‘White House Down’ Trailer: Let’s Keep Blowin’ Up the White House!

Roland Emmerich, director of such brilliant films such as Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, and Godzilla, presumably does not want to blow up the White House. After all, the whole point of his apparent obsession with blowing up the White House is that America gets together, following the blowing-up of the White House, to blow up whoever blew up the White House, because whoever would do such a terrible thing (blowing up the White House) must be punished. At the same time, Roland Emmerich really loves blowing up the White House. And pretty much everything else. Nothing is too sacred to blow up! Anyway, for those of us who didn’t get enough explosions in the recent blown-up-White-House epic Olympus Has Fallen, here’s the trailer for White House Down, in which President Jamie Foxx (sure) is saved by Channing Tatum (why not). No aliens this time, unfortunately.

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An ‘Anonymous’ Evening with Roland Emmerich

It was fitting that amidst a crush of stargazing tourists, we were sent by security to walk all the way around London’s Empire Theatre, only to end up five feet from where we had just been. We were there for the May Fair Hotel Gala, aka the premiere of Anonymous (which closed the BFI London Film Festival), a film that runs the viewer in circles around a thrillingly controversial literary assertion: that William Shakespeare was, essentially, a total fake. Once inside, and surrounded by the theater’s glorious 19th Century interior, director Roland Emmerich climbed onto the stage and commenced his speech.

“I surprised the studio that I wanted to make a movie about Shakespeare,” he recalled of the Columbia Pictures execs, who were probably waiting for a pitch about a computer-generated Earth vs. Mothra flick from the director of such blockbuster destruction films as Independence Day and Godzilla. “People think I’m about explosions,” he reckoned with admirable self-awareness, “but those who know me know that I love actors.”

As he proceeded to call a parade of hunky young stars up to the stage for a bow, it was clear that Anonymous would not be a study in Merchant-Ivory primness. Sebastian Amesto, Sam Reid, Jamie Campbell Bower, and Rafe Spall (as the so-called Bard himself) were followed by the always luminous Joely Richardson, who shares the role of Queen Elizabeth with her legendary mum, Vanessa Redgrave.

The film opens with a trick, a Derek Jacobi narration in a modern theatrical setting: “Let me tell you a different story…” Different story, indeed. Anonymous flits between 16th-Century decades to weave together a real-life premise that enrages literary traditionalists, the notion that Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, was the real author behind Shakespeare’s unparalleled oeuvre, and that Will was merely a well-paid front. The film also strips Elizabeth of some of her majesty and dignity, focusing more on her emotional volatility (Richardson plays her breathtakingly, like a teenager in heat), especially in affairs of the heart–and boldly invents a trio of illegitimate royal offspring. (Off with screenwriter John Orloff’s head!) Most shockingly, Shakespeare is painted us nothing more than an illiterate buffoon and mediocre actor; his scenes provide the only comic relief amidst all the traitorous betrayals and grim atmospherics.

Surprisingly for a studio film, Anna Foerster’s cinematography is chillingly gothic: rooms are dimly lit, landscapes feel desolate and threatening, and there’s a vividly violent scene in which several dogs and a bear are made to tear each other to shreds for the amusement of an assemblage of the Elizabethan betes noire. Anonymous is genuinely a visual triumph, especially for those with more lugubrious aesthetic inclinations, and grown tired of so many flouncy costume dramas.

L-r, Sam Reid, Xavier Samuel and Rhys Ifans star in Columbia Pictures' "Anonymous."

But the acting carries it. Rhys Ifans is a revelation as de Vere, effortlessly oscillating between icy cruelty and a noble and lofty defense of the sanctity of the written word. David Thewlis, possibly having learnt a few tricks on the Potter set from Alan Rickman’s Snape, is pure vitriol as William Cecil. And Armesto’s jittery and alternately sympathetic Ben Jonson–a mediocre playwright paid by de Vere for use of his name, who then pays Shakespeare for the same–provides the film’s plot pivot and moral pendulum, the man on whom the entire fate of theatre and poetry seems to rest. Of course, we know that its fate is secured.

Back at the glamorous May Fair Hotel (sometime home to Lady Gaga and full time home to provocative and punk-coiffed celeb chef Silvena Rowe, who oversees its venerated Turkish-mod Quince restaurant), we descended to the Crystal Room–whose massive Baccarat chandelier curiously resembled the alien invasion from Independence Day–to clink champagne glasses with the cast (minus Redgrave and Ifans) and director. Stealing a moment with Emmerich, we pressed him on the furor over Anonymous‘ polemical premise.

He shrugged, “I would like to say to those people, ‘relax’. Shakespeare belongs to everyone, he’s our Shakespeare.” Meaning, of course, that Oxbridge types tend to suffocate The Bard’s legacy under a blanket of uppity “purity.” In fact, we know little of his personal life, and thus the story is ripe for treatment with sundry artistic license.

“Luckily,” Emmerich observed, “we live in a democracy, where no one can censor ideas.” In other words, as Will himself might put it, it’s much ado about nothing much at all.


‘2012’ Director Roland Emmerich on Making Will Smith a Star

With 2012, Roland Emmerich has briefly resurrected and subsequently destroyed the disaster film trend he started. After his mega-hit Independence Day made it a guilty pleasure to watch landmarks get decimated, a slew of movies with names like Volcano and Armageddon ended the world as we know it with sociopathic glee. But long after superheroes and sequels took over the summer blockbuster business, every two years or so Emmerich somehow feels the need to seriously fuck shit up all over again (except New York). He did it with The Day After Tomorrow a few years back, and now he’s at it again, for what he says is his disaster curtain call. With earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes all in one movie, there’s nothing left to do. We spoke to the director about Obama’s influence on his movie, the suspension of disbelief, and why he cast Will Smith in Independence Day. (And can we attribute his iffy quote about Smith’s African-American-ness to, um, a language barrier?)

What can you say about the recent brouhaha about you leaving out the destruction of Muslim holy site for fear of a fatwa? It says a lot about the state of the word that a couple of religious fanatics can influence movies in a way.

What was your favorite destruction scene to work on? Well, Christ the Redeemer was fun because I flew to Rio myself. It was just me and a few people who kind of shot it. Then we digitized it and made it fall apart.

Did Barack Obama influence your casting of a black President? Yeah. I was always a big supporter of Hilary but I kind of thought Obama would be a cooler president. I didn’t think he would win, but when he did I kind of thought we have to just make it an African-American president.

In your movie, humanity organizes relatively quickly to try and save itself from extinction. Would we be able to do it in real life? I don’t know if they’re organized enough. I don’t know how much we like each other.

Do you concede that when you make films like this you have to abandon logic? You have to feel believability and it’s a very fine line because you also want to provoke and entertain, but it has to have the feel of believability. It’s a suspension of disbelief but not too much because then it becomes ridiculous.

Do you ever take credit for launching one of the biggest film careers of all time with Will Smith? No, not really. I first got the idea to cast him when I saw him in a very small movie called Six Degrees of Separation, and when I saw him in that I immediately called [producer] Dean Devlin, saw it again, and he agreed with me that this kid is kind of gold. Because even as an African-American, he feels like the most American person I have ever met. We were looking for the ultimate American hero for our fighter pilot, and then on top of it because he was African-American, we also had this idea that it was a multicultural thing. It’s kind of like the nations come together that case — America, Jewish, African-American, WASPy, comes together. And then I had to fight for Will Smith for a long time, because they wanted someone else.

Who did they want? I can’t tell you because these people have careers too, but you would laugh. Not as big as Will, though.

How did you conceive of that in your head? We were just discussing how we could destroy the White House. I kind of refused actually because I had done it already. But in this case it made sense because there was a character in the White House, you know the president who stays behind, so we had to deal with it. It was a little bit a given that we had to deal with the White House and I wanted to do it as original as possible so I thought long and hard and then I came up with the JFK aircraft carrier who wipes out the White House.

‘2012’ Spoiler: The End of the World Is a Dumbass Parable

2012 is Roland Emmerich’s big destruction epic where after Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla, and Stargate, he basically threw up his hands, said “fuckit, bring on The Four Horsemen and kill ’em all.” Which he tried to do in his other movies, but they weren’t “Kill ‘Em All” enough, so he decided to make 2012, the selling point of which is the world is definitely going to end, there’s no question that it won’t, it’s just a matter of why and how and how we’re going to kill them and who we’re going to kill, and let’s do this shit. And after we do that shit, you know the world lives, because we’re gonna make a goddamned TV show about 2013. As a fan of the End of the World genre, and as someone who counts the epic genius of Independence Day as a Great American Movie, I can no longer stand by and allow Roland Emmerich to cash in on making shit movies anymore. From the tyranny of bad End of the World moviemaking, today is our Independence Day. Here’s your 2012 spoiler.

I learned the following secondhand not from a BlackBook employee, but from an agent’s assistant who works for Mr. Emmerich’s agency who passed me a draft of the screenplay, and I’ve been holding this in for way, way too long. Either way, I don’t give a shit if I’m blacklisted from screenings. This is awful moviemaking and lazy storytelling. Here’s hoping it gets better. This is why the world ends in 2012 and what happens after:

The earth’s core heats up and the earth starts to melt. The government knew this was happening and hi-ho, they built giant fucking boats to hold all the richest people in the world and Chinese laborers who worked on the boats don’t even get a seat, go figure, subtle “fuck Communism” imagery, etc. There’s lots of arguing about the principles behind this kind of thing which is of course crooked, and in the end, some rich people stay on, some don’t, the world gets flooded, and the boats sail off to Africa to settle anew. Great. Do you get it? The entire thing is a ridiculous take on Noah’s Ark.

Now, this certainly isn’t all, and if you’re a fan of Disaster Porn, everything gets completely trashed and wasted and fucked to holy high hell, especially LA. And if you hate LA then you’re going to LOVE this movie, because LA hasn’t been sufficiently wasted since Volcano, you know?

Anyway, the point is, if you made better movies with better endings and better dialog and better actors and didn’t feed the people of the world nothing but shit movies that we were forced to eat since we know you could do better with $300 million or whatever you shelled out on computer animation for this, you wouldn’t have some pissed-off blogger who could care less about getting banned from studio screenings because studios don’t put out good movies anymore, anyway. I’ll pay for my movies, and I’ll pay to encourage and support the making of films that at least try, but I’m not gonna walk a press line for you people, anymore. Not as a fan or as a professional. 2012 is stupid moviemaking. There.

Roland Emmerich on Why He Spared New York in ‘2012’

In 2012 Roland Emmerich lays the following things to waste: the Washington Monument, the White House, Yosemite National Park, the city of Los Angeles, Christ the Redeemer, the Vatican, the Himalayas, Las Vegas, Air Force One, and a Buddhist Monastery. Notably absent from the carnage (besides the Kaaba in Mecca) is the fair city of New York, which Emmerich vaporized in Independence Day, flattened in Godzilla, and froze in The Day After Tomorrow. So we have one question: why?

We sat down with the German director yesterday, and while he didn’t digitally demolish us, he did let us know why New York got no “love”:

I’ve done it to the max. I just didn’t want to do it anymore. It was a conscious choice to stay away from New York this time. I knew people were going to say, “Oh Roland, so you’re destroying the world again.” And on top of it, “New York, how many times are you going to destroy that?” It was tempting, but I think New York is the coolest city in the world, so leaving it alone was nice.

Exactly as we suspected, New York is just too cool. Thanks, Paul Sevigny!

Fear of Fatwa: Roland Emmerich Chickens Out

In Roland Emmerich’s baroque apocalypse-fantasy, 2012, you’ll see lots of famous and iconic landmarks (the White House, the Sistine Chapel, Christ the Redeemer, etc.) being destroyed, but one significant monument wont get touched. Emmerich had initially planned to include the annihilation of the Kaaba — the cuboidal building in Mecca that’s the center of Islamic prayer — but got cold feet for fear of reprisal from fundamentalists. Wuss!

In an interview with Patrick Lee of Sci-Fi Wire, Emmerich explains:

“Well, I wanted to do that, I have to admit, but my co-writer Harald said: I will not have a fatwa on my head because of a movie. And he was right. We have to all … in the Western world … think about this. You can actually let Christian symbols fall apart, but if you would do this with [an] Arab symbol, you would have a fatwa, and that sounds a little bit like what the state of this world is. So it’s just something which I kind of didn’t [think] was [an] important element, anyway, in the film, so I kind of left it out.”

This strikes me as fairly cowardly for a director who, in the same interview, baldly states that he’s “against organized religion.” The confession also comes just days after Qatari media company Al Noor Holdings announced its plans to produce a $150 million dollar, English-language feature about the Prophet Mohammed. Islamic tradition dictates that neither Prophet Mohammed nor direct members of his family can be depicted in any way, yet Al Noor is nevertheless forging ahead with its equally fatwa-worthy plan in the hope of establishing a more positive portrayal of Islam around the world. Their example makes Emmerich look all the more craven.

‘2012’ Trailer: Roland Emmerich Proves Wikipedia Right

After watching the trailer for disaster master Roland Emmerich’s latest, one has to wonder: Did the Germain director read his own Wikipedia entry and decide that not only is he going to prove it right, but he’s going to do it times a million? It reads: “A general consensus amongst critics is that Emmerich’s films rely too heavily on visual effects, and suffer from clichéd dialogue, flimsy and formulaic narrative, scientific and historical inaccuracies, illogical plot development, and lack of character depth.” And with that, ladies and gentlemen, the trailer for 2012.

Lone Monk Confronts Tidal Wave in Emmerich’s ‘2012’

The teaser trailer for Roland Emmerich’s latest disaster pic, 2012, single-handedly washes away the acrid taste left in mouth from his last two pics, 10,000 B.C., and The Day After Tomorrow — two films I admit to not seeing, but do you care to disagree with my assessment? Granted, it’s not a huge feat to craft an engaging teaser, but I haven’t seen one more enrapturing in some time. Listen to that music. It’s like a Jodorowsky film. Emmerich teased that in this film, “you’ll see the world go to shit,” and while we don’t see it going to shit just yet, that lone monk is going to have a tough time staying afloat. The film’s title refers to the end of the Mayan calendar, which many people believe to be the end of the world, too. Emmerich said what inspired him to make this film was that when he googled 2012, 240 million hits came up. “So many people write about it, believe it, that our world comes to an end in 2012,” he says. But that was pre-Obama, obviously.