His latest film is an action movie on an epic scale starring the most recognizable home on the planet, which is very familiar territory for Emmerich. “Actually, that was the one thing holding me off – I wondered, ‘Can I really do the White House again?’” laughs the man who had aliens blow up the building in Independence Day and sent the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy through it in 2012. “Ultimately, I wanted to tell this story because it features strong characters and a very different and unusual narrative, combining action elements with those of a political thriller of worldwide significance.”
In White House Down, Capitol Policeman John Cale (Channing Tatum) has just been denied his dream job with the Secret Service of protecting President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx). Not wanting to let down his little girl with the news, he takes her on a tour of the White House, when the complex is overtaken by a heavily armed paramilitary group. Now, with the nation’s government falling into chaos and time running out, it’s up to Cale to save his daughter, the president, and the country.
“Obviously, Roland likes to play with symbols and icons,” says producer Bradley J. Fischer. “If you look at the content of the films and the storytelling, his films are big event movies that unfold over a worldwide scale, but they’re also about breaking down ivory towers of one form or another. So, sure, he’s destroyed the White House before, but it’s never been the centerpiece of the film – both in the plot and in the underlying storytelling – the way it is here.”
“This is really a global story,” says producer Harald Kloser, who previously worked with Emmerich as a writer and producer on 10,000 BC and 2012, and composed the music on those films as well as Anonymous and The Day After Tomorrow. “If anybody takes over the White House, they’ll have access to the world’s largest weapons arsenal. A takeover of the White House would for sure trigger a global crisis with unimaginable consequences.”
“When I started this project, I was excited to try to bring back the type of action movie that I grew up with: the ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances having to rise to the occasion,” says screenwriter James Vanderbilt. “Part of the excitement for me was the inherent mystery of the White House. It’s ironic – here’s the most famous, the most iconic building in the world, and yet it remains a place of great mystery for so many people. In that way, it was a perfect setting for an action thriller, because the building always brought that element of surprise.”
Vanderbilt says that Emmerich was a perfect choice for director. “The biggest thing we were able to do right off the bat was get Roland,” he says. “He understands innately how to make this film big, explosive, huge – but also tight and contained, in one location. He focuses first and foremost on story, on the emotional connections between the characters. I think that’s the secret to Roland that nobody realizes: he’s a very emotional director. His stories are all rooted in emotion. If you look at Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, both of those movies are about people trying to reconnect with each other in the face of tragedy. So what was so great about watching him attack the movie was he was always asking, ‘What does Cale want?’ And for Cale, everything is about getting back together with his daughter.”
“When you work on a film with Roland, 5% of the conversations are about the big images and 95% are about what drives the characters, who they are, details about where they come from, where they want to go, who they want to be,” says Kloser. He also notes that once filming begins, Emmerich’s filmmaking skills shine. “I’m always impressed by how he composes his images and how much detail he puts in. When you see it on screen, you see the layers and the depth of his images – which is also a testament to our fabulous director of photography, Anna Foerster. This movie became an action movie with a beauty that I can say hasn’t been done before.”
Opening across the Philippines on July 3, “White House Down” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. Visit http://www.columbiapictures.com.ph for trailers, exclusive content and free downloads. Like us at www.Facebook.com/ColumbiaPicturesPH and join our fan contests.