Roland Emmerich Interview – 10,000 BC

     March 3, 2008

Opening this Friday is the new Roland Emmerich movie “10,000 BC.” While some of you will recognize his name immediately, others might only be familiar with his movies. Perhaps you’ve heard of “Independence Day,” “The Patriot,” “Godzilla,” or “The Day After Tomorrow.”

In any case, his new movie is once again a spectacle like his other films, but this time, instead of a modern adventure, he’s voyaged back 10,000 years to tell his story. Here’s the synopsis:

In a remote mountain tribe, the young hunter D’Leh (Steven Strait) has found his heart’s passion – the beautiful Evolet (Camilla Belle). But when a band of mysterious warlords raid his village and kidnap Evolet, D’Leh leads a small group of hunters to pursue the warlords to the end of the world to save her. As they venture into unknown lands for the first time, the group discovers there are civilizations beyond their own and that mankind’s reach is far greater than they ever knew. At each encounter the group is joined by other tribes who have been attacked by the slave raiders, turning D’Leh’s once-small band into an army.

Driven by destiny, the unlikely warriors must battle prehistoric predators while braving the harshest elements. At their heroic journey’s end, they uncover a lost civilization and learn their ultimate fate lies in an empire beyond imagination, where great pyramids reach into the skies.

Here they will take their stand against a tyrannical god who has brutally enslaved their own. And it is here that D’Leh finally comes to understand that he has been called to save not only Evolet but all of civilization.

So to help promote the movie, yesterday I attended the international press day as a representative of our partner website Omelete. While I was also able to interview stars Camilla Belle and Steven Strait, due to the movie coming out in a few days and time constraints, I won’t have the time to translate the interviews. However, you can click on their names for the audio as an MP3.

However, while you won’t get to read what the stars said, I do have the transcript for Director Roland Emmerich.

During the roundtable interview, Roland discussed the difficulties of making 10,000 BC and of course I asked many questions about his next “disaster” film 2012. In case you haven’t heard, Roland just made a deal for the film at Sony and according to Roland, “it will be very expensive, you see the whole world go to shit.”

What was also cool about talking to Roland was asking questions about whether or not he’ll get into 3D filmmaking or even digital filmmaking. He was actually quite funny and had a lot to say. While Roland does have a pretty strong German accent, I think you’ll understand everything he said. You can click here to listen to the interview as an MP3.

Finally, if you missed the movie clips that we posted a few days ago, click here. And with that…here’s Roland.

Roland Emmerich: Hello.

Question: So how was this working in all these fabulous different locations? Did you ever worry about…especially in Namibia? Did you every worry about any kind of wild animals coming out of the jungle?

Roland Emmerich: No. When there’s a film crew you know all animals leave the…even snakes, you know they are like kind of by the noise from so many people they kind of run away. But actually the most fun was actually finding all these locations, you know because…but I also have to say shooting there was not so fun because you never, ever count on something called weather. And so it was nearly like kind of revenge of somebody because on the “Day After Tomorrow” we had like the worst luck with the weather. Really bad. And for example, in New Zealand we said, “so how is this going here with snow? Do you ever get snow in May?” And they say, “oh well not really. The last 10 years we had hardly any snow, but once in a while a sprinkling because we have a saying here, snow in May doesn’t stay. Snow in June is too soon.” I said, “oh that’s great.” And first day of shooting half a meter of snow.

Q: But you needed snow at least.

Roland: No, I didn’t. It was not planned so I was like actually—it was a blessing in disguise. We fought ourselves through it. I would never, ever dared to kind of like do scenes in the snow because we said we have enough problems, and then it was actually great for the look of the movie. It’s just at the end of the ice age look and it’s very, very cold and there’s a great contrast to Namibia. In Namibia we had the problem was always morning fog. So we had to wait. It was always like the sun had to first burn away the fog. When you shoot in winter and it takes 7-8 hours, not a good thing.

When you’re directing are you a storyboard person or are you the person to design on the fly?

Roland: You know what? I do it always like I always do a storyboard and this time even did very, very detailed pre-vis and then when I shoot, I throw everything over. Otherwise it becomes very mechanical and it will not work. It’s also great for the actors so they can see a little bit the scene how it will unfold. But then when you work with actors, they come up with ideas. You come up with ideas and you just wing it.

And with the film, were there any scenes that you cut out due to time or pacing or where there any…?

Roland: There’s only 1 scene we cut out due to pacing. It was in the village. There was a scene where all these people hide on the rocks and we see how they’re all like kind of down. That’s the only scene which was lost.

And about the story, did you make some kind of historical investigation?

Roland: Well, you know that was a very long journey. It was just started 15 years ago. I saw a documentary about mammoth hunting that interested me and I said this is a very, very cool idea for a movie. But then I worked with Harold on it and it was just a little bit one dimensional at first and then only when I discovered this theory of the lost civilization that I really thought, oh my God, I have a real good story now because it was like a travel in time, you know. And that was kind of like for me the kicker and then we had more or less…I think it’s more a concept movie than it’s a historical movie. But what we did you know all the animals and all the costumes and settings are all incredibly well researched, but, naturally, the story has a sort of fantastic or fantasy element to it.

You always had interesting…historic images to your writings something about Mayan civilization? I read this on the internet, is that right?

Roland: Yeah, the Mayan calendar ends in 2012 that’s what it’s about.

What was the most challenging aspect of the visual effect work?

Roland: I actually attempted 7-8 years ago to make this movie and I did some research and we learned it’s not possible yet. So we actually had to wait until now and I can tell you I’m really very proud of these visual effects because I convinced the studio to give us enormous amounts of time. You know for a studio it’s a big risk because not only it’s expensive it’s like they want to have 2-1/2 years. But I’m happy that I did it because it took nearly a year to build a mammoth in the computer. A year. And then you have no shot. You have only like a turntable and some sort of software and then you apply this to the shot and that took another year. And when we had our first mammoths we were really, really excited about how it looked but there was good news and bad news. There was the good news, but the bad news it took 12 hours to render one frame. And I said, well what does this mean? I said like anybody good in math? We were really like with a calculator calculated that we cannot finish this movie in time so we had to do something. It was really kind of funny because at one point we said, what could we do? What could we do? Then somebody in the room said maybe less hair. I said what? Then we tried it out you know like 10% less hair, 20% less hair and we realized 40% less hair, you started to see it. So we did like 35% less hair. You know and that made it possible but we still I think 6-8 hours of rendering time per frame. So we had to work really, really carefully that we rendered every mammoth’s extra and then what’s left sometimes the only way to not re-render, you know?

The problem with the hair?

Roland: Yup.

I’m curious, the films are moving into the 21st century with 3D filmmaking, with Chris Nolan doing some IMAX for “Batman”, as a director are you looking forward to taking some of these innovations into your future films?

Roland: I’ve always like tried to be on the forefront of innovation. I think that “10,000 B.C.” has the most real looking hairy animals you’ve ever seen. But for example, my new movie you know, I was asked do you want to do this in 3D and I said no, because I looked at the system Cameron developed for Avatar and for me the problem with 3D is I have to wear glasses, and I get roughly about ½ hour or 45 minutes into the movie I had a headache. And then I always say there’s no real composition. Everything is like in the room and I always have the feeling it’s a certain big object looks like models. For example, in the T3 ride there’s like a huge truck coming towards you and it looks a model but I know it was real. So I’m very, very skeptical about…and also in the 50’s there was already 3D and this new 3D is the same just done digitally. IMAX, I love because it’s just a bigger format and that is great. Also, especially when you shoot digitally you can have it so that it’s like no grain, which I also really like. I love for example digital projection. I think it’s brilliant.

So would you consider shooting your future films with digital and going away from film and would you consider doing an IMAX—making a whole movie in IMAX?

Roland: Yeah, absolutely, because you can do this now with digital. I’m just a little bit skeptical shooting digital. I would only do this with a film like shot mainly on stages. For “10,000 B.C.” it would have nearly impossible. Then they still have to come up with something to do slow motion.

I have one more question for you but it’s about “2012”. You’ve made a lot of disaster movies. You’re famous for blowing things up. How are you going to raise the bar with “2012” with blowing things up?

Roland: Well, its like I’m not blowing up anything there.

Okay. I heard it was a disaster movie.

Roland: It is.

Right. So?

Roland: It will be a natural disaster.


Roland: It’s not blowing up, it’s something else. Explosives, right. You put into a building or an alien shoots something in—that’s blowing up.


Roland: This time there’s no blowing up. It’s a natural disaster. Well, actually yeah like a…I’m not saying it! I’m giving things away.

continued on page 2 ———->


What kind of historical investigation about the Mayans are you making?

Roland: Well it’s just a fact that the Mayan calendar ends 2012 on the 21st of December, but that’s only like a side thing. This is only like a part of the story. There are a lot of other people that also said it’s going to end in 2012, you know the I-ching, Nostradamus, a lot of people, the Bible by the way, anyhow.

Did you watch the Raquel Welch film with the similar title?

Roland: Yeah.

What did you think? Is there anything that you’ve taken from the…?

Roland: Yeah, when I said I kind of …there’s a warning that’s what cheesy is…try to avoid cheesy after this movie. I said it’s a little bit like “1 Million BC” but it’s also…look it’s like this— for me it was an example and also in “Clan of the Cave Bears” that when you have a famous actress in a movie or famous actor in a movie it becomes cheesy inevitably and that’s why I avoided having known actors in this movie and opted for like discovering new actors. Because also when you look at George-Jacques Lewis, “Quest for Fire” which I thought was a brilliant movie—has no known actor in there.

When you were casting for this was it a priority to find a blue-eyed actress or did you always think…

Roland: I knew this was a contact lens thing, you know, but I was inspired by this very famous photograph of this girl in Afghanistan and I said that’s how unreal it has to look.

Did you look at a lot of actresses before arriving at Camilla?

Roland: I looked at quite some but when I saw Camilla I knew I have my girl. I had actually seen her act 2 or 3 times when she was a girl. And all of a sudden this beautiful woman walks in and I said, wow. She grew. I tested her with Steven and the chemistry was right and I cast them both.

Also on the Internet, I noticed that you’re referred to as the little Spielberg. How would you feel about that one?

Roland: Derogatory term. I told this one to Spielberg and he kind of cracked up laughing. I said they call me the little Spielberg. I mean come on, you know? But you know how this came because somebody in Spiegel (Germany) after my first student film which was a feature film, said oh my God it’s like a Spielberg growing in our homeland.

It just stuck with you.

Roland: What?

On this title.

Roland: Yeah, but it’s taken a lot how the press works. You know what it’s like I mean, I don’t want to criticize you guys but there’s a lot of kind of research going on on the internet and everybody is like copying from everybody else. Sometimes it happens like this, somebody puts something out there for example, Roland Emmerich does Fantastic Voyage, just everybody believes because its’ written. Nobody asked me and yes it was one of my projects but I have many projects. I have many projects, you know. I have like 10 projects but it was just one. Also wasn’t this movie already 15 years ago or 12 years ago. Nobody kind of remembered that, you know, but everybody keeps not asking so your movie is “Fantastic Voyage” that’s next. I said no. It’s just this whole thing that yeah, I mean you know and I have to say I like kind of get a lot out of the internet too, for example this whole movie I’m doing next was inspired by just the phenomenon of the Internet when you kind of like type in Google 2012, you get 240 million hits. That’s a lot. And it’s just so many people write about it, believe it that like our world comes to an end 2012. I said wow. This is like kind of…and then even I kind of said before I will never do a disaster movie again. I said for this idea I have to do it again.

What is the myth based on now the 2012 world?

Roland: It’s just a coincidence of many very peculiar things, you know. And it’s just a lot of things kind of culminate 2012.

And what’s the main thing that’s linked to 2012 that would make people believe that?

Roland: It started with the Mayan calendar. That was like the main thing.

I’m curious. Is your movie “2012”—well first of all when are you going to be doing casting for that or announcing casting and are you going big A list or are you going for unknowns?

Roland: No, I don’t go real A—no, actually, why am I saying that? I don’t know yet. I mean, I really don’t know yet.

And is this going to be…

Roland: I’m actually meeting on Monday with my casting director.

Are you…is this a mega-budget kind of film or is this a…I’m just curious the scale of what this is going to be?

Roland: Well, it’s really hard to say. Yes, it will be very expensive, but I think it will be for a price because people who read the script said this is undoable. And I said, well but we’ll do it. I mean it’s one of these things that everybody says its undoable because it’s like you know you see the whole world go to shit and it’s kind of one of these things when I write a script and I wrote it again with Harold together, we just said no, we’ll not think is it’s doable or not, we’ll just write it. We’ll just come up with it. And then we’ll figure out how we’ll do it. I think it’s worth doing it because it’s also when you have something where you have adrenalin because you are like nervous about it that’s good. That’s a little bit like…it’s good when actors have this adrenalin when they go on stage. I think they do their best work, you know and for us it’s the same thing, you know.

I know the script went out and there was a lot of people thinking about making it. I believe you ended up with Sony. What was it about Sony that made you pick them?

Roland: Well, it’s always kind of like about release schedule. That’s what it’s mainly about.

It seems like you have the perfect formula for the perfect poster, I mean, what do you have in mind when you write the stories because you always have like the children, the romance, the big father…

Roland: Well, I have like a computer program at home. I only put in like “stone age” you know and “10,000 B.C.” comes out. It’s a lot of…first of all as a director you have certain things, you know. Look it’s the same thing when Woody Allen—look at all his movies. They’re very similar. Or like an Alfred Hitchcock had very similar…you know? A certain language you have and you can’t escape your own personality. You always come back to the same themes. For example, I’m obsessed about father/son relationships because I had a very, very good relationship with my dad. He was some sort of mentor to me. And because of that I have a lot of father figure and then you know this whole…I always wanted to do a hero myth. And just the fact that I know so much about it and tried to re-create it and it’s really, really difficult so we worked very, very hard and very long on the script because it all seems very simple but then when you look at it very careful there’s a lot of themes in it and everything had to somewhat interact. You know, there is no formula it’s just my taste. It’s not that I say okay, let’s take this element, this element, this element and boom we have a successful movie. That’s not how it works.

(inaudible) new mythology if you like it?

Roland: Yeah, I’d love to. I mean, I’m always kind of like saying to everybody who…there’s always these distracters who say this is totally unrealistic, you know? And I say, so is “Lord of the Rings”. Middle earth is not existing, you know. We’re like artists. I see myself as an inventor of stories and not trying to do documentaries, you know? I also think historical movies are always wrong. Look at a movie I absolutely love is “Gladiator”. At the end of “Gladiator” they re-install the Senate. They return to Roman Empire back into democracy, wow! And nobody caught it. You know it just made sense for the story.

Don’t you think that’s why people want to go to the movies for nowadays anyway is for escapist entertainment?

Roland: Well it does. I think on one hand escapist but on the other hand I also think films have to have something to do with our life. When they don’t reflect…for example I’m very, very proud, as our hero is actually a hero who unifies. You look very carefully; there are no heroes in this world anymore who unify. There’s no Gandhi anymore and that’s one of the true heroes. People who brought people together.

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