35 Things to Know About Roland Emmerich’s WHITE HOUSE DOWN Starring Channing Tatum

     April 10, 2013


Channing Tatum is running across the damaged roof of the White House as fast as he can.  He’s desperately trying to stop Jason Clarke‘s character from firing a rocket launcher.  As he races past debris and rubble scattered all over the ground, he reaches his goal at the lack possible second, tackling Clark and preventing him from firing the weapon.  But as soon as he does, an epic brawl starts, pitting the two leads of Roland Emmerich‘s White House Down in a battle high above the ground.  After some punches, I hear someone call cut.

Let me back up a second.

Last year, when White House Down was filming in Montreal, Sony invited a few reporters to visit the set to talk to the cast and filmmakers.  While I’ve always been a fan of Emmerich’s summer blockbusters (Independence Day, 2012), this was my first time getting to see him work up close.  As you might imagine, it was a very fun experience.  Hit the jump for more.

For those not familiar with the project, the film stars Tatum as a secret service agent who protects the President (Jamie Foxx) when the White House comes under attack.  White House Down also stars Maggie GyllenhaalJason ClarkeRichard JenkinsLance ReddickJames WoodsGarcelle Beauvais, and Rachelle Lefevre.

Here’s the trailer if you haven’t seen it:

white-house-down-poster-channing-tatumAs you can see in the trailer, this isn’t a small movie.  As I learned on set, the production re-created 65% of the White House and they didn’t do it on the cheap.  As we walked around the soundstages, the attention to detail was extraordinary.  They told us they referenced every photograph they could find and then tried to find the actual places that made the materials.  Every piece of wallpaper, the windows, the color of the paint—they tried to match everything to the real White House to add to the authenticity of the film.  Of course, since many parts of the White House are classified, the production did their best to fill in the blanks.  Trust me, when you see the film this summer, the level of detail will blow you away.

In between watching Tatum and Clarke film their huge action scene on the White House rooftop, I did roundtable interviews with Tatum, Emmerich, Production Designer Kirk M. Petruccelli, producers Brad Fischer and Reid Carolin, and Producer/Composer Harald Kloser.

Like I do on most set visits, I put together a big list of things to know about the movie.  Here are the highlights:

  • Tatum met with Emmerich two or three days after the director decided to make the movie.
  • The big draw to the project for Tatum was the father/daughter angle to his character. It was a story about a guy that ends up saving the leader of the free world through the love for his daughter.
  • Tatum did most of his own stunts for the film except for the motorcycles and cars, and possibly a 25-foot fall that he wants to do on his own but that the filmmakers are trying to talk him out of doing.
  • jamie foxx channing tatum white house downTatum says Emmerich knows how to do “big”, but the trick is in making it both big and fun.
  • In order to get Tatum as their lead, the production moved up a month ahead of schedule so they could shoot White House Down before Foxcatcher.
  • Emmerich was in the middle of prepping the sci-fi film Singularity as his next project when Sony asked him to look at the script for White House Down.
  • Emmerich says the film has a different look than all of his other films, and is a “true action movie” in the vein of Die Hard.
  • A lot of wide lenses were used to give the film a “grand” look.
  • There’s a 6-7 minute car chase sequence in the Rose Garden that involves the heavily armored limousine The Beast.
  • Emmerich’s influences on the film include Die Hard, Man on Fire, and a lot of Tony Scott films.
  • Emmerich has previously developed a White House project called One Nation at Sony that had similar elements.
  • Tatum’s t-shirt in the film is a direct homage to John McClane in Die Hard.
  • White-House-Down-Maggie-GyllenhaalThe period of time between when the deal was made with Sony to move forward with the film and its release will be 14 months, which is incredibly fast.
  • The tone is similar to Independence Day in that the serious moments are serious, the scary moments are scary, but the characters are fun and it’s a thrill ride. The stakes are high, though, and the tone is also similar to Lethal Weapon and Die Hard.
  • The tone of the film isn’t so hyper real that it’s scary, it’s supposed to be fun and enjoyable.
  • Tatum and Foxx have a sort of buddy chemistry in the film.
  • The Security Service headquarters is right under the Oval Office and it’s called The Beehive.
  • Once Emmerich came onboard, he tweaked the script a bit in order to flesh out the villain’s motivations and agenda.
  • When Tatum signed on, they built a lot of who he is into his character.
  • All of Tatum’s “ass-kicking” comes from the emotional drive that his character has to save his daughter.
  • White-House-Down-Channing-TatumCertain scenes will be in IMAX.
  • Both the good guys and the bad guys in the film are Americans.
  • Some people at the Pentagon read the script and gave them a tour, but the government couldn’t officially support the production with equipment, etc.
  • The White House Historical Society was able to provide them with high-resolution prints of the oil paintings hanging in the real White House.
  • Some members of the production team and Emmerich met with John McCain and got a tour of the Capitol.
  • Harold says that Emmerich’s “hang-up” with destroying the White House onscreen is the fact that it’s the one symbol in the world that represents power, freedom, and democracy all in one building.
  • In addition to producing, Harold also composed the score for the film.
  • They had to build 45 sets in two and a half months because of the rushed production schedule, including the bulk of the White House, the Pentagon, the Capitol, tanks, aircraft, Marine One, Black Hawks, etc.
  • They shot the entire film on soundstages; none of the first unit shooting was done on location. This was done so Emmerich could have complete control of the exteriors onstage.
  • White-House-Down-Channing-Tatum-Jamie-FoxxIn creating governmental structures that are entirely secret (like the underground structures under the White House), Emmerich and his team had to envision the most realistic designs possible.
  • All of the technologies seen in the film are actual things that exist.
  • There were consultants letting them know if something they were designing was too close to reality and could jeopardize national security.
  • “The Beast” is a protective limousine that’s an 8-foot wide by 22-foot long safe room that was built for President Obama’s administration. It plays a major role in the film, but no one’s seen it so they designed it based on the headlights of a Cadillac Escalade.
  • They weren’t allowed to use the Presidential Seal because it’s copyrighted, so they had to manipulate it slightly to make it legal for them to use.
  • They built two Oval Office sets, one for stunts and one for dialogue.
  • The White House Residence is the set that they built most diligently.
  • They re-created 65% of the White House.

Final Thoughts:

Everything I saw and learned on set tells me White House Down should be a very fun ride.  Furthermore, while Tatum has done a lot of great work over the past few years, I think White House Down is going to show that he can open a big budget action film.  We’ll all know how the finished film turned out and if I’m right on June 28th.

Catch up on all of our White House Down set visit coverage below:

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