Camilla Belle has been on the scene for a while, from her child star days in The Lost World: Jurassic Park and The Patriot to modern indies like The Ballad of Jack and Rose, The Chumscrubber and The Quiet to the Hollywood horror remake When a Stranger Calls. Steven Strait has had featured roles in Sky High and the upcoming Stop-Loss, as well as starring roles in The Covenant and Undiscovered. Roland Emmerich is best known for co-writing and directing epic genre pictures like Stargate, Independence Day, and The Day After Tomorrow. Together, they're the stars and director behind the action epic 10,000 B.C.; after appearing on the stage of WonderCon in San Francisco, they stepped backstage to meet the press.
Camille Belle: Hi.
Steven Strait: Hey—what's happenin'?
Groucho: Could you start by just telling about your characters, and the preparations you had to do?
SS: My character's name is D'Leh. And he basically is the outsider/black sheep of his group, of his community. And he falls in love with the matriarch's daughter. And she's taken away. And he goes after her! And, for me, the core of what drives at least my character is love and what you will do to get that back. And it was such a fun, beautiful arc to play with, because an outsider ward to the leader of an army at the base of the pyramids is so broad that shooting in sequence really was very helpful. Because you really did take it step by step. In terms of the preparation, I mean, the accent, obviously: like a mix of standard English and Arabic. It's Omar Sharif, pretty much.
CB: Yeah. (Laughs.)
SS: And the physical training. I think I lost something around forty pounds in about a month and a half. So it was some pretty extensive preparation.
CB: It was different being the only girl around. (Laughs.) In the whole cast. But at the same time, it was good, 'cause I didn't have to do so much physical training obviously. It was more just about being healthy. I mean, changing locations so many times and working such long hours and really working against nature a lot of the time, you really have to be so healthy in order to not—
G: You mentioned on stage the movement: did you do any movement training?
CB: We attempted to: I remember one time all of us—'cause we had a month of prep before, and the cast, we really did become like a small family. You know, there's five new crew members every day; there's a new person walking on set every single day. It was hard to know who anyone was. So the cast, we really did become a close-knit little family, and I remember a couple of times before we started shooting, we always sat together. We had this one time when we sat at this table; I was trying to think, "How are we supposed to walk? What are we supposed to do?" And we were trying to come up with different ideas, and none of them really worked. We just felt so stupid. We really just couldn't even fathom what it was like in that time. We had no way of really knowing. So for me, personally, it was more like—I talk with my hands all the time, and that's not something I think somebody would do in those days. And, really, we didn't have a lot of dialogue, so it was more about—it was like I said, it was really about simplifying gestures, simplifying emotions, simplifying everything. I think it was more straightforward back then, so that's what we tried to go for, I think.
G: What was the core of your character?
CB: I think for Evolet, it was more: she is a tough girl. I mean, she's not just going to let the bad guy take her over and keep her as his wife. You know, she's going to do anything she can to stay alive and to save the people, her fellow tribesmen, that she's with. Which I thought was really good for the role, and we really worked through a lot with character to try to let her grow, as a person. Which ultimately she does, and comes to the occasion...
G: What about the worldview of someone who lives in 10,000 B.C.? How does that affect how you play your roles? Or what did you think that worldview was?
SS: You know I think that, for me, I thought much less about the time period and much more just about the basic human condition that we all have. We feel the same emotions and the same things as people in ancient times or people in the future. It's not going to change. Like Camilla said, you simplify certain things: maybe communication is more simplified. But everything else remains the same. You know, the things behind the mask remain the same. And the worldview is very simple: what will you do for things that are important? Where will you go? What will happen? To what extent will you rise to the occasion? So, for me, those things are pretty universal. I think that's a really strong part of the film, because that universal quality is something that, at some level, everyone can just understand...
G: Roland, what are the cultures represented in the film, and the religious and spiritual elements?
Roland Emmerich: The interesting thing was, for us, first was the idea to show a little bit the—it's a little bit like a time travel. You travel through thousands and thousands of years, because it's like these hunter-gatherer people meet the first farmers meet the high culture. So you go through civilization in fast track. And the interesting thing for me was that the higher culture is actually the one who has to have a fake god: because it's like a tyrant who uses this technology to make himself a god. Religious: I think a very good message, you know? That higher civilization doesn't mean better people—
G:About the characters, on a micro level, who are they as individuals, and on a macro level, what do they represent?
RE: Well, the first thing for me—that's an interesting question, because for me, it's always like "Who are these people? Where do they come from?" And then you kind of like say to yourself, "Okay, let's look at the arts of that time." There's amazing cave paintings, and so you think, "These people were not primitive. They must have exactly the same feelings we have." Because if you can do that art, you have to be a fully-fleshed, modern human being. That's the first thing. And then you come to the fact that, okay, it should be a very, very simple story, but it should have all these elements of hate, love, passion, religion, all these elements in it. It's fascinating for me. Because it was such a long process—you know, the script and the movie—and such a journey in a way...—
G: On stage, they cornered you into admitting that you're making a movie called 2012, but you wouldn't say anything about it. Would you say anything more than nothing here?
RE: Well, it's pretty obvious when you know the title. You know a little bit what's going on on the internet; you only have to type "2012." I did this a year ago—and it said this was fascinating. There's all these different series. I just love, like, disaster movies, and I said why not make the biggest disaster movie ever? After that, I think nobody can do any disaster movies for a long time. It's just the nature of it, and I came up with a very, very cool story. It's just an old story. You know, it's actually the oldest story: it's the flood story.
[For Groucho's review of 10,000 BC, click here.]