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Interview with Roland Emmerich, director/co-writer of 2012

Roland Emmerich directed and co-wrote with Harald Kloser 2012, a sci-fi action thriller about a giant catastrophe that threatens destroy the entire planet precisely on December 12th, 2012. Jackson Curtis (John Cusack), an author, gathers his ex-wife, Kate (Amanda Peet), two kids, Noah (Liam James) and Lilly (Morgan Lily) along with Kate's new boyfriend, Gordon (Tom McCarthy), to struggle to survive together during the disaster. A government scientist, Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), warns U.S. President Thomas Wilson (Danny Glover) and the chief of staff, Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt), bout the imminent global disaster. Roland Emmerich has previously written and directed 10,000 B.C., The Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla, Independence Day, Stargate and his directorial debut, Universal Soldier. It was a real privilege to interview him.

Columbia Pictures releases 2012 nationwide on November 13th, 2009.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Why wasn't 2012 released during the summer season?

RE: The plan was to release it in July. I just asked the studio for more time early on in January. I said, “Look, guys. When we want to release it in the summer, the [box office] numbers are bigger, but it would great to have more time for the visual effects because they’re very ambitious [effects]. NYC MOVIE GURU: Would you have been able to use the same visual effects in <2012 if you were to make it ten years ago?

RE: No. The interesting thing for me is how visual effects came such a long way. You now can trim up anything you want if you have the time and money.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Where does your passion for directing come from?

RE: I never even wanted to become a director. I went to film school to become a production designer. In all these film school films, I was doing the production design, but I was always, kind of, nagging about everything and everybody said to me, “You’re a director.” It took me a lot of time, in a way, to accept that I’m a director.

NYC MOVIE GURU: When did you initially learn about the Mayan culture and its myth of the world coming to an end in 2012?

RE: The first contact I had with Mayan culture was when I wanted to do a movie about Gonzalo Guerrero, one of the first Spaniards to get stuck in the Yucatan. I read every book [about the Mayans] and learned about their calendar, but then I forgot about it. Harald [Kloser, my co-writer], and I had this plan to do a modern retelling of “Noah’s Ark” and discussed it. All-of-a-sudden we had the idea that we can tie it to the Mayan myth of the end of time. We got really excited about that because it’s always cool when you give the people a myth that gives them some sort of reality. Whenever you have a myth out there, it’s a starting point, which makes it real for people, but it also makes it discussion point because a lot of people say it’s not real, it’s not true. Immediately, you have some sort of intellectual conversation going on which I really like. I realized that every book about 2012 says something different.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What makes the myth of 2012 so unique?

RE: Because it’s such an exact date. What [other] prophecy is there that has a date? NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you believe in the myth?

RE: Not really. If I would’ve believed in it, I probably wouldn’t make a movie like that because I would’ve thought that would be wrong.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think are basic elements that turn a sci-fi action thriller into a classic?

RE: It’s just the quality of the characters and the quality of the structure of the script. Those are two of the main things. Visuals effects will be outdated. In 10 or 20 years [from now], they’d look silly.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Why did you decide to include a scene with an Arnold Schwarzenegger look-alike?

RE: Harald Kloser is Austrian, so I told him, “You will call Arnold.” He said, “I will, I will.” But in the end, [Arnold] bailed out, so we had to find a look-alike and a sound-alike. We wanted to have one politician who’s not in the know.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How did you decide which iconic images to destroy in 2012?

RE: Our society is determined by pictures and images. We wanted to show that certain art will be destroyed. It’s so ironic to take the 16th Chapel because there’s the God-creates-Adam kind of moment when the crack goes through it, [which means that], in a really big disaster, religion cannot really help you. It can help you emotionally, but cannot stop it. That was one of the first images that I had in mind.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Were there any other images you were considering to be destroyed during the disaster?

RE: Yes. At one point, we wanted to show Muslims praying to the East and there’s a wave coming, but Harald bailed out on me. We both felt that 2012 is not the movie that should deal with that.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you plan on continuing to make disaster films?

RE: For me, it’s the last disaster movie. I can’t imagine anything else---maybe a sequel to Independence Day---but that would be it. I’m interested in doing other genres, like a big science fiction epic because I love science fiction. My first big hit here in America was Stargate.

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