Masterclass of Roland Emmerich, hollywood director

Fnac montparnasse, on the 29th of October 2011 for the release of Anonymous

Roland Emmerich is a German director who has managed to establish itself in Hollywood, with films such as Independence Day, 2012 and Anonymous. It is also regarded as one of the directors of the powerlist hollywood. Discover how a simple student of Munich manages to make its place at the top of the pyramid of the filmmakers in success.

We will start with the beginning and a film called The ark of Noah, a film of end of studies of Rolan Emmerich. A film that already announced some thing of the order of blockbuster since instead of 20000 Deutchmark for student films, Roland had managed to exceed 20 million and the film student has had a career that has far exceeded this framework.

In fact the truth is that I’m enrolled in a film school in Munich to become a Production designer, not a director. I got passion for science fiction during my three years of study and I chose, for my graduation film, a science-fiction movie. I followed a group of four other students and we put together our money to do this science fiction movie, except that four people withdrew so I found myself alone. But I always wanted to do the film so I wrote the script by myself, and I’ve submitted it to a professor who has authorized me to submit it to the system of public financing of German cinema. And I had a lot of luck. I was lucky, I had gathered together about 400 000 Deutchmark at this time and finally the film has cost me the double. All ended well because the film has been selected for competition at the Berlin film festival and has then traveled in twenty countries. The four people that I have let go of have to bite the fingers.

Precisely, this film really exceeded what we could have expected. At this time, directors like you and Wolfgang Peterson had begun the development of a German cinema and more international with financial arrangements international and who went out in the world.

Already when I was in this film school, I was called in for commercials, and it is thanks to The ark of Noah that I have acquired a reputation and the makings of a director of feature films fiction but I very quickly realized that the projects to which I aspired I could not be content with the funding of the German state but it was rather as I look at the side of England or of the United States to get funding.

At the time, they were presented as american films, hollywood productions !

Everything was German in the movie, but as they passed by the channel ” Hollywood “, they went to american movies. This is the time or the video sales were the main income of a movie and it was better to present himself as an american film. But this is not only my films. A lot of movies that are considered american or hollywood are not shot in Hollywood.

How do you explain that the German industry did not have a place for directors like you or Wolfgang Petersen, who is also party to Hollywood ?

I must admit that I myself have not found the answer to this question. It is quite mysterious “no man is a prophet in his own country” is said. I have to say that this makes me live in quite difficult situations, to inexplicable. When I’m back in Germany for Independence Day, the same people who had been stigmatized came to sing me praises.

Is it that we are allowed to think that your ticket to Hollywood is done via Mario Kassar, who you hired to “Universal Soldier”?

Rather, it is another hero of the shadows, Robbie Little, who had sold all my films around the world and who was a close friend of Mario Kassar. At the time, or he had just lost Ridley Scott and Sylvester Stallone on this project and that he was a bit bewildered, he turned to Little by asking him if he knew who could take over. And he talked to me, and prompted him to see my last movie, despite the fact that I am German.

There are many filmmakers that european are broken teeth in Hollywood. Is it that you can talk to us about the political game that allowed you to make you not squish it ?

A lot of european directors make a certain type of films, good films, when they are at home and once they are in Hollywood they begin to lose their soul, to do something else, in which does not match, and they lose their identity and / or the films that they used to do and I think that their failure comes from there. I believe that whatever the circumstances one should remain faithful to oneself.

My advantage is that I have not had to change my way of making films, I’ve only seen more and more large.

Precisely, Universal Soldier is before all a success of the video, while Stargate, released just after, will be a real surprise success.

In fact the first film that I had to do in the United States was to be with Stallone. I worked on it for 9 months and I realized as I had to really be a filmmaker because the more we progressed, the less I was attached to the scenario, and the more I wanted to change it, they didn’t let me do it.

I had the guts to stop, and that was something absolutely unheard of, that a director who came from elsewhere to be hired to work on a film with a budget of 80 million dollars, which was huge at the time, decides to stop on his own. I realized that from the time or I didn’t like a scenario, I couldn’t force myself to make a film, and this decision has so marked the spirit of Mario Kassar that he decided to hire me on a different movie.

At the time of Moon 44 and Universal Soldier, many critics have felt that you did not have a personal style, that your films were very similar to what James Cameron did at the time. However, from Stargate, you were doing something that was cleaner.

Yes, indeed, my first film really personnel in the United States it was Stargate. Universal Soldier is not the kind of film that I would have done on my own initiative. The concept was pre-existing, it has been necessary that I adapt. And I would still not make whim after I had already withdrawn from a project on which I had worked for nine months. I even brought my personal touch since we did rewrite quite a radical scenario but still it was me who adaptais to something that already exists. Stargate, on the other hand, was my project fetish, which I wanted since I was in school, an idea that I carried myself and that I had created personally.

On Stargate, you’ve worked with Dean Devlin, with whom you have then made Independence Day and Godzilla. On these three films, there is something that I have always found it to be extremely bright which is the way to put in place the events, to grasp the spectator, preventing him to look away from what is happening, especially during the first few hours. Is a few things to aware of when writing ?

In fact, Devlin has first been an actor on Moon 44 and that is after I chose to work as an author, to write the project here. And, very quickly, something has taken us, this collaboration has worked because for me, a movie that is nothing other than a collaboration between a writer and a director. It really is at this level that something good can be done. And what was remarkable between us is that we inspired each other and we were able to work this way by being modest, we are not for geniuses, but by being aware that we were anything other than craftsmen and artisans must practice, practice until you improve. And it is in this spirit that we have managed to form the team that we are.

Another peculiarity of our tandem is that at the time I was still very european, I had a great look outside of north America and Dean Devlin was much more the inner vision of the United States, which created sometimes fiction between us but was still very buoyant.

On these films, what were your inspirations main ?

Let’s talk first about Stargate. I think it was really the first time that I had the idea to invent a character who has faith in an idea against all odds and that, ultimately, it is he who has reason. This profile of a character became recurring on my films later and I had this idea, this intuition, but without the work of Dean, I would not have been able to make it a element also important of the story I think.

The other thing that Dean has always encouraged is my visual sense. He has always told me that when we were working together I had images, visions that to him were new and exciting. After Stargate, I went to see him, saying that I wanted to make a film about an Alien invasion and he told me ” No, please, not another film on this subject “. And once I started to put images and a vision in relation to this idea, it completely changed his point of view on the issue as he said that nobody had ever given to see such images on this idea.

You said earlier that you see start out as a production designer. So you certainly get your say in the design. Is it that you can tell us a bit about your collaboration with someone like Patrick Tatopoulos with which you created a few creatures memorable.

From the beginning I knew that I was a man of the picture, what interested me in the cinema it was the visual dimension, a lot more than the writing. Little by little, trying to improve myself and to work the different aspects of my profession, I am interested more to the writing and the story. But the meaning of the image and visual creation is what remains predominant in me. When I started to work on Independence Day I actually had the idea of this collaboration with Patrick, who had already created all of the masks in ancient egypt. I knew immediately that for all the visual work of aliens it would be to him that I would trust the work.

We will now discuss some of the things that will make you happy I think, your relationship with the critics. As of Independence Day, we had two characters who bore the names of real american critics, and I have the impression that from The Patriot, your attempt to step away from the formula that had made your success, you are not missed…

I really don’t know what I’ve done, I don’t know why they don’t like my films. There are a few rare exceptions, criticism of intelligent people who like my movies, my the majority, the normal critical, the hate. I have an explanation that may be my entrance to the cinema, I started with a film such as Universal Soldiers and I believe that, in the eyes of critics it is a condemnation irrevocable. Once we started with a film like this, we should not, in their eyes, to do something better. And me I love this movie, I do not deny.

What seems amazing is that eventually you’re going to have it easier to seduce her with small things. A movie like The Day After, for example, resembles in many aspects to those you were doing in the 90’s but is it possible to add a hint of news, a serious topic of the moment as ecology, which is enough to seduce this criticism.

For me The Day After that was a turning point. I realized that the age had been more of a concern to have a content, an idea, a message to convey through a film. At this point in my life I was very concerned by the environmental issue and eco-friendly. I read a book titled ” The arrival of the world storm “, written by two science fiction authors. But the subject matter was true and real, the idea that a storm could destroy the planet, and this was very important to me.

Moreover, I was beginning to have the reputation of a patriotic american, and that made me angry. I had to make a sort of statement of my political position. When I wrote the screenplay for the film The Day After, I did the same thing as Indepedence Day, a one-upmanship of my scenario, and so everyone expected that the content would be the same as Independence Day. And when people realized that there was a strong political message, it was already too late to stop the machine.

On your next movies you’re going to have a double collaboration with your composer Harald Kloser, who will also play the role of narrator, on movies that we might call conspiracy. 10000 BC talks about the myth Atlantéen, 2012 apocalypse according to the mayans, and even Anonymous is part of this trend. Is it that you spend your nights on the Internet ?

It turns out that Harald Kloser is one of my oldest friends, well before being a collaborator. I’m always wary when it comes to working with his close friends, I’m too scared of losing them. Just after The Day After, we dinait, and we felt the desire to work together. And to find the inspiration for my films, this is not on the Internet that I’m going, but in bookstores. For me, this is the place where you are has a clear vision of what people are interested in.

On a myth as 10000 BC, is this is a few things that you believed or just a story you want to tell ?

No, I just thought it was an interesting story. It was not for me to do a job of a historian, or to prove or assert something, but just the making of a myth, or a story that interested me.

After 10000 BC is 2012 going to be the huge success that we know. This movie has it been used as a platform to launch yourself in a topic more complicated as Anonymous ?

In fact I read the scenario on which is based this film there are already 10 years old, and I was very impressed by this idea. When you have a blow of heart for a scenario that should not be let go. It was beautiful to be surrounded by an abundance of scenarios in Hollywood, it is very rare that a scenario that happens to capture your heart and your attention. And the other scenario that I came across in the same way it is The Patriot. And the common point of both is that they were dealing with history, a subject that has always been my passion. In Anonymous, which drew me even more is the fact that it deals of an author whose fame is world. The fact that it is the questioning of the authorship of the works of this artist was to me a subject that had never been treated and that I found fascinating.

What I found interesting about Anonymous is that one would have to expect that your usual style is diluted, and finally not at all, it really is a film of Roland Emmerich, at the structural level and the implementation stage. This search for efficiency it is characteristic of you ?

A film, before I can make it, should be first in my head. My goal was to take advantage of the complexity of this plot, this dimension is broad and winding, to take a step back. In general this kind of movie is always filmed with close-ups, close to the beings and faces. For me it was to have wider shots, to open and to give space to this kind of intrigue and to the city of London, so she can show it to you. From this point of view it seems to me that I am actually remained true to my style. It has a lot of characters like in all my films, and a lot of strong images also.

Without too revealing of the plot, there are three main characters : A poet, secret poet and frustrated and a usurper. I have the impression that you identify with three of them at once.

I think it is really about who came to me and by the opposite but I have to say that I was irresistibly attracted to him. I’m probably recognized in part.

The film is not told in a way chronology. It is particularly complex in the back-and-forth. This is something that has been decided from the start or late ?

I wanted to make a film for intelligent people, for the critics, smart to love it !

The film has been very well received by the critics…

Yes, but like all movies it has its detractors. For me, this was the spinal cord of this film, it was the idea that words can change something. This is something that we tend to neglect in our society and I wanted to show that it is necessary to listen to the artists because they have things to say.

Even if the subject of the film may seem scary to the general public. The film remains accessible, without having betrayed the literary quality of the works of Shakespeare. Is there a secret, a trick on the human nature, to be able to interest them in a topic ?

The approach that has been ours has been to tell this story in a very modern way and I think that if this kind of movie is way too intellectual it is because the people who make these movie come to the theatre, and do so in a spirit very theatrical. As we had the cinema, we wanted to give a breath of modern to this story to really convey his heart to the public. It is for this reason that one has turned Shakespeare actor, in kind of a rock star throws into the crowd. There truly is an effect anachronistic in the treatment of the life of Shakespeare, but I think it is the best way to interest the public in this type of character.

What will you do after this film ?

It is already working on my next film, which is called Singularity. It is a science fiction film, a kind of thriller and medical and therefore, it deals with the question of the relationship between man and machine, and the merger.

Did you always intend to make the adaptation of Foundation ?

Yes the project is still there. It is a little more complicated than we imagined, so we just hired a new screenwriter to work on it, and we hope to soon be able to turn it around.

If we replace in September 2001, a certain Tuesday, many people across the world have seen the images on television, and beyond the horror, many have made a connection with your movies. You, as a director of Independence Day in 1996, have you also had this thought, in relation to the collapse of the Empire State building in your film and the thousands of people running in the streets ?

I was in Mexico when it happened and I was shocked like a lot of people, and even more when many people have called me and said to me, ” It looks like one of your films “. At that time, I was writing The Day After, and I immediately stopped. After a year I realized that I was writing for a noble and just cause, the ecology, and so I started again, but with a different approach, without a doubt. Thus, when the huge wave is coming, you cannot see a single building collapse. In other circumstances, it would have been different, as plausible and natural, but I could not. No one had ever seen a disaster of such magnitude to the tv and I think that this has marked our minds and our imaginations at all.

A lot of actors Anonymous, Rhys Ifans, Joely Richardson or Derek Jacobi from the world of theatre. Has this helped you ?

When I started casting, it was clear to me that there is a need for actors in the uk issues of credibility, realism. And this has given me another huge advantage once it has started to turn. In fact, more than a third of this film was shot on bottom green and it is a problem with the film actors who have a habit of scenery real, or at least impaired. Suddenly they have a lot of trouble with this, it is necessary to constantly motivate them and work with them so that they can imagine, the context in which they are while the actors of theatre have no problem with this, which helped me a lot.

Throughout your career you have alternated between films on which you return to often, disaster movies and movies that are exceptions to this such as The Patriot, or 1000 BC or Anonymous. In 2012, you repeat what you did in The day after, that is to say, destroy the world, but you do it even better. And there you go back to Independence in 2 and 3. That is what motivates you to come back on a work that you have already made and magnify it, as if you were not satisfied with what you have done before ?

All directors make the same film genre. Look at Hitchcock, how many movies or suspense to get it done ? For me it is the same, but I’m also looking for a variety. I taste the difference, this is why I come to Anonymous and that I’m going to chain with a thriller medical. And I want, for the 10, 15, 20, or I don’t know how many years of career to make films more diverse

Why have you chosen to turn of Anonymous in Germany rather than England ?

I was looking for the cheapest solution possible. I had already tried to do it 5 years earlier in England, and we had to stop because it was too expensive. Costs were lower in Germany, especially thanks to the tax-benefit system that allowed us to reduce the budget. And for me, it was the perfect excuse to shoot in my native country and I couldn’t ask.

Thank you Mr. Emmerich for giving us your time.

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