THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW - Q&A with Roland Emmerich and Mark Gordon
Roland Emmerich (director, producer, co-writer) and Mark Gordon (producer)
What were the origins of this project?
EMMERICH: Three years ago I read a book called 'The Coming of the Global Superstorm' and at the time I thought it would make for a great movie. We did a lot of research and realised that as fantastic as it may sound this is really a scenario which is possible. And the amazing thing about it is that it starts with these extreme weather situations all over the world and while we were shooting the movie a lot of these events started to happen.
GORDON: Roland said that if we didn't hurry up and release the picture we'd be making a documentary!
For a big, effects driven movie there is strong acting talent involved. Where do Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal fit into it all?
EMMERICH: Well, the movie is basically about a father [Quaid] who has problems with his son who lives with his ex-wife. He feels like he hasn't spent enough time with him. He's a scientist who studied the weather patterns that occurred 10,000 years ago, and all of a sudden realises they are about to happen again. He starts warning people about this and realises that this thing is coming faster than even he expected. At the same time his son is off to school in New York, and he realises that he's in grave danger.
What made you think of casting Dennis?
EMMERICH: Dennis had a really huge success in America with THE ROOKIE, which pretty much put him back on the map. But it's not really about that. If you had a real star in that part you would know how it all ended. It's great when you only have to like cast good actors, for a director that's perfect. And because they're all equal you don't know what will happen at the end, where if we had Mel Gibson in that role you would.
What was it about Jake Gyllenhaal that suggested him for his role?
GORDON: He's a wonderful actor. We had seen his work in some of the smaller independent pictures that he'd done and actually I was over here and saw him in a play called 'This Is Our Youth' which he was fantastic in. I called Roland after having seen it and said 'I love this guy', and Roland was excited about him having seen his work as well and he was our first choice. As a matter of fact all of the actors were. This is one of the things that you're always supposed to say when you're talking to the press, but in this case it's really true. With Dennis we were looking for the right combination of physicality and emotionality and intelligence to be able to play a scientist who was at the same time someone who had the physicality to be able to go off and rescue his son.
What is it about you and disaster movies, Roland?
EMMERICH: I like this idea of normal people in extraordinary situations. Then they have to do things they wouldn't normally do. I did the same thing in INDEPENDENCE DAY, viewing the alien invasion more as a disaster, with the same story of normal people who have to triumph in an extraordinary situation.
Is there a very solid basis in scientific fact in the movie?
EMMERICH: A lot. The only thing that we did for dramatic reasons was to make the time period shorter. But we were actually surprised to find that there were a lot of articles in papers and magazines which read more and more like our movie. In Fortune magazine, of all magazines, they wrote that the Pentagon has now ordered their think tank to consider what they would do in case of a global climate shift towards an ice age. And what they described leading up to this ice age is exactly like our movie. So that's cool.
GORDON: The fact is that we really did do a lot of research and had a lot of consultants for the science of the movie and obviously for dramatic purposes as Roland said we had to truncate and shorten that to make it one big storm. But all of the things that happen in the movie have happened before. The weather events that occur are things that are believed to have led up to that event so it is all based on scientific fact.
Have you been working on THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW ever since your last film, THE PATRIOT, four years ago?
EMMERICH: I took maybe a year off in between, but it was actually during THE PATRIOT that I found that book. We were shooting in North Carolina and we constantly had these hurricanes coming in so I was religiously watching the weather channel. At the same time in the bookstore at the hotel I found this book 'The Coming Of The Global Superstorm' and started reading it. I had no idea then that I would do it. Then I read another article which was headlined 'Is There A New Ice Age Coming?' and I said 'hmmm this sounds like a movie'.
You worked on the screenplay on your own for a while, before teaming up with Jeffrey Nachmanoff didn't you?
EMMERICH: Mark brought me together with Jeffery, and I really liked him. Working together accelerated things but we did this all ourselves because I always felt that a studio would not have developed this film. A studio would have asked 'who is saving the earth?', but I wanted to make a different movie to that. You cannot stop an ice age, the only thing you can do is to save as many people as you can. So we worked on it and sent out the script to the different studios and everybody wanted to have it. We were in a very fortunate situation to get an immediate 'green light' and we ended up at the studio that we wanted to be at.
Your films traditionally wreak havoc upon some well known landmarks. Here the Hollywood sign gets it - was that fun to create for the cameras?
EMMERICH: A lot of people wanted me to cut that out and I said only over my dead body. I have lived in that town for 14 years and I don't enjoy it.
Do you enjoy the time consuming process of adding the various special effects to the things you have shot?
EMMERICH: We set ourselves a really high standard, and that's sometimes a curse because you have to take shots away from [some effects] companies and give it to other [effects] companies which is always a little bit problematic. You always have to make compromises, so while I love visual effects I totally hate having to do them because you feel as a director that it's not in your hands any more. You can only say yes or no in the end, and eventually there's a moment when you cannot say it any more because the movie has to be finished.
GORDON: We have what roughly 400 visual effects in the film, which is not really a lot of shots, but they are very complicated and include some things that haven't been done before.
EMMERICH: Also we did everything CG [computer generated] the first time, the New York stuff was all computer generated and it looks pretty photo realistic, and I'm really proud of that.
GORDON: Basically what [the effects company] did was read all the buildings with lasers and at the same time took thousands and thousands of photographs for texture. All of that was fed into a computer so we were able to not just create New York but literally recreate it down to the inch of all of these buildings and their exact textures and colour and so on. That hasn't been done before but it was the only way to do this and make it look real.
Given the times in which we live will the political climate affect the way the movie is received in America?
GORDON: I don't think we'll be invited to show this picture at the White House. But I think what's exciting for us is to have the opportunity to make a film that's spectacular and entertaining and at the same time has real meaning for us and for I think for everyone. As an American I feel uncomfortable about the attitude that my government has towards both the Kyoto Accord. In think that the American public is concerned about pollution and the environment, and are doing what they can in terms of recycling and so on to try and solve that problem. But the corporate world and the government is certainly less concerned. We hope that this will make some difference.
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