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Comic Con '09: Roland Emmerich And Mr. Beaks Talk Earthquakes, Irwin Allen And 2012!

Earthquake safety tip: when the Earth gets to undulating, the safest place to be is not under a table or in a door frame as previously thought, but in a limousine piloted by John Cusack. Why? Because the man knows how to drive through the fifth floor of a crumbling office building. In a limousine. That's why. This is just one of the many wildly implausible sights you'll see this November when Roland Emmerich's latest end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it saga, 2012, rattles movie theaters all over the globe. And if you're thinking the above scenario sounds like the silliest action set piece since people outran cold air in THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, well... it is. But that's why we love Roland Emmerich. The only science that matters in his films is the science of awesome. And since John Cusack is awesome and disintegrating buildings are (on the big screen, at least) awesome, it stands to reason that one should be able to pass through the other without much of a fuss. The entire sequence, which finds Cusack's character transporting his family (and his ex-wife's new husband!) to the Santa Monica Airport so they can escape the state of California right before it falls into the Pacific Ocean, is Emmerich at the top of his Irwin Allen-inspired game. When it played for a packed Hall H on Saturday at Comic Con, it fucking killed: aside from tumbling buildings, other obstacles attempting to keep Cusack from his destination include crater-sized potholes, the 405 freeway (not the traffic, but the actual freeway), and, most preposterously, a Sunday driver. It's breathtaking stuff, and a reminder that, when it comes to executing big summer spectacle, Emmerich is still one of the best we've got (even though 2012 is now coming out in November). Since I talked to Emmerich before his Hall H presentation, I obviously couldn't get into the particulars of what he was about to show. I only had about ten minutes with him, so I decided to open with Irwin Allen and see if that might lead us anywhere interesting. I think it did. Hope you enjoy!

Mr. Beaks: This is your first trip to Comic Con, isn't it?

Roland Emmerich: It is.

Beaks: It's everyone's first year at Comic Con. Zemeckis, Jackson, Burton, yours... it's a big year.

Emmerich: I remember that I wanted to come here for INDEPENDENCE DAY, but I had no time. So Dean [Devlin] went. And for GODZILLA, also Dean went. It always worked out for Dean to go to these things. And he likes it, too, because he's a geek himself. I mean, I'm a geek, too, but... he's a geek in one direction, and I'm a geek in the other direction. (Laughs)

Beaks: I think most people look at 2012 and figure your thought process was simply "How do I destroy the world this time?"

Emmerich: Actually, I was very troubled by the fact that I was doing another disaster movie. But Harald [Kloser] helped me overcome that fear. He said, "Who cares? It's a really good story." It's a retelling of a very old story. Every culture has this story: it's the story of the flood.

Beaks: And just to get to the point because we have only ten minutes here: your films are constantly compared to those of Irwin Allen's. How do you feel about that?

Emmerich: I wanted to actually dedicate INDEPENDENCE DAY to Irwin Allen, but Fox wouldn't let us. Honest to god.

Beaks: But THE TOWERING INFERNO and THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE were huge hits for Fox!

Emmerich: I don't know. They told us "It's an alien invasion movie; it's not a disaster movie." But Dean and I loved Irwin Allen I loved him because he turned normal, regular characters into heroes. Like Shelly Winters in THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE. She was fat, but she had one talent: to swim. That was so cool, and that's what I just like.

Beaks: Most of the characters in your films are like that. They all get their one hero moment.

Emmerich: Exactly. You have normal, great actors in unexpected roles. You can really do an awful lot, and it's so much fun to do that. You know, I did INDEPENDENCE DAY as an alien invasion movie, but... there was a lot of destruction in it. And I did GODZILLA as a monster movie with a lot of destruction, but it was still a monster movie, right? And then there was DAY AFTER TOMORROW, which was more than a disaster movie; it was a movie with a pure message. And this one is about a global flood. And it's about all of these questions. Who should be on the boat? Why would [the government] keep something like this secret? Those kinds of questions get asked and, sometimes, answered. But at least I put them out there.

Beaks: Are you ever worried that you might push too hard with the message and detract from the pure entertainment value of the film?

Emmerich: It's always a mix. If I have too much [destruction], people think it's hollow. And if you take it too seriously, people roll their eyes. It's just a balance. And I think this one strikes the right balance between fun and thoughtfulness.

Beaks: You have populated this film with a lot of very particular actors: John Cusack, Oliver Platt, Woody Harrelson... guys like that. You're writing huge ensemble pieces, so I imagine it's impossible to cast all first choices, but do you ever write for certain actors hoping you'll get them?

Emmerich: Sometimes we do, sometimes no. Because if that actor is not available, what do you do then? Then you have an actor in you head, and you can't get them. I learned my lesson on INDEPENDENCE DAY. We had Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum in our heads, but the studio didn't want to hire them. We had to really fight for them.

Beaks: They wanted more recognizable names?

Emmerich: Just different names. And we really had to put our foot down.

Beaks: Do you remember who the studio wanted?

Emmerich: I can't say because it would really be doing a disservice to the actors. They were great actors, but they weren't the actors we had in mind.

Beaks: Getting back to Irwin Allen, the one area where you really set yourself apart from him is in the pacing. Your films move much more briskly than Allen's. He would really take his time establishing the characters. You just like to get on with it.

Emmerich: In modern times, you have to. It's a whole other game. But in 2012, it takes fifty minutes until the shit hits the fan. That's a long time. I'm very nervous about it. But the test audience really [liked it].

Beaks: So where did you get "earth-crust displacement" from?

Emmerich: It was just some obscure theory from the 1950s from a guy named Professor Charles Hapgood. The forward was written by Albert Einstein. It's a theory which is totally disputed today, but for our movie it worked perfectly. The whole earth crust shifts... (laughs) and that naturally has to come with so many earthquakes and volcano eruptions and then tidal waves! It's just a vehicle. I think scientists will understand that it's just a movie. We actually had a geologist help us a little bit, but at one point he just threw up his hands and said, "Write it like you think it would be!" (Laughs) It's a movie! It's not a documentary! But on the other hand, it has to feel real to the audience.

Beaks: But who knows what "real" looks like when or if California falls into the ocean? If you shot it the way scientists think it might go down, it probably wouldn't be as cinematic, right?

Emmerich: (Laughing) Exactly!

That aerial shot above is much more impressive in motion. See it for yourself when 2012 hits theaters November 13, 2009. Faithfully submitted, Mr. Beaks

Readers Talkback
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  • July 28, 2009, 12:56 p.m. CST

    Sounds interesting

    by ParagonComplex

    I'd watch it.

  • July 28, 2009, 12:58 p.m. CST

    This will suck

    by Djamdjean

    It's Roland Emmerich.

  • July 28, 2009, 1 p.m. CST

    I wonder...

    by Sardonic

    Does Roland Emmerich actually believe he's good at making movies? He seems to. Still, I suppose I can't totally knock the guy. He obviously likes his action movies, and shitty though they may be, they're certainly entertaining.

  • July 28, 2009, 1:01 p.m. CST

    So Ummm...

    by meta4

    What was the old date?

  • July 28, 2009, 1:01 p.m. CST


    by Mr. Nice Gaius

    Quote: "Like Shelly Winters...She was fat, but she had one talent: to swim."<P>Way to go, Roland. Comedy gold!

  • July 28, 2009, 1:03 p.m. CST

    I can't wait for Harrys review

    by meta4

    No seriously me and him were the only people on the planet who liked Godzilla.

  • July 28, 2009, 1:06 p.m. CST

    Emmerich should make 2012 BC

    by PixarsSUP

  • July 28, 2009, 1:17 p.m. CST

    Hard to tell--Was this asked through uncontrollable giggling?

    by Sw0rdfish

    "Are you ever worried that you might push too hard with the message and detract from the pure entertainment value of the film?"

  • July 28, 2009, 1:17 p.m. CST

    THIS is your 2012 trailer right here:

    by YackBacker

  • July 28, 2009, 1:17 p.m. CST


    by HoboCode

    Pull my finger.

  • July 28, 2009, 1:18 p.m. CST

    Do people REALLY WANT to see this stuff right now?

    by Mennen

    I don't think they do. Not in these times.

  • July 28, 2009, 1:23 p.m. CST

    Favourite Emmerich moment wasn't in one of his films...

    by Gabba-UK

    He was on the now defunct The Big Breakfast on Channel 4 in the UK with Dean promoting Godzilla. 7.30 in the morning, he's really excited about the movie and describing the speed and power of his version of the mighty reptile. He gets ahead of himself and says fuck without realising. The host say his apologies as does Roland. The host, Johnny Vaughn, then drags him outside into the garden and makes him sit on the naughty step for the rest of the show while Dean Devlin continues telling us about the film. Emmerich sat there and waved to the camera whenever they cut to him and doing a zip it motion over his mouth. Class.

  • July 28, 2009, 1:25 p.m. CST

    The physics!

    by Chariowalda_Barbarossa

    I have nothing against yet another apocalypse by Emmerich, seems to be fun, but I have to get this off my chest. There's one shot I hate hate hate in gthe 2012 trailer, because it screams "this doesnt work!" at me so loudly that my ability of suspension of disbelief just cant keep up with it. <p> The dome of the St. Peter's cathedral in Rome comes falling down. So far so good. It hits the ground and comes rolling towards the camera. Argh! First of all I cant see how it should get the impulse to move sideways, but even if I assume the surface of the planet is tilted by a big angle, by earth crust displacement or how they call it, the dome wouldn't roll, it would instantly crumble. The way such a dome is built it just cant remain intact if the gravity vector is off by more than a few degres.<p> There you have it. I demand this shot be deleted from the final version of the film that hits the screens in november. It totally ruins the realism of the movie.

  • July 28, 2009, 1:28 p.m. CST


    by Mr. Nice Gaius

    Is that the version with all the cheesy 70's styled titles and stuff? I have to admit, that one made me laugh the more it went on. Funny stuff.

  • July 28, 2009, 1:30 p.m. CST


    by DerLanghaarige

    I guess I'm number 3!<br>

  • July 28, 2009, 1:35 p.m. CST

    Yes, I want to see the world die!

    by kafka07

    Just on film though.

  • July 28, 2009, 1:39 p.m. CST

    Oh I thought NY was gonna get screw again.

    by Rufferto

  • July 28, 2009, 1:44 p.m. CST

    MNG, yep it's the trailer from

    by YackBacker

    I've watched it about ten times already. I also got the music he used from it too. Bongos!

  • July 28, 2009, 1:45 p.m. CST

    People NEED this stuff right now!

    by Sonny_Williams

    Seems like the more fucked up things are in the real world, that's when we need these end-of-the-world epics the most. "Well, the economy's in the shitter, can't get a job, etc etc... but at least the world isn't literally ending!"

  • July 28, 2009, 1:52 p.m. CST


    by Delagoya

    Twenty Twelve In Name Only!!! Seriously AICN, any news Roland Emmerich-related is not cool news. Except maybe his retirement from everything.

  • July 28, 2009, 1:53 p.m. CST

    This and Hot Tub Time Machine

    by OzzyManDiaz

    Will work in tandem to destroy John Cusacks career

  • July 28, 2009, 1:56 p.m. CST

    Emmerich is a master

    by kwisatzhaderach

    compared to The Hack Pack we have foisted on us nowadays.

  • July 28, 2009, 1:59 p.m. CST


    by OzzyManDiaz

    Isnt Emmerich a part of this "Hack Pack" you speak of?

  • July 28, 2009, 2:03 p.m. CST


    by Mr. Nice Gaius

    Yep, that's the one. Man, if the world ever does go down like in 2012, I might not mind it so much if it's accompanied by a steady groove.

  • July 28, 2009, 2:04 p.m. CST

    stargate was awesome

    by animas

    so i give this guy a pass

  • July 28, 2009, 2:10 p.m. CST

    Just rewatched Independence Day...what a shitty film...

    by MJohnson

    Emmerich is a hack.

  • July 28, 2009, 2:16 p.m. CST

    I Heart ID4

    by Autodidact

    Any chance we'll ever get a sequel to ID4? I think it would be cool to see a story set 15 or 20 years after the first ID4, where humans have adapted the alien technology and the aliens come back for a rematch with bigger, badder superweapons.

  • July 28, 2009, 2:16 p.m. CST

    Let's not forget this classic:

    by Sodomy_Joe_Shitpants

  • July 28, 2009, 2:17 p.m. CST

    Indepedence Day was incredibly fun...

    by Fa_Tass_DinoMolester

    But everything he's done since has been crap.

  • July 28, 2009, 2:18 p.m. CST

    Part of the Genius of ID4...

    by Autodidact

    .. is just how stupid it is. Liking something doesn't make it good, or smart, or quality. It just means you like it. I'm comfortable liking ID4 despite how ludicrous and schmaltzy it is.

  • July 28, 2009, 2:35 p.m. CST

    as days go by...

    by cifra

    ... my respect for my, in other times, hated Emmerich grows more and more. I definitely see him as an auteur. He's like John Waters, in his core: an enfant terrible. He does this suicidal projects and gets away with murder, and his movies - but 10,000 BC, sorry - are fun, guilty pleasures. My favorite is still Godzilla - which is clearly a comedy: just think of the cast with Broderick, Azaria, Shearer and Reno - and also the first 30 minutes of Independence Day. I expect 2012 as mindless fun, blowing shit up, and what it's great it is that it doesn't want to be pretentious at all, just throw a couple of interesting ideas and give you a rush of adrenaline. I just wish they made it on 3D.

  • July 28, 2009, 2:39 p.m. CST

    One question

    by ominus

    Has any of emmerichs later movies surpassed the success of ID4?

  • July 28, 2009, 2:45 p.m. CST

    People may take shots

    by Shaner Jedi

    at Emmerich, but I really liked The Patriot and ID4 is still a great summer movie. Hay After Tomorrow and 10000 BC were not my favorite but they had some entertainment value too. At least the guy knows who he is. He's a showman. Hes not a pretentious artiste. I like his movies.

  • July 28, 2009, 2:47 p.m. CST


    by Shaner Jedi


  • July 28, 2009, 3:07 p.m. CST

    The shame is that destruction movies

    by ominus

    can be something more than just cool cgi and superhuman stunts from the characters. <p> The Towering Inferno for example.the best destruction movie imho.its not just the awe of the destruction of the Tower and the coolness of Paul Newman and Steve Mcqueen. <p>there are the smaller stories of all the rest of the cast,ordinary people who u relate to and sympathize and u are sad when at the end they got killed by the fires or u r happy that they are saved. <p>its the human heart,behind all the heavy destruction scenes,that matters in a destruction movie,that gives the movie soul and make it something more than just a popcorn movie to have fun. <p>but unfortunately it seems emerrichs talent is only capable of great cgi images and nothing else.

  • July 28, 2009, 3:10 p.m. CST

    Sodomy_Joe_Shitpants- you score yet again!

    by YackBacker

    "Donald Sutherland as the CLUMSY WAITER!" I haven't seen KFM in years. Awesome.

  • July 28, 2009, 3:19 p.m. CST


    by turketron_2

    2012 - Bringin the dumb November 2009. This will be awesome trash.

  • July 28, 2009, 3:32 p.m. CST

    What no Will Smith?

    by illbedamned

    Awww heeehh naw!

  • July 28, 2009, 3:46 p.m. CST


    by Harold-Sherbort

    Did you see Knowing?

  • July 28, 2009, 4 p.m. CST

    Not yet

    by ominus

    I am terrified of the "aliens as angels" ending. <p>but i will watch it sooner or later,since proyas directed it.

  • July 28, 2009, 4:17 p.m. CST

    Todays audiences don't have the patience

    by skimn

    to sit through a lot of back story till the death and destruction begin. Those Irwin Allen productions were old fashioned soap opera/morality tales at heart, with natural/man made destruction testing the strong and weak alike. The Posidien remake stripped away almost all the back story and got to the disaster within minutes...and it failed. I think Emmerich has struck the right balance of schmaltz to disaster.

  • July 28, 2009, 4:38 p.m. CST

    The plane crash scene that was so heavily

    by skimn

    promoted in Knowing was impressive. Yes the fire effects did behave like CGI fire, but it didn't detract from the scene.

  • July 28, 2009, 4:44 p.m. CST

    I dare Emmerich to wedge in "Pruitt Igoe" somewhere

    by Anything But Tangerines

    If you're going to just blow shit up, why not have the right cue handy?

  • July 28, 2009, 5:54 p.m. CST

    meta4, you have 4 here, or is it 5?

    by Geomancer21

  • July 28, 2009, 6 p.m. CST

    This is the sort of fodder I'd normally wait for dvd.

    by OutlawsDelejos

    But like Twister and Day After Tomorrow this really needs a big screen. Not your big screen Harry, you have a HD projector blah blah blah...

  • July 28, 2009, 6:22 p.m. CST

    Proof that there is no God..

    by Stalkeye

    ..because if there were,Emmerich and Boll would no longer be allowed to make movies.:P

  • July 28, 2009, 6:28 p.m. CST

    by OzzyManDiaz

    Awesome Post apocalyptic episodic story.

  • July 28, 2009, 7:30 p.m. CST

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    by BrandLoyalist

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  • July 28, 2009, 7:51 p.m. CST


    by OzzyManDiaz

    Funniest thing I have read all day. Hats off to you sir

  • July 28, 2009, 8:36 p.m. CST

    Godzilla was a really good movie...

    by qweruiop that movie didn't get a pass but Independence Day did is beyond me. Godzilla is truly a fun leave-your-brain-at-the-door piece of entertainment. For what it's worth it does its job of setting up the monster, revealing him during the middle of the movie, going through various extraordinary battles, and then culminating in a totally cool cat-and-mouse game between Godzilla and the heroes. I remember the first time I saw that movie in the theater, and as it looked like Godzilla was going to go chase them I thought to myself how cool would that be if he did, and sure enough when Philippe said that "running would be a good day" then the real fun started. And btw, that girl who played the female reporter, I had such a huge crush on her when I first saw the film. So perfectly perky and petite. Loved how she looked, and probably still looks today.

  • July 28, 2009, 9:14 p.m. CST

    Emmerich needs to remake/retell TTI

    by WIBoomer1

    If Wolfgang got to do Poseidon, then let Emmerich re-do The Towering Inferno. I'd love to see a new 21st Century Glass Tower in CGI, ablaze, with a great cast, in a 3 hour spectacular!!

  • July 28, 2009, 11:39 p.m. CST

    Godzilla vs ID4...

    by The_Ritty

    saw em both in the theatre.... ID4 STILL sucks to this day...I saw Godzilla twice (back to back days) in the theater and was one of the first dvds I ever owned back in 1997/98... Sure it has problems (like Hank Azaria) but c'mon Broderick, Jean Reno... I thought ol Zilla actually was a character in this flick and the raptor chase att he end was fun... I still love Godzilla, fuck ID4...fuckin Randy Quaid...

  • July 29, 2009, 1:39 a.m. CST

    Only earthquakes

    by ThePilgrim

    Fuck.... not what I thought it was..

  • July 29, 2009, 2:31 a.m. CST

    I love Emmerichs movies! How can you not?

    by bongo123

    Anytime i so much as see a clip from any of his big disaster movies on tv i just have to stick on the Bluray, the guy makes movies in there purest most entertaining form populated with likeable characters in implausible situations coupled with brilliantly shot and edited effects. Independence day.. hammy as fuck, Godzilla.. just downright mental, Day After.. just plain cool. How can you be a movie geek and not like silly characters and big massive set pieces showing us shit that no other film touches, so fuck all you haters and your love of only AAA movies or Arthousey flicks, sometimes i just wanna watch shit get fucking wrecked and Roland is the main man for that type of shit and may he continue to destroy the world in ever more mad as fuck ways for a long time to come

  • July 29, 2009, 3:51 a.m. CST

    Godzilla was a really good movie...

    by Stalkeye

    ..for me to POOP on!!

  • July 29, 2009, 3:55 a.m. CST

    Its a sad state of affairs

    by Fortunesfool

    When Emmerich movies look like Lawrence of Arabia compared with todays stuff. He certainly knows how to shoot this stuff, he just can't fuckin write it.

  • July 29, 2009, 5:26 a.m. CST

    Emmerich's films are completely retarded,

    by Jardinier

    sure, but intentionally so: they're not supposed to be anything but fun. And I prefer Emmerich's style to, say, Michael Bay's (because at least the German knows how to properly cut a movie).

  • July 29, 2009, 9:51 a.m. CST

    Fucking Emmerich!

    by dude_gimme_tabs

    He put Brits locking people into a church and burning it down in a historical movie..... something that was actually done by THE GERMANS DURING THE WAR!!! This is Emmerich who is a fucking Kraut who's family name is one connected with serious attrocities during the war. That is fucking unforgiveable.

  • July 29, 2009, 11:01 a.m. CST

    Emmerich speaks about his movie = Emmerich speaks about shit

    by AsimovLives

    I'm unto this fool's lack of talent since he made ID4, even back at the dat when everybody were sucking his dick and are not forgetting they ever did it so.<br><br>This Roland Emmerich fool is one of the major reasons why blocbuster movies are for the most part so dumb stupid and useless today.

  • July 29, 2009, 11:02 a.m. CST

    "But that's why we love Roland Emmerich"

    by AsimovLives

    Speak for yourself, buddy.

  • July 29, 2009, 11:09 a.m. CST


    by AsimovLives

    "and shitty though they may be, they're certainly entertaining."<br><br>You never watched 10,000BC, did you?

  • July 29, 2009, 11:14 a.m. CST


    by AsimovLives

    Emmerich is part of the hack pack. He's one of the vice-presidents.

  • July 29, 2009, 11:19 a.m. CST

    Shaner Jedi

    by AsimovLives

    Emerich IS PRETENTIOUS. His dumb message bullshit in Day After Tomorrow is oneof the most pretentious nonsense i ever saw in a movie in all my life. A dumb cliché ridden disaster movie with pretentious of a social and global message about the enviroment. Giveme a fuckign break!<br><br>You know what pretentiousness really is? Is to try to pull some intelelctual thing and not have the talent and the balls to do it competently. Thus, Emmerich is pretentous. The fuck thinks his movies are so smart! What a douche!

  • July 29, 2009, 11:20 a.m. CST


    by AsimovLives

    Don't just hate the german hacks, hate all the hacks.

  • July 29, 2009, 11:24 a.m. CST

    Fuckin' AsimovLives

    by Al Swearengen

    You took six fuckin' posts to bleet what could have said done in one. You really are a cocksucker.

  • July 29, 2009, 11:39 a.m. CST

    Al Swearengen

    by AsimovLives

    If you had taken any notice, you would had figured out that i was replaying to different people, ence different posts. Pay attention next time before you post a useless diatribe, friend.

  • July 29, 2009, 12:14 p.m. CST

    Fuckin' AsimovLives

    by Al Swearengen

    I did fuckin' notice. Each one of your posts says the same fuckin' thing.<P>And don't call me friend, cocksucker. That overture has definitely not been expressed by yours fuckin' truly.

  • July 29, 2009, 5:38 p.m. CST

    So I guess thats more...

    by meta4

    people in the "liked godzilla" camp then i thought. I enjoyed that movie because it was fucking epic to me. remember those trailer/previews at the fishing pier? Perfect way to keep the mystique going. The godzilla design is flawed yeah,and emmerich didn't "get" the point of zilla but in 97 i was 11 and what more could a pre-pre-pre-teen ask for? Oh thats right starship troopers...thats for another talkback