Filmmakers put White House in their sights
05:00 AM, Mar 19, 2013
Hollywood is painting a giant bull’s-eye on the White House.
The president’s home is the target du jour in three upcoming movies, starting Friday with Olympus Has Fallen. In director Antoine Fuqua’s action thriller, North Korean commandos storm the famous Washington, D.C., building and take the president (Aaron Eckhart) hostage. A disgraced Secret Service agent (Gerard Butler) is the one man who can save the day.
Director Roland Emmerich blew up 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 1996’s Independence Day courtesy of alien invaders and attacks it again with a domestic paramilitary group in White House Down (June 28). Channing Tatum is cast as the Secret Service wannabe/hero and Jamie Foxx plays the POTUS.
The White House is taken from within in G.I. Joe: Retaliation (March 28), a sequel that has an evil operative of the Cobra organization disguised and entrenched in the Oval Office as the president (Jonathan Pryce).
The commander-in-chief has been put in dire cinematic straits before Harrison Ford was hijacked by terrorists in the sky in 1997’s Air Force One but it’s a much different scenario when it’s the actual White House being attacked and blood spatters those pristine walls, says Fuqua.
“It’s a symbol of our freedom,” he says. “That office is supposed to represent the free world. (An assault on the office) is a direct attack right to our heart.”
Such images as tanks in front of the White House are disconcerting for moviegoers because of the familiar setting and the history involved, Emmerich says.
“It has beautiful rooms and furniture and everything is very iconic. And when all of a sudden it gets riddled by bullets, it’s really weird. People with guns in the Oval Office, it’s strange.”
G.I. Joe producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura feels it’s hard to make a great movie villain these days since there have been so many ego-maniacal agendas. Having the bad guys control the government to enact their plans brings extra heat, though, and when Cobra drapes their flag and trademark seal down the columns of the White House in Retaliation, it’s a visual representation of how enormous the stakes are.
“Whether you’re American or not, the impact of that moment is quite significant,” di Bonaventura says. “We thought it would be cool, and then you saw it and you were like, ‘Whoa, that’s a much bigger idea than we even thought it was going to be.’ “
When developing Olympus, especially the scenario in which a crashing plane turns into the necessary diversion for his movie terrorists, Fuqua thought a lot about 9/11 and United Airlines Flight 93, the hijacked plane that was thought to be aimed at the White House but instead, thanks to the passengers on board, went down in Pennsylvania.
In 2001, terrorism was still somewhat new to Americans, and while it brought us all together, “we had no one to punch, no one to go after,” Fuqua says. “So the movie is an opportunity to actually put a face on them and watch them physically go in and show how they would take down our building and get their hands on our president. It punches you in the gut.”