Roland Emmerich, who has helmed many big-budget blockbusters in his career, returns to theaters with Midway this week. The director takes a crack at the most decisive naval battle in World War II with his latest film, and Screen Rant spoke to him about his goals in dramatizing such an important piece of American history.
Amazing job on this film. What was it about Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway that inspired you to direct this film?
Roland Emmerich: Well, it was the sheer courage of these people. I also wanted to show both sides; that was very important for me. And I wanted to show how intricate battles get created. What are the factors? How much does luck play into it? And all these kinds of aspects the Battle of Midway had, but you had to include the attack on Pearl Harbor, otherwise we would have not understood it.
It was the catalyst that got us into Midway. Many real-life characters in this film are lesser known American war heroes. What kind of research did you do to bring these characters to life?
Roland Emmerich: A lot. I mean, both the writer and [I] – and everybody pretty much on the set that was involved in this film – read everything that they could. And we had, naturally, historians helping us along the way. It was really our goal to be as accurate as possible.
One of the things that impressed me in this film is the aerial battles. Can you talk to me about how you got some of them?
Roland Emmerich: It's hard work. It's hard work, because you wouldn't believe how many times you have a shot and then you don't like it anymore, so you change it again. I drove everybody crazy with this stuff. All the dives, I did twice because I didn't like the first version of it. I said, “Okay, let's do this all again.” They all paled.
But you have to strive to excellence in a movie like this and, and I knew what kind of responsibility comes with that when you want to tell a big World War II battle movie.
What type of symmetry, if any, did you find researching World War II era and the contemporary era that we live in now?
Roland Emmerich: We were talking a lot about it; why we actually made this movie. I wanted to make this movie 20 years [ago], and luckily, I didn't. Because with the rise of nationalism these days, it's great to remind people, there was a unified America. America pretty much defended freedom against fascism. And sometimes it's like, when you kind of look at our politics today, you wonder. You know?
Switching gears for a little bit: I respect you so much and all the films you’ve made, but Martin Scorsese set the internet on fire with his comments about comic book movies. You're known as a VFX trendsetter, and you've redefined the blockbuster. Do you think there's truth to his words about comic movies being a theme park ride?
Roland Emmerich: Well, I think he sees it from a very [purist] standpoint. If you like Martin Scorsese… I think they shouldn't give him so much flak. But what he'd like probably meant is that there may be too many of them. It's like taking over our business, and it's really hard for other movies to be even heard. So, in that respect, I'm not a fan of a comic book hero movies. But I accept them for what they are.
- Midway (2019) release date: Nov 08, 2019