Long live the blockbuster

Roland Emmerich defends the genre in Deauville.

by Richard Mowe

Jamie Foxx as the US President and Channing Tatum as his security officer in White House Down.
Jamie Foxx as the US President and Channing Tatum as his security officer in White House Down.

Following the audience response to White House Down, After Earth, and The Lone Ranger, big-budget blockbusters appear to have to bombed at the box office this summer. Can the genre survive? The team from White House Down, a high concept actioner by master of the genre Roland Emmerich which stars Jamie Foxx as an Obama-style President and Channing Tatum as a security services hero trying to save the Free World and his daughter, defend the state of play before tonight's (Sunday 1 September) premiere at the Deauville Festival of American Cinema.

This seems to have been the summer when the American public have reacted less enthusiastically to blockbusters than in previous years. Do you think the tide has turned and the public are looking now for more intimate fare?

RE: It was a very busy summer for big movies - may be too busy but I would not count out the summer blockbuster phenomenon because of that.

The visual effects are awesome - but have we become blasé about them?

RE: Visual effects these days have become such a natural part of this kind of movie that you do not even think about them any more. You just come up with the plan in terms of the ideas and you have the people who put them into practice. It becomes a totally natural thing. I remember a time when special effects were something super special but they are probably not any more.

Does the fall of the White House symbolise the end of the world. And would it be such a catastrophe?

RE: I think it would be a more political catastrophe which would affect the whole world - that's for sure. The whole world would be politically destabilised and that is what the film is saying. It would be a political disaster but it is not the end of the world.

Foxx and Tatum seem to be typed in to playing archetypal characters - respectively as a hero, because of circumstances and in Channing's case as the rough and tumble guy who beats people up. Do you feel comfortable with these images or would you prefer a wider range?

JF: In my career I think I have been blessed by playing all types of characters. I used to really want to be Will Smith because Will did all these great big physical roles, but he looks better at doing it than I do. I just want a character with some meat on his bones - basically I just like to work and get a cheque. As long as you are working you will take whatever you can get.

CT: I would second that (about picking up the pay cheque and working). I think I have been kind of lucky not to have only played those action kind of roles. I have also played comedies and love stories. It is all about changing, doing different things and I would like to keep it fresh.

Your films are usually entertaining action flicks, but you also like to focus audience attention on political and ecological subjects. Do you consider your films as subversive forces. And how do you know who are the appropriate choices as actors because you like harmony on set?

Roland Emmerich, director of White House Down.
Roland Emmerich, director of White House Down.

RE: My neighbour is Taylor Hackford and he told me good things about Jamie. There was nobody in my neighbourhood who knew Channing but he has a very good reputation in this industry and everybody loves him and now I know love him too. I always like to put something in my movies that goes beyond entertainment and that you become aware of something that is important for our lives which is a good thing right?

Did President Obama see the film and what did he think of a President with a gun?

JF: (Being ironic) President Obama saw the movie and he loved it and he said it was one of his favourite films of all time. And, of course, America is the most incredible country in the world ...

This is the third time you have destroyed the White House. What have you got against it and the American government?

RE: I have nothing against the White House. I am very critical sometimes of politics and certain kinds of politics and that is expressed in the movie. It was interesting for me to do because it was the first time I had to concentrate on one location and luckily it was such an interesting one.

Will there be a sequel to Magic Mike?

CT: Yes there will be a sequel - a Magic Mike 2. And quite possibly there is a gentleman sitting to my right (Jamie Foxx) who might be in it. We are starting to write it later this year. And probably this time next year we will shoot it.

Was the effect of being a father in life and being one in the film an extra incentive?

CT: Yes I recently became a new dad and this was serendipitous. I thought it was interesting and yet a simple motivation for the main character. He was helping to save the free world through the love of his daughter. We just became two human beings trying to get out the situation, both dads, and making an effort to get back to our families. It becomes a human story against the bigger scope of the political and terrorist plot.

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