In Roland Emmerich's upcoming global demolition derby movie 2012, the director gets to indulge his passion for destroying landmarks on a world scale.
In previous movies, he's destroyed the Empire State Building and the White House (Independence Day), sent a giant monster into the middle of Manhattan (Godzilla), blown away the famous Hollywood sign and the Capitol Records building in Los Angeles (The Day After Tomorrow) and savaged New York again by flooding and then freezing it (also The Day After Tomorrow).
In 2012, he takes on landmarks in Rome, Rio de Janeiro and, yes, Washington, but there is one place even he couldn't bring himself to obliterate. We caught up with Emmerich in Jackson Hole, Wyo., where he told us why he chose various landmarks to lay waste in 2012, and about the one that got away.
"I always like I think when it feels very new and original," Emmerich said, adding: "Landmarks are always symbols, just symbols. ... They stand for something."
Herewith Emmerich's favorite landmarks destroyed in 2012 and the one he couldn't blow up (click on the images for larger versions). 2012 opens Nov. 13.
The White House
This time around, he has a giant wave striking it. A wave carrying the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy.
"I think my favorite in this one is like the White House destruction," he said. "I didn't want to go there again, and [co-writer/producer] Harald [Kloser] pretty much convinced me that I have to. And then I was brooding for days and days and days, and then I kind of had the idea: ... I've got JFK kind of coming back to the White House, which I thought was ironic."
Well, not really. It's a cruise ship that rolls over much like the ill-fated ship from The Poseidon Adventure and its recent remake.
"The most striking image for me of any disaster movie was when the ship in Poseidon Adventure rolls over," Emmerich says. "I pay homage to that. ... For me it's always the most striking image of all the disaster movies. Because it's a really big object that rolls over."
The Sistine Chapel in the Vatican
That includes the famous frescoed ceiling by Michelangelo depicting Adam touching fingers with God.
"I always try to come up with what makes sense for the story, you know?" Emmerich says. "And it's not only about the destruction. It has to kind of stand for something. One of my favorite pieces of art is Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel: ... God ... reaches out to Adam, and the crack goes through it. It's just an interesting kind of notion."
St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican
"Why ... don't [we] have the church fall on people's head?" Emmerich said. He added: "The whole Vatican kind of tips and kind of rolls over the people. It said something, because in the story, some people ... believe in praying and prayer, and they pray in front of the church, and it's probably the wrong thing, what they would do in that situation."
Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro
"Because I'm against organized religion," Emmerich says.
The one that got away
Emmerich said that he got approached by people who wanted their landmarks destroyed, such as the 101 Tower in Taipei, the world's tallest building (pictured below).
But Emmerich was thinking of something even more explosive: the Kaaba, the cube-shaped building at the heart of Mecca, the focus of prayers and the Islamic pilgrimage called the Hajj; it is one of Islam's holiest sites.
"Well, I wanted to do that, I have to admit," Emmerich says. "But my co-writer Harald said I will not have a fatwa on my head because of a movie. And he was right. ... We have to all ... in the Western world ... think about this. You can actually ... let ... Christian symbols fall apart, but if you would do this with [an] Arab symbol, you would have ... a fatwa, and that sounds a little bit like what the state of this world is. So it's just something which I kind of didn't [think] was [an] important element, anyway, in the film, so I kind of left it out."