Last week it was announced that Roland Emmerich's long-awaited sequel to "Independence Day" will finally become a reality: the film is set for release on July 3, 2015. So when Emmerich -- who is promoting his new action movie, "White House Down" -- dropped by The Huffington Post's New York City offices on Tuesday, well, yes, we had a lot of questions about the film, including who's coming back for the sequel.
First, though, Emmerich's got "White House Down" on his mind. The new film stars Channing Tatum as a police officer who inexplicably finds himself protecting the President of the United States (played by Jamie Foxx) after terrorists take over the White House. Emmerich is aware that this isn't the first "overthrow the White House" movie of the year ("Olympus Has Fallen" came out in March), and the director doesn't mince words about how he feels about this situation.
In our long conversation, the straight-shooting Emmerich explains in detail why Will Smith won't return for his "Independence Day" sequel (after he fought Fox for the right to cast him in the first movie, a detail not lost on Emmerich), reveals how the idea came about, and what other familiar faces we'll see in the new film. Emmerich also discusses Jim Carrey's recent decision to back out of of promoting "Kick-Ass 2" and reflects on one of his most critically panned films, "Godzilla," and how that movie has everything to do with "Deep Impact" and Armageddon."
I enjoyed the White House tour guide in this movie. He references "Independence Day."
Yeah, the White House tour guide, Nick Wright -- who actually got the job because he is a really good improviser. And he improvised in his first reading the line, "the famous building in the middle, which got blown up in 'Independence Day.'"
So that wasn't your line?
That was him.
Did you have any reservations about being self-referential?
No. When we shot it, he didn't do it. And then I said, "Do what you did in the audition." And he said, "Really?" And I said, "We always can cut it out since we have the other takes." And, naturally, it stayed in the movie because it's a laugh. Also, it shows you that the movie doesn't take itself too seriously.
Is that you poking fun at yourself?
Yes. Because I know I'm famous for blowing up the White House.
It doesn't blow up this time.
No. Everybody says, "Oh, you blew up the White House again."
You didn't. It's on fire.
It didn't even burn down.
I do like that these characters live in a universe where they can watch "Independence Day."
[Laughs] It's a parallel universe.
In the next "Independence Day," those characters should reference "White House Down."
I can't, because that's a true parallel universe.
Did you see "Olympus Has Fallen"?
Why does that happen? Two "White House is captured" movies?
I always said that. When we had two volcano movies and two meteor movies, I thought, "Are they stupid?" But now I'm in the same situation. I had committed to this film, I had cast Channing Tatum ... all of a sudden, someone says to me, "Oh, this other movie just got a director finally." I said, "What other movie?" Everybody knew, besides me. I said, "Oh, this is a problem." And it was a problem. It seriously hurt our movie because a lot of people will say, "Why should I see two of those movies?" Even though I think they're probably very different from each other. On the other hand, then they watch the sixth and seventh part of "Fast and Furious" -- it's not so different, six from seven or five from four.
To be fair, seven isn't out yet.
Oh, I don't even know how many there are.
Seven is next summer.
See, that's how connected I am. I live in a parallel universe.
A lot of directors don't admit publicly when they think this kind of thing hurts their movie.
That's stupid. Sure it hurts us ... there's no doubt about it.
Before the "Independence Day 2" announcement, I thought you'd do "Singularity" next.
We are actually writing as we speak on that.
What about the Stonewall project?
While I'm here, I'm going to use my time in New York to meet with the writer tomorrow. We have a first script, it's very good but it's not good enough.
But the sequel to "Independence Day" comes next?
It's probably next, yeah. They set a date, which is always a good sign.
You make a lot of action movies. I am curious about your thoughts on Jim Carrey renouncing his involvement with "Kick-Ass 2," citing gun violence.
It's odd. That's just odd. I mean, as an actor, he has to know what kind of movie this is -- there's a script there. And then all of a sudden say, "No, I'm not doing this because it glorifies violence." I mean, that's a little bit weird. On the other hand, maybe it's a very clever marketing ploy to put this movie on the map. I believe if something is wrong with our society, we should all together figure out a way how -- first of all -- to have less guns out there. Then the video game industry should move away from these shoot 'em ups -- I mean, there's a lot of "boom, boom, boom" and people fall. All of these games -- and you score higher the more you shot. And, like, 8-year-old kids play that. That is desensitizing. In a movie, there's good, there's bad ... you know, there's a certain morality to it. There are emotions involved, there are characters involved, people mourn for people who are dead.
Where did this "Independence Day" sequel come from all of a sudden last week?
Nothing comes out of nowhere in a director's life. I've been talking about an "Independence Day" sequel since we made this movie. And I always said, "Nah, there's no sequel possible." At one point I wrote -- with Dean Devlin -- a script, which we got money for. And then when we read it ourselves, we said, "Let's give the money back." Then, when I did "2012," I realized all of a sudden, "Oh my God, what can you do now with computers?" You can create water and fire -- breaking apart buildings -- it's just a new world out there. All of a sudden, it popped in my mind.
Aside from the effects, was there a story that you liked?
That, too. Because of that, a great idea of expanding "Independence Day" to more like -- if you want to do a sequel, the studio doesn't only want to have another film. They want to have a franchise. If you want to create a franchise, which "Independence Day" could be, then you have to expand the mythology behind it. Why did the aliens come? What does their culture look like? What does that mean? And I had a couple of really, really good ideas with Dean together ... then, like it was in the first movie when we talked about that idea, after three days, the whole script was roughly together -- and the same thing happened again. And I realized now it's time to do it.
Will it start 19 years later?
Yes. It's totally a parallel universe. That's all that I'm saying.
You've already said that Will Smith won't be back. I'm assuming there was some contact with him?
It's a very simple thing. We gave him our very first script and he liked it very much. He said, "Look, I don't want to go there anymore because I was a different person than I am now. And I have so many other projects that I want to do." At that time he wanted to make two movies at the same time. Then, naturally, his demands were-- I would say, I have to go down with my demands, too, because I don't own this. The studio owns this. And he was just saying "No, I don't care, this is what I want," and that's it. Then I kind of thought, This will never happen. A lot of my friends said, "You don't need Will. I would go watch it without Will."
It wasn't his movie before. It was an ensemble.
It was an ensemble piece.
He wasn't a big star before "Independence Day."
No. We had to fight for him. Fox was not so happy that we took him in this part.
They didn't want him?
No, no. They would have cast other actors. But it always happens like that. It's interesting, because it became a much bigger movie since we know Will is not in there.
Is that why it's supposed to be two more movies?
No. We are just going to do the next one and see what happens. We could theoretically go on and on and on -- because there's a bigger mythology to it. There's a bigger theme to it and that for me is more exciting than one character. And I will cast a couple of actors who I really like, you know what I mean? I'm always a fan of certain people.
Who are you a fan of?
No, I cannot.
You like someone like Channing Tatum.
Well, yeah, Channing. I always like people who are not usually doing these kind of movies. Like a Maggie Gyllenhaal in "White House Down."
Like Jeff Goldblum in "Independence Day."
Or Judd Hirsch.
Is Judd Hirsch coming back?
Yes. I think so.
And I saw that Goldblum and Bill Pullman are coming back.
I assume it's too late for Boomer.
The dog would be dead. [Laughs] Yeah, that would be interesting.
It's frustrating that Will Smith turned you down and turned down a movie like "Django Unchained."
He turned "Django Unchained" down. I couldn't believe it.
Did that surprise you?
Totally. Who doesn't want to work with Tarantino?
Of your movies, the one I'm not a huge fan of is "Godzilla." And I'm not alone. Why did that movie not work?
I'm always testing movies a lot -- and we had no time to test. It was also, probably, a situation that I was a little bit talked into it. At that time I had an idea about a movie about a meteor striking Earth. And I had a whole idea how to do it. One of my all-time favorite movies is -- oh, what is it called? I had a little too much to drink yesterday. The one about the astronauts ...
"The Right Stuff"?
"The Right Stuff"! I wanted to do something like "The Right Stuff," combined with a meteor strikes Earth. So, you have to go up there on a mission. I had this whole thing planned out and a lot of people said, "You can do this after 'Godzilla.'" And that was a really big lesson for me because there were two movies after that.
"Deep Impact" and "Armageddon."
And I would have beaten them both.
Is it fair to say that your heart wasn't in "Godzilla" as much as your other movies?
I don't know. Also, I'm not really a fanboy. So, I was changing Godzilla. The original, how Godzilla looked, didn't make sense to me.
And now they're rebooting that.
It will be very interesting to see how they make him look. It was inspired by some Ray Harryhausen movies -- stop-motion animation movies. They were a big hit in Japan and the Japanese just wanted to do their own version. They couldn't do stop-motion animation, so they just built a big suit and put a stuntman in -- and that's why it's so bottom heavy. That's why it looks a little bit silly. [Laughs] The most embarrassing moment of my life, I was in Japan to show Toho -- who owns the copyright for Godzilla -- my new Godzilla. Before I did the presentation, they brought me to the Toho studios and there was Godzilla standing there with a sign around his neck that said, "Mr. Emmerich, I'm ready for your shooting call."
That's what I said. Wow.
He never got his shooting call.
No, he didn't.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.