‘2012’ Director Roland Emmerich Takes Us ‘Behind The Screen’

'This is the mother of all disasters,' he says of his end-of-the-world saga.

If the world as we know it should ever end, let’s just hope that the man pulling the strings turns out to be Roland Emmerich. With films like “Independence Day” and “The Day After Tomorrow,” he has ripped through the world’s most famous landmarks like a deranged tourist, killed millions of people and sold a helluva lot of popcorn. On November 13, he’s back to finish the job with “2012.”

The film’s typically Emmerich setup has the world on the brink of extinction, a group of common folk attempting to save the day and just enough realism — it’s based on the Mayan calendar’s assertion that 2012 is the end of time — to make it equally creative and creepy. But before we watch John Cusack, Thandie Newton, Woody Harrelson, Amanda Peet and Danny Glover try and save us, Emmerich sat down with MTV to discuss the “ID4″ comparisons, Mel Gibson’s unlikely role in developing the project, and why destroying that Hollywood sign feels so good.

MTV: Roland, you’ve destroyed the world in so many different ways. You’ve had alien attacks, tidal waves. Where does “2012” rate on your destruction scale?

Roland Emmerich: For the longest time I said, “I don’t want to do disaster movies anymore.” I didn’t want to repeat myself — and then I came across together with [writer] Harald [Kloser] this one idea, which I thought made it worth it to do another disaster movie; it’s actually the very oldest story people tell each other. It’s the story of a flood, and how to survive it — like a Noah’s Arc’s re-telling, in a modern way. That theory was too good to not to do it. This is the mother of all disasters.

MTV: Did you always have an interest in Mayan prophecies?

Emmerich: No, but I had a Mayan project, and then Mel [Gibson] did a movie [“Apocalypto”], so I could cancel that one. I was very current and familiar with the Mayan calendar, and [knew that it] ends in 2012. But it was not initially “Oh the Mayan calendar — let’s make it like a movie.” It was more we had this great to tie something like this in — it makes people believe this is real, and that’s what all movies are about, to make people believe. I used the same technique with Area 51 in “Independence Day.”

MTV: And this is a global disaster. So, will we see characters from all across the world?

Emmerich: Yes. From Tibetans to Chinese to Italians to Russians that come from all walks of life and countries.

MTV: And everyone is essentially trying to escape this massive flood?

Emmerich: It’s pretty much that — it’s actually two groups. The group who knows — which is a small group, government officials, some billionaires and some scientists, and then there’s the masses of unknowing. These guys could be represented by John Cusack.

MTV: The marketing of the film has been very creative. What is Farewell Atlantis?

Emmerich: It’s actually the unsuccessful book that the [John Cusack] character writes in the script. Our production was actually called “Farewell Atlantis” as a cover-up [while shooting].

MTV: Your films always have these huge scenes — aliens destroying the White House in “Independence Day,” New York being hit by a tidal wave in “The Day After Tomorrow.” What’s the one big scene in this movie?

Emmerich: I think we have several — honest to God, there’s not one scene. When we talked to people who saw it, everyone has a different favorite. But my favorite on is the L.A. destruction sequence; I’m so proud of how real it looks.

MTV: As a filmmaker who has been in the business for many years, is it cathartic to destroy Hollywood?

Emmerich: It is a little bit. I like to destroy the Hollywood sign — that is cathartic.

Check out everything we’ve got on “2012.”

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