[caption id="attachment_173163" align="alignleft" width="300"] Columbia Pictures[/caption]
When you have an action movie starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx, directed by the man behind "Independence Day" and being released in the summer, what else could you possibly need to know? Well, as we discovered during our "White House Down" set visit in Montreal, quite a bit, actually.
Sure, Tatum will be putting his muscles to good use saving the President, and yes, director Roland Emmerich is messing with the White House yet again, but we were pleasantly surprised to discover just how much historical research went into this mega-blockbuster. In fact, they even had a former Presidential candidate show them around the private, inner-workings of government buildings in Washington, D.C.
Thankfully, the Secret Service has finally given us the green light to share some of the coolest things we learned during our tour of the White House rebuilt to scale in a sound stage … twice.
1. Channing Tatum tries on fatherhood for size.
At the time of our trip to Canada, Tatum's wife, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, was not yet pregnant with the couple's first child. Still, "White House Down" marks the first time audiences will see the "Magic Mike" heartthrob in a daddy role, and getting to play a wannabe Secret Serviceman whose daughter gets trapped in the action of bad guys trying to take down the White House was one of the main things that drew him to the gig.
"For me, I want to be a dad eventually and we tried to sum [the character, John Cale] up like this: A guy that ends up saving the leader of the free world through the love of his daughter," Tatum told us. "Not in a hard-handed or on-the-nose way, but in a roundabout way, that was the reason [Cale] ended up in this situation. It was all because of his daughter … This is the first time he's really been able to love his daughter through what he's good at, and that's just dogged determination."
2. The bad guys are American, too.
This isn't one of those summer actioners where we have North Korea or Afghanistan or even aliens to blame for our troubles. In other words, this is not "Independence Day 2." Oh, no – these bad guys are humans on the inside, which might even be scarier.
"I feel to look for an enemy somewhere out there in the world, can't speak up in our world. It's a cheap shot and I've never done that," producer Harald Kloser told us. "We were trying to look at people who have certain ideas and, if you have ideas where you feel the world is going the wrong way, it doesn't matter where you are."
"It's always good to have villains you understand," Emmerich said. "When you don't understand your villain, you're done."
Neither Emmerich or Kloser would elaborate on the bad guys' motivation beyond promising that it's more than just money and describing them as "cool."
3. Channing is downright fearless.
Believe it or not, the 32-year-old does just about all of his own stunts. No, really. He's literally doing all but one in this movie, and the studio and crew had to beg him not to try it.
"I generally do all my stuff except for motorcycles and cars," Tatum explained. "They're still trying to talk me out of one stunt. I'm going to look at it … It's just a 25-foot fall."
Yeah, just a 25-foot fall. No big.
"He is probably the most physical actor I have ever met in my life," Emmerich said. "You have to talk him out of a stunt and the only way you can talk him out of a stunt is if it's really high-risk and you don't see his face. He's always very concerned that you see his face because he's very proud that he does his own stunts."
4. Jamie Foxx's President isn't Obama. In fact, he might be Batman.
"I don't really think Jamie Foxx is doing Obama, even though he's doing very politician-y type things," Tatum said.
After describing this fictional president's underground bunker and special fancy car called "The Beast" – the leader of the free world's Batmobile, if you will – Emmerich admits, "The President of the United States has super-star status. He's not a normal person, because he's protected like no other person in the world … What we claim is in the White House has a little bit of the feel of a giant Batcave, but not really because we have certain things where we know they exist."
5. However, Channing's character is John McClane.
Starting with the main character's names – John Cale and John McClane – "White House Down" is an unabashed tribute to "Die Hard." Tatum even wears a dirty wife beater shirt throughout a good portion of the film, including the rooftop fight scene we witnessed in production.
"That's a total homage," Emmerich confessed. "But he has an army vest over [the wife beater]."
"I've always wanted to do a 'Die Hard,'" Tatum said. "'Die Hard' is one of my favorite films. To do it with Roland – there's only a few directors that can do what Roland does on an international scale and on an action scale."
6. 14 months is plenty of time to make a blockbuster.
It's only been a year since Emmerich was handed the "White House Down" script by James Vanderbilt and immediately halted the work he was doing on another film. In a matter of days, Sony was on board, and so was Tatum. Due to shifting schedules, the shooting calendar was bumped up and they were in production only a few months later. When the movie hits theaters on June 28, it will have been just over a year.
"I don't necessarily think longer is better," Emmerich said. "It's just tougher because nobody really does it anymore like that … the good thing is when it's right, it's right, so you're not fiddling around on it too long … That forced us to accelerate the whole pre-production, which is tough on the production designer, but he pulled it off. And then it's maybe tough on editing and visual effects, but that's the only department where it really matters that you have less time."
7. Tatum and Foxx get bromantic.
"Jamie and I got along from the jump," Tatum said, explaining that they'd met before while promoting separate projects "21 Jump Street" and "Django Unchained." "He's maybe one of the singlehandedly most talented people I've ever met in my entire life. The man can literally do anything.
"There’s a piano in one of the hallways that leads to the residence in the White House [on set], and, in between takes, he's just over there playing jazz and you're just like, 'S**t!' Then he stands up and he's Jamie Foxx, kid from Texas, from maybe not the highest class part of town, he's one of the boys. Then you get him into the scene and he's the president. It's incredible to watch him and he's such a good guy. … I love him to death."
8. Expect to see a thank you note to John McCain in the credits.
Yep, 2008 Republican Presidential Nominee John McCain gave the producers of "White House Down" one of their many tours of government buildings.
"Actually, one of our producers had a connection through John McCain's brother," Kloser said. "Out of all people, we get to basically meet John McCain. But he was very cool and we were very nicely received, and we got a little bit of an inside tour of the Capitol with him. He showed us where the Watergate hearings were and the history that's been made there."
9. Spoiler alert! The White House wins.
Emmerich famously blew up the White House in "Independence Day" and crashed an aircraft carrier into it in "2012," so how does the building fare at the end of all the destruction coming this summer? Kloser gave us the answer.
"This is actually the best movie for the White House, because it survives."