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THE SIXTH DAY: Roger Spottiswoode
The director of Tomorrow Never Dies looks into the future of cloning.
By Craig D. Reid
November 16, 2000
Staggering up the cordoned-off stairways toward the sky-high rooftop set of the The Sixth Day
, which is being filmed aloft Vancouver's Canada Post Office, I hear an ear-deafening noise. Peering through a steel meshed dividing wall, I see a mountainous stack of soon-to-be-mailed parcels and packages crash to the floor, followed by an ensuing tidal wave of letters sprawling out over the post office station's floor. Unlike the possible 'mail-strom' resulting from this postal mishap, the English born director Roger Spottiswoode (Tomorrow Never Dies
) confidently states that this Arnold Schwarzenegger action thriller will indeed stand and deliver. Part One of this interview takes place atop the roof. For Part Two, after watching a 20-minute clip of the film, I sit down with Roger as he further describes the 'clone-spiracy' in his Santa Monica office.FANDOM:
WHAT IS THE THEME OF THIS FILM?SPOTTISWOODE:
Well, you know the story is about cloning, so I guess the theme of the film is: What is one's real identity? Do clones have souls, and what will happen to us when we can clone ourselves? Who are we really? Do we have souls? Are we complete people, or are we some sort of biochemical machine created by man? Is there such a thing as being with a soul? Can it be made in the lab?
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
I suspect that you can make a soul in the lab.
WHEN YOU READ THE SCRIPT, WAS IS SOMETHING YOU IMMEDIATELY THOUGHT YOU WOULD WANT TO DO?
Yes, I was very intrigueda very good subject and a story that reflected the theme so that you really don't have to talk about the ideas in it; they naturally came out of the story. And it was exciting, with some interesting things that could be done with it, and I thought Arnold would be terrific in it.
HOW DIFFERENT IS THE ACTION IN YOUR BOND FILM WITH MICHELLE YEOH COMPARED TO THIS FILM?
That was really pure action; this is more character, more ideas. It is rather a different kind of film. We had 200 CGI shot in the Bond film, but here we have more effect shots and they are different kinds of shots. Not much blue screen in the Bond film, mostly CGI generated shots. Adding in things like someone falling 40 stories is quite complicated. And Arnold doesn't fight himself very much; it's more of an argument.
WHAT STYLISTIC FEEL WERE YOU GOING FOR IN THE FILM?
The film is set 20 years in advance, and it's interesting trying to find that world. A lot of it is what we are living in, and we are not trying to create a completely new world but a world that is one step ahead of us in certain areas. A lot of places are what we live in now, but some placeslike the cloning lab is a new place. So it's a strange mixture of the contemporary world we know, the familiar world, but with some newer elements.
AS THE DIRECTOR, WHAT SORT OF EMOTIONAL CONTENT HAVE YOU PUT INTO THE FILM?
I find this character appealing, a human sympathetic character, and I like to find a part of myself in my main characters. Arnold's character, Adam Gibson, is a sympathetic person to whom the world is getting somewhat out of hand, and I think there is an element of that in me. I believe there are many people who think that there are too many things that are possible or that will be becoming possible in the next 2-3 years that are very hard to emotionally deal with: the idea that you could be duplicated, big business and banks running amok in many ways. We are having a hard time staking out our turf. So now for example, if you get yourself a new power book, you have to sign in with Microsoft and give them a piece of your memory on their Internet sight, so then they can also look into your machine all the time. Every time that you go onto the Internet they can check what is exactly on your hard drive, not only for software that you may or may not have purchased or documents that can upgrade, but you are opening up your entire life to them. This is apparently how business is being conducted.
THERE IS OBVIOUSLY SOME HUMOR IN THIS.
Yes, it's a witty script.
SO IS IT HARD TO BALANCE THE THRILLER OF IT ALL WHEN IT STARTS TO GET FUNNY? BECAUSE THAT CAN MAYBE REMOVE THE EDGE OF EXCITEMENT.
I think if it's done right it can work. A long time ago I wrote 48 HOURS, and that was a suspense-thriller with moments where the suspense was broken and it was funny, yet it was all just part of the film. But yes, if it's done wrong then you can destroy one with the other.
ANY SURPRISES WITH ARNOLD YOU DIDN'T EXPECT?
He knows filmmaking backwards. A lot of actors know their way around, but he completely thinks he's on the other side of the camera, knows exactly what he does and how to make the shot better. I knew he was already smart, but he's extremely good on how to make things a better movie and he is genuinely interested in getting the film to be really good. One of the first script notes from an early meeting when I came aboard was his passion for making the other characters better. Nine out of 10 movie stars say that their character needs to be better, but with Arnold, it was the villain who needed to be more interesting, better written and intelligent. I thought that was correct and an absolutely perceptive way of looking at it, more of the point of a filmmaker than an actor who wants his lines to be better.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE HARDEST TO CAPTURE ON FILM?
I'd have to think about that. We have a whisper craft that doesn't exist, that's been a bit difficult. I've never done a Star Wars
kind of film. There's something about a large craft that doesn't exist that can be very hard to handle. So when it flies over in this scene and you have to explain to everyone, 'At this moment a large thing is flying over, react.' It's hard to have things in shots that aren't there like large moving objects that create enormous amounts of wind and none of it is there. So for me that has been the hardest thing to have, a virtual plane.
THERE ARE SO MANY WRITERS ON THIS PROJECT, WHAT HAS THAT ADDED OR TAKEN AWAY?
The Wibberleys [Cormac and Marianne] wrote the draft I read. I liked the story. I was lucky to have Dan Petrie come in and do all the last 15 drafts, the polishes and stuff. He's the first person to say the Wibberleys draft was terrific, but he made it better, like he did on the Bond film, and was not credited. He completely rewrote it. We've collaborated over 6 films.
The script is good because the things that happen in it are very believable. It doesn't presuppose that the world has changed very much, but you are in a different world. The basic premise is, yes people have learned to clone each other but cloning is illegal. It's not that it's bad but the law as it is now states, 'If you die then you are dead.' So for instance if Bill Gates died and managed to clone himself, then you discovered that he was the clone, he would lose Microsoft. It means if he died; Microsoft would be passed on to everybody else. You can't just say, 'I'm a clone and I still own it.' He would've died and no longer owns it. Our villain, who is very smart and who has done a lot of good in the world, has just made one more advance. He's just been in an accident and had himself cloned. The only trouble is that if anyone knows he's a clone, he will lose Replacement Industries, where they do genetic engineering. They have a new tuna, new beef, and he's improving food supplies through genetic engineering, which we know many companies are doing now. So the premise is deeply rooted of what we know already exists today. It makes it an interesting film.
IN MANY FILMS, IT'S THE GOOD ONE VERSUS THE EVIL ONE, BUT HERE IT ISN'T NECESSARILY SO.
This makes it far more interesting because it's all about shades of gray; they are non-villains. Because in essence, our main villain has done lots of good things. Perhaps [he has] a few less morals, but he is not a monster; he's a respective member of societyo much more interesting, exciting, and credible. And because it is much more credible, that makes him scary.
YOU HAVE A LARGER THAN LIVE HERO WITH ARNOLD. HOW DIFFICULT WAS IT TO CAST THE LEAD VILLAIN?
Actually, we spent a lot of time with that, because you know the Brits have kind of got the corner on these roles and one tends to think that when you have a literate villain it's going to be one of those guys. And we did think about that for a while. But for various reasons that didn't pan out, we came to Tony Goldwyn to play Michael Drucker. And I'm endlessly glad we did. Unlike me and you [I laugh], he's not a Brit. It's not like he couldn't be, but he's different, smart, young, bright, and he's great in the part.
WHAT IS ROBERT DUVALL'S ROLE?
He's the scientist who worked it all out. His wife got ill and died but he was able to replace her and bring her back as a clone. So he's the first person to try something and got taken up by Drucker. But he was morally compromised, and then gets used and finds himself in a [bad] situation...
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE SHOT YOU ARE SETTING UP NOW?
[laughs] Can I talk to you after I've made them? [A publicity lady says something in his ear] Arnold is on his way to set, so we'll have to end this now. Thank you.