These days, the argument can be made that creating cinematic spectacle by destroying world monuments borders on the insensitive. Jon Amiel would respectfully disagree.
In his new film, ”The Core,” opening March 28, the director of the 1999 hit ”Entrapment” dares to melt the Golden Gate Bridge and to obliterate the Roman Colosseum, as part of a plot about a team of brave souls (including Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank, and Stanley Tucci) who journey to the center of the earth to recharge the planet’s dying inner core and to save mankind.
In short, it’s an old-fashioned disaster flick, and one Amiel believes our edgy world could use right now. ”The underlying message of the movie is that by pooling our resources, by working together, we can pull the world back from catastrophe,” says the 54-year-old director. ”Personally, I think there’s no more important time to hear that message.”
Like his previous films (including 1993’s ”Sommersby” and 1995’s ”Copycat”), ”The Core” is indicative of the big-studio fare in which the British-born director has come to specialize. He got his start mounting plays for the London stage. He soon moved to TV and helmed a small masterpiece: ”The Singing Detective,” the lauded 1986 miniseries written by the late great Dennis Potter. Then Hollywood called.
In conversation, Amiel is outspoken (”I’d rather have hemorrhoidal surgery without anesthetic, but I do believe in testing movies”) and opinionated (”Young leading men no longer want to play married men. They fear they’ll lose their sex appeal”). He’s also humble. ”I was really touched by the immediate way I was treated as a filmmaker by Hollywood,” says the director, who now lives in both L.A. and London with his wife, Tara (a caterer), and their 18-month-old son, Luke. ”I’ve never lost that sense of gratitude.” Here, he talks more about making ”The Core.”
EW: While similar to ”Armageddon” in terms of plot and visuals, ”The Core” is far less bombastic. Were you intentionally avoiding that approach?
JA: Very much. I don’t want to knock ”Armageddon,” but it felt like it was made for people with attention deficit disorder. I didn’t feel like I was ever watching the rhythms of real people, real speech. With ”The Core,” I wanted the actors to become involved with their characters, and I wanted the camera to stay on them long enough [for the audience] to identify with what they’re feeling.
EW: Surely the cast appreciated that.
JA: Our cast was probably the most important thing we had going for us. And in order to get them, I had to promise that we were making a character-driven special-effects movie. I feel like the visual-effects movie has become hijacked by visual effects. Actors have been turned into tiny chess pieces in a big green-screen landscape.
EW: Like, say, the new ”Star Wars” films?
JA: I was a gigantic fan of the early ”Star Wars” films, but while the newer films have become more dazzling, hugely talented actors have been made to look two-dimensional. Those films reflect the great underlying danger of becoming intoxicated by the power of visual effects at the expense of characters.