Don’t Call Roland Emmerich the Master of Disaster: Director Talks Taking His Epic Sci-Fi Past the Studio – Screens
Roland Emmerich on the set of moon fall, but don’t call it a disaster movie. “For me, it’s more of a space movie.” (Photo by Reiner Bajo)
Independence Day. Two days later. 2012. Roland Emmerich has become synonymous with disaster films. Yet even though his last, moon fallsees yet another extinction-level event befall humanity, it’s clear he hasn’t always been comfortable with that locker.
Reasonable, considering his career has included historical dramas like The Patriot and Half-wayprehistoric adventure 10,000 BCand sci-fi action movies like stargate and universal soldier. Yet even though his films wouldn’t qualify as disaster films if his name weren’t attached to them, films like white house down are always perceived as such. Emmerich sighed a little as he thought back to writing his last film. “I remember we had an idea of a global flood, and I said (to co-writer Harald Kloser) ‘I’m not making this movie. They’ll forever call me the master of disaster.”
He’s laughing. “But the more I wrote about it, the more I fell in love with it.”
Then yes, moon fall does exactly what the title promises, as the Moon falls to Earth. But what Emmerich was really doing was a full-scale sci-fi movie, as the unlikely team of discredited astronaut Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson), rising NASA bureaucrat Jocinda Fowl (Halle Berry), and the plot KC Houseman (John Bradley) discovers that our lunar neighbor isn’t just a big ball of rock.
About a decade ago, Emmerich’s flood movie script took a drastic change of direction when he read a copy of Who built the Moon?, a book that proposes the idea that the Moon is actually an artificial structure. “It completely changed my thinking,” he said. “I thought, ‘Oh my god, that thing up there could be built? That’s an interesting idea.'”
Austin Chronicle: Seems like you developed a bunch of slippery movies in front of the studio telling them it’s a disaster movie when it’s not really a disaster movie.
Roland Emmerich: For me, it’s more of a space movie. I’ve always said it, but they love the disaster element. When the Earth collapses, they are always happy.
THAT: There’s something in the mentality of the producer, “Does the world stop? Then we can put that on screen.”
D: When you see it, every Marvel movie or every comedy movie, it’s the same system. There is always a superhero saving the Earth, but the whole world must be in peril.
THAT: But you have a long history of making scientists the saviors of the world.
“The world has gone mad. … No one believes in science, and that’s madness. -Roland Emmerich
D: I’m from Germany, and we don’t have superheroes. Now maybe, but when I grew up there was only Asterix and ObelixWhere Tintin, so I didn’t grow up with it. So I always try to put relatively smart in movies. Because it’s always great in movies when you have clever dialogue where you can also learn something.
It’s interesting to me how the world has gone crazy, with these big groups of QAnon followers and anti-vaxxer movements. What is going on? No one believes science, and that’s the crazy part.
THAT: You even have a conspiracy theorist in KC Houseman, but the thing is, he really has the research to back it up.
D: And he always dreamed as a child of being an astronaut, and everyone laughed at him. But he gets his wish. I love this character because he’s just this big kid who’s always excited about stuff.
“He was the secret hero.” Roland Emmerich on moon fallconspiracy theorist/scientist KC Houseman, played by John Bradley.
THAT: And in many ways, he’s more of a protagonist than Brian or Jocinda.
D: And you can only have that if you have actors who really understand. I had a lot of resistance to casting John Bradley because it’s such an out of this world idea to do that. They always said “No” [but] Both Patrick and Halle knew he was the secret hero, and only when you have actors who understand that can you have a movie like this.
THAT: But it’s still a disaster movie, and people want big sets. What is your approach to creating these scenes here?
D: It’s kind of born from the When worlds collide. I have a real fondness for this film, only there they have to leave the Earth. For me, it was these extremely large objects almost bumping into each other, and if you show that too much, it gets boring after a while. So you strategically insert those big moments. Then you have to find something equally exciting on the Moon, so it’s this idea of something chasing you inside and outside the Moon, so you have this nice correlation. If I had shown more destruction on Earth, things wouldn’t have worked out.
moon fall is in theaters now. Find our review and schedules here.