Maybe it's because he's best known for blowing up the White House in "Independence Day," but when director Roland Emmerich turned to the West Wing for help in making "White House Down" — his new film about the White House overrun by terrorists — he got the cold shoulder. "We applied for shooting permits and were denied," Emmerich says with a laugh. "I don't know why, it's strange."
If the plot sounds familiar, it may be because there has already been one movie about terrorists taking over the White House this year. Given the success "White House Down" has already enjoyed, is Emmerich worried about comparisons? "No, not really worried. I mean, maybe a little bit because naturally I would've been much happier being the first out, but also I didn't want them to rush it," he says. "I'm not terribly concerned. Hopefully it will work. We'll see June 28 if this will go over nicely."
The fact that there are two White House takeover movies so close to each other is a total coincidence, Emmerich insists. "I had a White House project with Sony for 10, 15 years, and it never came together for several reasons. And so when they bought this spec script by Jamie Vanderbilt, they immediately thought of me and sent it to me the same day they bought it," he says, explaining that work started very quickly on his new project. "And then all of a sudden people said, 'There's another movie,' and I said, 'Really?' And then I was so deep into it I couldn't really get out of it. And I also didn't want to."
But what is a coincidence, according to Emmerich, is the fact that movies with the president as a hero weren't as popular while Bush was in the White House as they are now or they were under Clinton. "It's not jingoistic when somebody like [Clinton or Obama] is in the White House to do a White House movie," he says. "And also these are smart people and you can make them smart characters, which naturally was a little bit difficult under Bush."
A quick glance at Roland Emmerich's filmography turns up an interesting fact: Just about everything he's done has been an original film — not based on other source material or an existing franchise. It makes him something of an anomaly, of which he's well aware. "It's very hard to get original movies done these days," he says. "People tend to just like franchises. I don't know what it is — and all over the world. It's not just in America."
But don’t expect him to change his ways anytime soon: "I have, for example, a hard time making a movie about a comic book hero because I didn't grow up with comics. For me they kind of inevitably feel silly," he says. "But God, they're incredibly successful."