Director Roland Emmerich practices what he preaches: “There are so many people who can make small movies, why should I do something small?” Cases in point, his Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow were blockbusters packed with groundbreaking effects and end-of-the-world plot lines. Even his version of a period piece, The Patriot, featured gruesome scalpings and huge battles.
Now he polishes his supersize rep and turns back the clock even further, to the beginning of history, in 10,000 B.C. The saga follows D’Leh, a hunter in a remote tribe whose lady is kidnapped by warlords. To save her, D’Leh must undertake a Lord of the Rings meets Apocalypto quest against a backdrop that mashes an eon or two of human history, from hunter-gatherers to an advanced pyramid-building civilization and the “god” who enslaves it. While he stresses that 10,000 B.C. shouldn’t be taken as a history lesson, Emmerich went through great pains to ensure that entire cultures, not to mention extinct animals like saber-toothed tigers, were portrayed as accurately as possible.
Creating such a sweeping tale is an odyssey of its own. Emmerich, who cowrote the film, devoted more than two years to the project—thanks in no small part to its visual effects. That’s no surprise when you realize that it took 144 hours to create each second of the stunning six-minute woolly mammoth hunt scene that opens the film. With all this attention to detail, only one thing is conspicuously absent—movie stars.
“I couldn’t see a well-known actor running around in this movie,” explains Emmerich. “It’s prehistory. I just couldn’t imagine Jake Gyllenhaal there.”
Roland Emmerich’s 10,000 B.C., starring Steven Strait and Camilla Belle, is now in theaters nationwide.