‘I have the best job in the world’: Roland Emmerich

With Independence Day: Resurgence set for release in India, Roland Emmerich tells me that he is finally free to visit the country again

There’s a huge market here for your kind of disaster films.

Yeah? Do you know I got sued by an Indian writer for copyright infringement after the release of Independence Day? I couldn’t travel to India for the longest time. His novel was about a good alien, and I was like, what about Steven Spielberg?! His alien film came out earlier, didn’t it? (Laughs) But we have won the lawsuit. My boyfriend and I have always wanted to travel there. Maybe we will now.

Do you like to travel a lot? Do you think the exposure makes your films universal?

I am quite well-travelled. When you make the films I do, you have to think beyond Hollywood. It helps that I’m European; my sensibilities are different. I want to please the whole world, not just America.

I guess that’s why you usually have reaction shots of people from across the world in your films: a group of Nepalese monks praying, a group of Indians bracing for the disaster…

Yes, it’s a shorthand technique to portray global destruction.

Perhaps there are also business considerations at play here?

(Laughs) China is a huge market, definitely, and so, a Chinese element is always beneficial. That’s why when we weren’t sure where to place the arks in 2012, we thought, “Hey, let’s do it near Himalayas, near China.” They’re good at building big stuff.

That’s also probably why you’ve cast a Chinese actress, Angelababy, in this film.

Originally, we thought we will have a Chinese space station in the moon. And then, we said, “Let’s have a Chinese moon commander.” We decided to make the character a pilot instead. “Well, how about a female pilot? Oh cool! That means we can now make an important male character fall in love with her!” (Laughs) There are so many things we have to think about when making these films.

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It must rankle that critics don’t get too excited about these films.

When they fail to recognise how difficult it is to make these films, that’s annoying. I take these films extremely seriously, and respect those who make them. These films provide jobs to so many people. At least 10,000 people, across countries like New Zealand, Canada, and England, worked on Independence Day: Resurgence.

Did you consider making this film earlier?

Well, I was asked again and again to consider making this sequel. The technology has changed so much now; I feel like I can film anything. Two decades is a good time; it means that we can introduce the film to a new generation. Ten years would have been too short.

The first one was about an alien attack. You’ve spiced up the sequel by also bringing in benevolent aliens.

You have to keep the story interesting. I liked the bit in the film where the humans try to attack the helpful aliens. That sort of thing happens a lot in life. The film also shows the existence of a refugee planet; this opens up possibilities for further sequels.

There’s a third film?

Maybe, maybe not. I guess that depends on how successful this film is. Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of sequels.

Why make this then?

Well, though Stargate put me on the map, Independence Day gave me the freedom to do all types of films.

Aren’t you worried about getting typecast as the ‘disaster films director’?

Not at all. Would you ask Woody Allen why he’s making the films he does? Or Hitchcock why he did thrillers? I love these films.

I’m a dreamer, and I have the best job in the world. It allows me to create worlds that only exist in my head, and show them to you in 2D and 3D… and maybe one day, in Virtual Reality.

But I’m also interested in historical fiction. I had awesome fun creating the medieval world for Anonymous. So, it isn’t all about VFX.

That explains why you make films like Stonewall in between.

They provide me with a bit of relief too. But on the other hand, I do feel like I’m missing something when I do them. There aren’t too many who can make VFX-heavy films, you know. Directors earn that privilege by scaling up slowly.

And it takes a lot of imagination too. I hate it when people think it’s just about blowing up things. It’s also about figuring out how you want to do it. Do you want to blow it up? Do you want to throw stuff down?

Or pull it all upwards, like in this film?

(Laughs) Yes. You have to let your fantasy flow. I’m not into comic books, and always have a tough time understanding how superheroes wearing funny-looking clothes have their powers. But these films… I’m into them.

This article was written for The Hindu. All copyrights belong to the organisation. Do link to this page if you’d like to share it.

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