There's a lot of crazy stuff going on in 2012, from grocery stores splitting wide open to giraffes being airlifted over the Himalayas, but Roland Emmerich is smart enough to give us one sane person amongst it all. That person, that beacon of reason, is played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, as a government geologist who sees the destructive events of 2012 coming, and commits himself toward saving as many people as he can before the world is completely done for.
Ejiofor acknowledges that the good-guy scientist has a long history in the disaster movie genre, and says he immediately though of Jeff Goldblum's character from Independence Day when he read the script. Read below for his other feelings on disaster movies, comic books, and why he thinks you should feel hope when you see the world destroyed in 2012. The movie opens this Friday.
Are there any scientists from past big apocalyptic or action movies that are your favorites?
I guess the one that springs to mind for this film would be like Jeff Goldblum's chararacter inIndependence Day. I always felt like those characters in the movies, in that movie, represented what Roland does incredibly well. He combines these kind of iconic imagery and that's great cinema, like visual cinema. You really remember the characters almost as much as the iconic images of like exploding White Houses and the shadows coming over the faces of people in Independence Day. He was one of the characters that I thought about immediately as I was reading the part, even though the characters are so different.
How much credence if any do you give to the Mayan calendar?
The more you read about it the more kind of confused you are. You kind of start to think that maybe there is something in here that I haven't even thought about, and then you look at Nostradamus and then you're looking at even NASA is realizing these articles about the convergence around that date.It seems like sort of an arbitrary date for all these different little coincidences to be happening. But ultimately, I hope that it's possible that people interpret the Mayan calendar as that kind of change in consciousness and the way of looking at the world maybe - humanity's relationship with the planet, whatever. You kind of hope that maybe somewhere that will fit. But obviously, we all hope it's not anything like that.
You fight with Oliver Platt a lot in the movie. How was that?
I had a great time working with Oliver in this movie. He's a really great guy. I hadn't worked with him before and I had never met him before, and I had watched his films and I had always been excited to meet him at some point. He's one of those people who is exactly as affable and charming and nice as onscreen as he is in person, apart from this character where he plays a bit of…he's not morally dubious, I think that's the sense, I think it's like there are two completely different ways of looking at the same thing.
Did you do research into the science behind this? And did you decide yourself 'where would I be if this were happening?'
Yeah. I mean I did decide that I wanted to figure out what I was talking about in the movie and hit the books a little bit with geology and there were people who were able to advise myself and [Harald] Kloser, who wrote the script with Roland, just about the specifics of what would happen, of what was plausible, of what could happen.
Acting-wise I guess that's the first question you ask yourself – how much of this character is in me? Where do I start from? But this shoot was kind of strange because I didn't feel like I'd be one of the people who would be active in any way. I just felt like I would freeze. Like I've been sort of shut down by the enormity of the problem.So all these characters are people who are somehow able to continue. And part of finding out about these characters and trying to play these characters is to work out 'why?' What is it about some people that allows them to function even in crisis and other people cannot. And I guess some of the conclusions we came to is that there are certain people who are, maybe they just have a blind optimism. A faith in something, that they are able to continue feeling that somehow there is gonna be an end to whatever's happening and that they wanna experience that end and they have that sort of optimism and they're hopefully about that. And I think that both my character and John Cusack's character are like that. They are sort of able to engage in the struggle of that because they feel there is some end to it. And there is a lot of people who just wouldn't be able to do that.
Genre fans are always excited when you do a film like Children of Men or 2012 or Serenity. Are there any more genre or sci-fi films in your future?
I hope so. Science fiction is something I've always enjoyed, I've always liked. I was a bit of a fanboy and a comic book fan. And it's been interesting in recent times how the comic books that I enjoyed reading, and certainly the Alan Moore stuff, has become really filtered into the mainstream movie scene. And that's exciting, but you still want there to be the vessel of pure comic book narrative that exists without it being a story board for the movies.
It definitely is a comic book world for movies. Are there any comic book movies you want to be involved in? Have you been called in for any auditions?
I have. I guess I have met up with people about it. But it's hard to generate a comic book concept purely for the movies. I think it takes away something from the fact that it's supposed to be kind of underground and subversive and sort of slightly weird.
We're finishing Salt, which is a film I started shooting here and we're gonna shoot a little more with Angelina Jolie and Liev Schrieber and Phillip Noyce is directing. It's a paranoid thriller and the trailer just came out. I think it's gonna be pretty amazing actually. So I'm kind of looking forward to that.
Usually, in November or December, there's holiday or hopeful films. But do you think these apocalyptic films are reflective of the current state of the world?
It's interesting that this film is perceived as having a darkness to it, but I don't know if it necessarily has. I think that it's an adventure, that it's kind of a thrilling ride. This style of movie has all the darkness and despair in terms of an apocalypse and the end of the world, but it's also a great opportunity for a filmmaker like Emmerich to show this kind of incredible visual thing, this visual flair, but also to show people unified, show optimism, show elements and degrees of hope. I don't know if it's exactly a Christmasy film but it's certainly a film that has all of those elements. That's what [audiences] are excited by as well as anything, is to see humanity survive and to gain whatever sort of hope or optimism they can from movies like this.