White House Down director Roland Emmerich is ramping up for the sequel to Independence Day, due to hit theaters two decades after its release, and the German director fills ETonline in on what's in store for the long-awaited follow-up – and whether or not the White House will be safe from a new alien invasion!
"They're rebuilding the White House," he says of the new movie's plot, "and then that's kind of the question, will it be destroyed again?" He adds cheekily, "I will not answer that."
Still trying to determine if the film will have a 2015 or 2016 release, Emmerich explains, "We want to bring the whole old cast back and do something new. It's similar to the first film – it's an ensemble cast, but it's also a little bit like a celebration of 20 years of Independence Day included in the film. … It's a little like a parallel universe – our world 20 years after the attack. It's very interesting, because what do we do with the alien technology? Do we think they'll come back? … You want to have it feel very familiar to the first one – that's why you bring everybody back and you also want to play on what people have seen in the movie – it's one of the most-watched movies ever in history, so you can actually play with that."
Originally intended to be two movies, Emmerich says plans have changed: "We felt it was too arrogant," he laughs. "It's also grueling to shoot movies back-to-back. … When you do two movies back-to-back, as a director, you work at it for four years, and I kind of said, 'No, I don't want to do that.' Singling out Peter Jackson and his commitment to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies, all shot back-to-back, the disaster-movie maestro jokes that he doesn't want to end up "looking like" his films, chuckling, "I don't want to look like an alien."
Two scripts are said to be at the ready – one with Will Smith's character, one without -- and Emmerich says, "You wouldn't believe how many versions there were of the script [over the last two decades]. Ultimately we wanted it to be surprising and fresh, you know, but exactly like the first film. That's a very, very difficult thing. I have the greatest respect for anybody who does good sequels."
Back in the '90s Emmerich famously followed up Independence Day with his own take on the classic kaiju Godzilla, and he tells ET that he's "so curious" to see the new big-screen take on the monster celeb, due in theaters next May.
"I think they made a very interesting and gutsy choice in [director Gareth Edwards], who had only done one movie as a low-budget film," says Emmerich. "I'm interested to see how they show Godzilla."
Emmerich says that due to copyright obstacles, he was not able to make his Godzilla look anything like the classic Toho Pictures character. "The director before me, Jan de Bont, couldn’t [make the movie] because it looked funny – [the monster] was very bottom-heavy, and I said, 'That's not good.' I just made my own Godzilla and had to go [to Japan] with the [small-scale model] – [the studio execs] all crowded around, and the next day they said, 'Okay, you can make your Godzilla, but we will still make the old Godzilla.' So it was a really unique situation, and some people loved it and some people hated it, but I kind of thought it’s the only way I could make this movie. … I don't know what they did [for the new movie]. I'm so curious how Godzilla will look, because if it's the old Godzilla, I hope they will also do a new [design]."
Of course, following the destruction of the White House in ID4 and 2012, the president's home takes yet another beating in Emmerich's latest summer action-thriller White House Down, which hits Blu-ray and DVD Tuesday, and the director says that the chemistry between stars Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx is what made the shoot a true joy and a creative collaboration.
"They, at the end, were the best friends, and that's always great because you feel that onscreen," says Emmerich, who says that Jamie, looking all buff coming off of filming Django Unchained and restricted to wearing presidential suits, was constantly telling Channing how to stand for the camera to best see his muscles. Emmerich laughs, "I was like, 'Guys, can you stop this?!!!'"
Having Channing as exec producer on the film was also a benefit, as, "He was there even five minutes before he had to be there, because he had input for the film, he felt responsible for the film, and that made me listen to his suggestions. … So on my films it is a big collaboration. Everybody is pitching in."
Production on White House Down began shortly after a very similar film in concept was underway -- the Gerard Butler/Aaron Eckhart starrer Olympus Has Fallen -- and Emmerich reveals, "I was not happy. … I'm always asking, 'Why is Hollywood constantly doing two movies of the same thing?' But I had already cast a main actor, we had already started building sets. There was no way to stop." He adds, fairly, "They had a much shorter shooting schedule than we had; I knew that they would be first out of the gate. In America it did better than us, and in foreign we did better. "
White House Down hits Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital Tuesday, November 5 with over an hour of bonus features including a gag reel and nine behind-the-scenes, making-of featurettes.