end of the world as we know it, odds are Roland Emmerich is responsible for it, and feeling mighty fine. After destroying New York and Los Angeles in “Independence Day” and the northern hemisphere in “The Day After Tomorrow,” Emmerich decided to go positively Biblical in his latest movie “2012,” laying the entire planet to waste and scaring up a whopping $766 million in worldwide box office in the process. With “2012” about to make its debut on Blu-ray and DVD, Bullz-Eye spoke with Emmerich about a possible “Independence Day” sequel, the lying liars who populate Wikipedia, and he confirms a long-rumored story from one of his movies involving…nipple rings.

Bullz-Eye: When the worldwide box office numbers for “2012” rolled in that first weekend, admit it: you were shocked, weren’t you?

Roland Emmerich: I was, it was very high. Especially with international (box office), we did something that I didn’t think this movie would do. I was very happy.

BE: Which scene in “2012” was the most difficult to assemble?

"I’m finished with destroying for a while. It’s not like I’m running around saying, ‘What else can I destroy?’"

RE: Whenever there was a scene where there was nothing there, that was the most difficult, because you plan everything ahead of time. In the first earthquake scene, there was only a limo and a plane. That was it. There was nothing else there, so everything had to be created in the computer, and that’s always very difficult. In the end, there were no ships, no water, no nothing. Only the interiors [were real]. Everything else had to be made, and that is always challenging.

BE: Is there a city or landmark that you’d like to destroy on film that you haven’t gotten to destroy yet?

RE: Well, I’m finished with destroying for a while. [Chuckles] It’s not like I’m running around saying, “What else can I destroy?” It was really more about the subject matter, and to do a modern retelling of Noah’s Ark, a flood story.

BE: Have you ever been halfway through a production like “2012” and thought to yourself, “Screw this, my next movie’s going to be an indie”?

RE: [Laughs] Actually, when I did “10,000 B.C.,” in the middle of production, I wanted to quit my job, because everything went wrong. Right now I’m doing a much smaller movie. It’s set in Germany and it’s a totally different subject matter. I’m trying to break it up.

BE: Am I right in assuming that Huggies paid for the repeated references to their product in “2012”?

RE: We didn’t have a tie-in with them. We only had to get it cleared. I think there were two or three different ones. It was not necessarily positive image, you know?

BE: Well, tell us about the process of working something like that into a script, because while it’s a necessary evil, it can’t be easy or very fun to do.

RE: Well, it all starts with an idea, and the idea was two kids who are damaged by their parents’ separation. And actually, Harold [Kloser], my co-writer, was married, and he had two children, and his daughter had that problem, and had to overcome it.

BE: I’m sure she loved seeing that put on the screen.

Roland EmmerichRE: She was quite upset about it! [Laughs] She’s now 11, and she read the script and said, “Dad! You cannot do that!” And then Harold said, “See, it’s an homage.” And when she went to bed, she’d say, “Tell Roland it’s an homage.” So yes, she was upset, but in the end, she was proud that she could inspire the character.

BE: What is the status of “2013: The Series”?

RE: The status is that it’s not happening. When the TV [network] realized what we wanted to do, they thought this was not possible for TV. It’s just too big. And I didn’t want to do it in a lesser form, so it went away.

BE: What is your favorite money shot from one of your movies?

RE: It’s still the White House exploding [in “Independence Day”]. It was just so provocative, and no one had ever done it before. I remember when we shot it, how everyone was excited.

BE: And now you’ve done it twice.

RE: Ha! Yeah, but that one [in “2012”] was different because it was all CG, getting washed away by water. In “Independence Day,” everything was still done in models, built in a certain scale out of plaster, and packing tons and tons of little explosives and charges in there. We had a second one in case it didn’t work the first time, but it worked the first time.

BE: On the other hand, which shot from one of your movies absolutely pains you to watch?

RE: Well, there are shots that I had to walk away from because we had to get the movie in the theaters. There are some in “Independence Day” and “Godzilla,” but lately I got smart. I would plan it so I had enough time [to get it right]. That just comes with experience.

BE: We just spoke with Bill Pullman, and talked about a potential sequel for “Independence Day.” He said he was surprised that it never got off the ground. What insight can you share with us on that?

RE: It’s just one of those things. Everybody wants to do it, but it’s really difficult. People had to wait for “Indy 4” for a decade, and the reason is because of the people involved. If you want to assemble the same people, then you have a big problem. But everyone wants to do it, and it will happen one day, I’m pretty sure.

BE: Do you have a story in place for a sequel?

RE: Yeah. Dean [Devlin, Emmerich’s partner on “Independence Day”] and I always said that we’d only do it when we had a really good story that excites us both, and we have the story written. And we’ve had it for a year and a half, two years. So we’ve been ready. [Laughs] Maybe it takes another two years [to get everyone together], we’ll see.

BE: Who’s the best actor you’ve directed to date?

"Dean Devlin and I always said that we’d only do an “Independence Day” sequel when we had a really good story that excites us both, and we have the story written. We’ve had it for a year and a half, two years."

RE: Ooh, that’s a very difficult question, because I’ve had the pleasure to work with a lot of very great actors. And they’re too different to say who’s the best. I would say, when it comes to comedy, I think Matthew Broderick was great. When it comes to action, I’d say Mel Gibson and Will [Smith] were great. And this time, I had a really, really good cast. I love [the cast of] “2012.” I’ve said that “2012” was my favorite ensemble cast, because it was so evenly good.

BE: If someone like Quentin Tarantino volunteered to punch up one of your scripts, would you let him?

RE: There are always secret punch-ups going on. This time around, it was David Van House. [Note: we are not 100% sure on that name, as it is very difficult to find official credits for script polishes. If you’re out there, David Van Something, please contact us so we can set the record straight.] They come in for one or two weeks, and punch up some dialogue, and in this case, he punched up the White House story line. In general, though, they do very little. Sometimes, like on “The Day After Tomorrow,” we brought someone in, and threw everything away, and we shot it [in its original form].

BE: In “Godzilla,” you named two characters after Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. Would you like to have that one back?

RE: No. Why? At the time, I cracked up laughing, and you know what? From my last few movies, I’ve gotten good reviews from Mr. Ebert. [Chuckles]

BE: He was amused by the inclusion.

RE: Yeah. I hope he saw it as an homage, and in a way, it was. Those guys are so iconic, and I love to do stuff like that. It’s fun. And no one in the world cares about it, and the icon, they’re going to get a kick out of it.

BE: You were the last person to direct Jaye Davidson in a movie. Were you surprised to see his career end as soon as it began?

RE: When we shot “Stargate,” he came up to me at one point and said, “I don’t like shooting movies,” and I said, “Why?” “Too many people stare at me.” I said, “Then you’re totally in the wrong business.” [Laughs] And I knew that he would not last because of that. I really liked him and thought he had incredible screen presence and talent, but I knew that he would not stay in that profession.

Roland Emmerich

BE: Is it true that you had to build a breast plate for his character because he’d just had his nipples pierced and didn’t want to take the rings out?

RE: Exactly.

BE: So that’s true, then?

RE: Yeah.

BE: Wow. Ha. I heard that years ago, but always wondered if it was urban legend.

RE: And there are many more good stories about Jaye Davidson. [Laughs]

BE: Well, we’ll let those remain untold. Your Wikipedia page states that you were offered to direct “Spider-Man.” Is that true?

RE: No, it’s not true. A lot of stuff in Wikipedia is not true, and that goes for a lot of people. I sometimes think, “How can that happen?” But Wikipedia is maintained by people, and everybody can add stuff to it.

BE: Well, that’s why I wanted to confirm this, because I’d never heard that before.

RE: No, not true.

BE: Tell us about your next movie, “Anonymous.”

RE: I start shooting March 22. I pretty much have my cast together, and it’s going really well. It takes on the authorship question of William Shakespeare. Did Shakespeare of Stratford write this, or somebody else? The movie will show how it all came to be, and it will be very provocative.

BE: What can we expect from the DVD for “2012”?

RE: I always try to convince people that there has to be a lot of material about the subject matter, so they created a couple of pieces. One is about doomsday prophecies. And this time around there are not many deleted scenes. It’s very thin there because we pretty much kept everything in the movie, besides an alternate ending that we included.

BE: Well, thank you for taking the time to talk with us. I really appreciate it.

RE: Okay, bye.

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