Army Dreamers

Kimberly Pierce’s first film since her Oscar-winning Boys Don’t Cry is a brave attempt to dissect America at war by drawing it in microcosm, but one that trails Lions for Lambs, Rendition and Redacted in providing an ill-thought and overwrought analysis of why they are there and what they hope to achieve.

Speaking of Brian De Palma’s hopeless misfire Redacted, Stop-Loss opens in an almost identical manner, with a montage of faked home video and pounding metal music before settling on a checkpoint on an Iraqi road outside Tikrit, where a platoon of US troops are stationed. After a drive-by ambush, Staff Sgt. Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe) leads his squad in giving chase, following the insurgents into the town before engaging them in a vicious fire fight. King and his squad, including his childhood friend Sgt. Steve Shriver (Channing Tatum) are then shipped back to their hometown of Brazos, Texas to be greeted by the entire town on parade, including Shriver’s sweetheart Michelle (Abbie Cornish) and King’s salt of the earth parents (Linda Emond and Ciarán Hinds). King is awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star by a visiting senator, for valour in combat, but he is just glad to be home and in one piece.

But there is no peace. When he goes to the local barracks to return his kit, King is told he isn’t finished yet. His commander gives him orders to report back to the Army in a week, to ship back out to Iraq, as part of the Stop-Loss programme – an initiative to retain soldiers on active duty beyond the terms of their original contract. King, unsurprisingly, doesn’t want to go back so he flees, getting into a car with Michelle and heading North to Washington to seek help from the senator that pinned the medals on his chest. Now AWOL, and in danger of being arrested and imprisoned, King makes the journey out of desperation, having no-one else to turn to but also out of anger, at himself and his friends, the mismanagement of the Army and the indifferent policies of the government. In the meantime, King’s friends Shriver and Tommy (the excellent Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are falling apart, unsure of what to do with themselves when not in fatigues, spending the time drinking too much and shooting off guns in the countryside.

Peirce, who co-wrote the script with Mark Richard, is sincere in her desire to take us inside the lives of the soldiers who enlisted after September 11thbut where she excels in telling a story of men at war with an unknown enemy, she cannot generate the same level of drama in their battles with one another. The film also fails to discuss at any level the absence of any connection between the fall of the Twin Towers and Bush's assault on Saddam Hussein. Although beautifully photographed by Chris Menges and economically edited and scored, Stop-Loss fails to become the definitive film of these Iraq wars. Perhaps we won't see one for years.

Happy Out

Mike Leigh, the chronicler of British kitchen-sink misery in films like Vera Drake and Secrets & Lies, makes a graceful about-face with this endearing and optimistic story of a young primary school teacher learning how to drive.

Poppy (played by the marvellous Sally Hawkins) is a glass-half-full kind of girl, a single thirty-something who lives in a rented flat with her more cynical best friend Zoe (Alexis Zegerman) and loves her work at a local primary, where the kids adore her. She dresses to please herself, a riot of mismatched colours and cheap plastic jewellery, and talks off the top of her head in a sing-song ramble of blather, truisms and elbow-nudging encouragements. This being a Mike Leigh film, there isn’t much else in the way of a grand, over-arcing story or a schematic plot of events, the free-wheeling director preferring to amble among his characters and their relationships than impose upon them anything as restricting as a scripted narrative. It’s a hugely enjoyable meander, with the most charming of guides in the wide-eyed, open-minded Poppy.

The story proper starts when, as part of her efforts to grow up, Poppy starts taking driving lessons around the streets of London. Her instructor, Scott (Eddie Marsan) is the chalk to her cheese, a mean-spirited, almost silent bigot seething with all manner of ill-considered hatreds. The lessons, an hour every Saturday morning, are brilliantly executed comedy vignettes, witty and sharp and expertly played, that later give way to an insidious threat as Scott relaxes and starts expressing himself. Later, the young teacher takes a walk through the ruins of a factory where she has a strained conversation with a mad tramp (Stanley Townsend). It’s a scene that sits uneasily with the rest of the story, a moment of sobriety as the giggles stop but one that feels forced and carefully staged in contrast to the rest of the film.

And so it goes in this series of snapshots of this unique woman’s life; a flamenco lesson, a night on the town, an afternoon in a boat on a lake. At times, Leigh extends the moment to let us in further, like when Poppy challenges a child whose boisterousness has crossed over into bullying. Adopting her serious face, she deftly brings about a resolution in her own affably tender manner and in the process meets a man (Samuel Roukin), a children’s counsellor, who shares her eagerness to smile and takes her out on a couple of sweet, simple dates. In between, Polly takes her youngest sister (Kate O’Flynn) on a trip up the M1 to visit her uptight, heavily pregnant middle sister for a barbeque; a three piece suite of suburban embarrassments, simmering resentments and passive-aggressive confrontations told in miniature as a spiky commentary on how bland life on the outskirts can be, if you are primed to succumb.

Poppy is some ticket and Hawkins plays her brilliantly; her pixie head tilted to one side as she waits for enough of a lull in the conversation to drop another pleasantry. In other hands, Poppy could turn out to be deeply annoying, but Hawkins has the skill to only allow this to happen when it needs to. Even though Hawkins’ eyes betray hints of loneliness, this is a woman surrounded by people, family, friends, school kids and London itself. Love, when it finds her, banishes this creeping darkness, and we are glad of it. Characters like Poppy can’t be sad or conflicted, we couldn’t bear it. Happy-Go-Lucky is a lovely, lively comedy drama, the best British film since This Is England, with which it would make a fine double bill.

From The Vaults: Morgan Spurlock & Super Size Me

Ahead of the release of his funny and revealing new documentary, Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden?, here's an interview I did with gentleman adventurer, self-experimenter and documentarian Morgan Spurlock for Super Size Me back in September 2006.

Sometimes inspiration strikes in the most unlikely places. After packing away his mothers Thanksgiving dinner in November 2002, Morgan Spurlock was slumped on the couch watching TV with his belt unbuckled. On the evening news came a report about two girls in New York who were suing McDonald’s because, they claimed, eating their food had made them overweight and sick. At one point in the report, Spurlock remembers, a representative for the fast-food chain claimed their food was, in fact, nutritious. “When I first heard about the lawsuits I though the girls were crazy. They were going to sue a food company that sells us food, that we buy, that we choose to eat, and then blame that company for what happens to them. Then this spokesperson says, ‘Listen, you can’t link our food to these girls being sick, you can’t link our food to these girls being obese. Our food is healthy and nutritious, it’s good for you’. Well, I thought, if it’s that good for me, shouldn’t I be able to eat it for 30 days with no side effects? So that’s what I did”.

Given that Spurlock owns a production company, and had previously made shows for MTV, he decided to film his experiment. The result is Supersize Me, a darkly comic feature documentary, his first, that has gobbled up the column inches on both sides of the Atlantic and started a debate about nutrition and fast food that pressured McDonalds to phase out their ‘Super Size’ promotion in the US. “I just wanted to find out why Americans are so fat”, he says. Why then did he conduct the experiment on himself? “I realised as soon as I had the idea, that I couldn’t ask someone to do something I wouldn’t be willing to do myself. The other thing is I couldn’t be certain that the minute the cameras weren’t rolling, this person wouldn’t go home and be sneaking broccoli behind my back. It had to be 30 days, McDonalds three times a day, try everything on the menu at least once, and if the cashier asked me if I wanted to ‘Super Size’, I had to say yes.” The filmmaker admits his stunt is an "extreme experiment" but even the doctors he hires to record the impact of his new diet are shocked at how much damage a few weeks of burgers can do. The film is peppered with regular visits to the team of doctors and nutritionists, interviews with experts on fast food and chats with regular folk on the road, including a man who eats three Big Macs every day, but never has fries. We watch, amused and aghast as the formerly fit filmmaker eats everything in sight, packing on the pounds, and looking—and feeling—worse in each successive frame.

The volunteer guinea pig starts the movie as a very fit man in his early thirties with low cholesterol, a healthy heart and a perfectly functioning liver. He’s a charming, easygoing presence in the early part of the documentary, seemingly delighted with his good idea, and happily munching down the first day’s meals. He is soon completely out of control, as his mood swings from morbid depression to artificial elation as he sits around waiting for another sugar injection. His puzzled girlfriend, a vegan, complains about their flagging sex life as Spurlock’s gains 25lbs and his body fat grows from 11pc to 18pc. By day 21, Spurlock is waking up at night with heart palpitations, feels pressure on his chest during a short walk, and his worried mother and baffled doctors are pleading with him to give up the experiment. "Your liver is very sick. It is now like paté," says one wide-eyed doctor, scanning a blood test and desperately trying to persuade Spurlock to eat some vegetables. "These results are obscene beyond anything I would have thought," says another medical expert, who compares Spurlock's liver to that of a middle aged alcoholic. Spurlock, now with his health restored, explains. “In the movie, when I would eat the food, shortly afterwards I’d be famished. This food is so devoid of any nutritional value. My doctors told me I was getting less than half of the vitamins and minerals I needed. I love the idea that McDonalds say their food should be eaten as part of a balanced diet. What part is that? This food doesn’t give your body what it needs, so your body is still craving food.”

I put it to him that he strongly suggests in the film that he became addicted to this food. “Yeah”, he says, “I believe that if you eat a lot of fat, a lot of sugar, and you’re eating things that aren’t giving your body what it needs, it’ll want more.” In the film, it appears that Spurlock is in the grip of an almost psychological addiction. He is so low, so depressed, that he only feels better after he has eaten. He agrees. “Absolutely, towards the end of the month I was so tired and so unhappy. I started to get very depressed about a week in. I’d get these massive headaches, but the minute I ate they’d go away, which is incredible to think about. The migraines got worse and I got more lethargic as the depression spiraled deeper. My blood tests showed a huge spike in my cholesterol, my liver was basically dying. Very scary. Ultimately, at my lowest point, the enzymes my liver was putting out to deal with this had increased 2000%.”

I ask him about his diet before this. Was it all tofu and wheatgrass shakes? He laughs, “No, I’m not a zealot, I’m someone who loves a great cheeseburger, and I’d eat one once or twice a month, no problem”. How did he feel coming to the end of the month? It’s no exaggeration to say he looked absolutely terrible. “You summed it up right there, buddy. I was so unhappy, so thankful that the experiment was almost over, and dying for this diet to end. I felt really sick, never felt as low in my life. I’m a very gregarious, outgoing person, so for me, to hit the mental, physical and emotional wall so hard was really difficult. We live every day not thinking about what we’re eating, piling it on, and we don’t think about how this stuff, salt, sugar, fat all adds up”.

McDonalds are calling him an extremist attention seeker who deliberately hurt himself to further his documentary career. While he had them on the rack, why didn’t he take a look at their employment policies, or their environmental record? He didn’t go down the Michael Moore road because, he says, the film isn’t just about McDonalds. “For me it’s much more about the diet. I wanted to look at the impact of their food on your health. A lot of that political material was covered in Eric Schlosser’s book ‘Fast Food Nation’. Why wasn’t Schlosser in the documentary? “We wanted to interview him, Spurlock explains, but he was busy promoting his new book, ‘Reefer Madness’ at the time. Thankfully, I was able to sit down with Eric a few weeks ago and we shot an interview for the DVD, so people will be able to get more information from his book. I tell everyone who has seen my movie to read it”.

Were there scenes he had to cut from the documentary that might turn up on the DVD? “There are a couple of troubling scenes where we go into an Overeaters Anonymous, which is a group of people who believe they have food addiction, food problems. They are all very overweight. For them to tell us their stories was incredible, these stories are so heart-wrenching, to hear about these people who from a young age would cover their emotions and sadness with food.” I ask him if he felt that the OE meeting scenes were moralizing? “Yeah, it was important to me not to make a preachy film, that tells you how to live your life, but presented you with a picture that gave you enough information so that you’d go home and think about what you’ve seen. People tell me they walk out saying they need to take better care of themselves, to pay attention to what they eat and how they live. Parents are saying I need to cook more at home, be a better food role model. People are not walking out saying, I’m getting a lawyer and I’m suing McDonalds tomorrow, thank goodness, because that’s not what the movie is about.”

Although Spurlock only eats at McDonalds, the documentary is not meant as an attack on the company. Spurlock says it could have been any fast food chain. “For me, it’s about the culture. If you think fast food as an American, you think McDonalds. To me they represent every food chain you can think of. They have influenced every other chain, they all follow McDonalds business practices. It’s follow the leader, McDonalds came out with ‘Super Sizing’ in America, everyone else followed suit. I picked the company that in my mind, could most easily institute change across the board, if they wanted to.”

What was the most surprising thing he uncovered about the industry? “For me, the most terrifying thing in the whole film is the impact and influence these companies wield in American schools. What we are feeding kids in schools is terrible, unbelievable. Why are the kids getting fat and sick? What are we ‘teaching’ our kids? The message is, ‘You don’t need to exercise’, PE has been eliminated from schools, so the kids get no exercise. Health classes have been dropped from schools. Then we send them to lunch, and they’re set loose in the middle of a fast food wonderland, filled with burgers and chips and sodas and ice cream and candy bars. Every day, 5 days a week for 15 years of their lives. The message is, it’s ok to eat this every day. My message is that it’s not ok at all. We have a generation of overweight, obese children who are actually malnourished.

Spurlock is currently preparing a classroom-friendly version of the film to be released on a special DVD with accompanying educational material, and will take it on a tour of American schools later this year. He is also preparing a book for next year, exploring issues raised in the film. “Yeah, I’ve just started working on that, it’ll be out next year. It’ll dive in a lot more into the whole issue, and deal with it in a fun way, much like I did in the movie” So what’s the message, the one point he wants us to hear? “Super Size Me is a funny movie, and a challenging one. It’s about corporate responsibility and individual responsibility. McDonalds says they're doing their part to change things. Now their customers have to do their part. People who go to these stores need to realise what they're putting into their mouths."

Obesity is second only to smoking as a preventable cause of death in the US, making it an increasingly important political issue. All of the world’s major fast food companies are American. So is the documentary more about America than fatty burgers? Spurlock agrees. “For me, the film isn’t really about McDonalds at all; it’s about this fast food lifestyle that we live every day in America. We are consistently turning to these restaurants to be the cornerstone of our diet. 50% of American meals are eaten outside the home. That’s an immense number of meals, so home cooking is vanishing, and this lifestyle is permeating American culture, but now we’ve franchised it out – to Ireland to Europe, to the rest of the world”. I tell him we probably didn’t really want it. His retort is that American companies don’t usually ask permission. “As much as my film is a wakeup call for America, it’s a bigger wake-up call to Europe, where the problem hasn’t yet gotten as bad as it is in the States.”


In the period comedy Leatherheads, George Clooney plays Dodge Connolly, the middle-aged captain of an American football team on the verge of bankruptcy in the midst of the Great Depression. Decades before the Superbowl and multi-million dollar contracts, the professional game is an outsider pursuit, played by a ragbag crew of coalminers and demobbed soldiers on cow pastures in front of a handful of disinterested spectators. The real game is played at college level, where the brightest star in the firmament is Princeton’s war-hero Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski). Desperate to save his team, and avoid going back to real life, Dodge persuades Carter, and his slick manager C. C. Frazier (Jonathan Pryce), to sign up for the team, teach them some new tricks and save the franchise by drawing huge crowds.

Complications arrive in the trim form of Chicago journalist Lexie Littleton (Renée Zellweger), an ambitious writer dispatched by her editor to investigate Carter’s claims of battlefield valour after a former comrade exposes him as an opportunistic fraud. Soon Lexie has both men in a flap as she trails the team across the country, spitting out machine-gun witticisms, squinting suspiciously and brandishing her irrepressible moxie.

Leatherheads isn’t a bad premise for a screwball comedy and it is clear that Clooney has gone to considerable effort to bring it to the screen; taking hefty dollops of inspiration from classics like It Happened One Night and The Philadelphia Story, adding an emphatically jazzy score from Randy Newman and peppering his cast with lumpy 20s faces. Nothing wrong with any of that, either. Furthermore, the influence of the Coen Brothers on his cinematic thinking is obvious from the opening frames; a little of O, Brother’s sepia-tinted glow and more of Hudsucker’s pin-sharp tailoring and rat-a-tat dialogue. Again, nothing amiss in that. But none of that matters, in the end because no matter how the director and his cinematographer, Thomas Sigel do to make Leatherheads look authentic, it never feels right; the beat is off, the momentum flags.

After a bright, tight first act, the film gradually loses focus and heft, wandering aimlessly around the marked boundaries of the story before congealing into a pastiche of Golden Age adventurism and then attempting to revive itself for a grandstand sporting finale. A long scene which has the main players trapped in a room thrashing out a complicated compromise hangs flat on the screen; Clooney perched in a corner waiting for his moment to waggle his eyebrows in triumph when he should be behind the camera, making it better.

The cynic might see the whole shiny effort as a complex delivery system for a tutorial in movie-star charm, duly delivered by the closest thing we have to Cary Grant nowadays, but the lumpy, tedious results are far less bewitching than Clooney would have wanted. Both sport and movies, according to Clooney, were better before the marketers and the regulators got involved; amateur football played by adventure-seeking privateers, movies made by fast-talking, wit-slinging daredevils. In the good old days, blithe talents like Clarke Gable and Jean Arthur made it look easy, but making good movies is never easy. Capra and Wilder, Hawks and Cukor made magic through certainty of purpose and hard graft at the typewriter. Clooney’s heart is in the right place, but no amount of clever homage, genuine affection or old-fashioned tenacity can make up for a dull script and an inattentive presentation.

Roland Emmerich & 10,000 B.C.

Roland Emmerich thinks big. The German director, neat and trim in a petrol blue suit and an incongruous pair of matching Converse sneakers, is a man with a grand vision. “I am happiest when I am shooting a movie that was all created by me. I think that only when you are all three; originator, producer and finally director, can the film be successful. It’s about power”.

With his new movie, the prehistoric adventure 10,000 BC, Emmerich is indeed credited as co-writer, producer and director. That's pow-wah, as he might say himself in his heavily accented English. I ask him whether he thinks in terms of words, spreadsheets or pictures and he laughs. “All three again”, he says, “but it always comes back to the concept. I got the idea for this film when I saw a documentary about mammoth hunting and how our early ancestors would have hunted these huge animals. From that original spark, it’s a long process until the day we start shooting, but once you have the idea and you believe in it, it’s the perfect start”.

In 10,000 BC, a young hunter from a struggling tribe (played by Steven Strait) leads a vast army across an enormous desert to rescue the woman he loves (Camilla Belle) from slavery, battling a menagerie of toothy prehistoric creatures along the way. The film is typically Emmerich in its sense of scale and dedication to thrills, the story playing second fiddle to the spectacle. So, from the initial idea, did 10,000 BC turn out like he envisioned? “I start out with a movie in my head, but that movie can never be made? How could you do that?” he asks himself. “There is compromise every step of the way, on every aspect of the film. You always end up with a different film, but you work very hard to stay true to the overall vision. Things go because of time and budget.” He waves them away with a flick of his hand. “But sometimes, it can work out better than you imagined. We got heavy snowfall on location and that was definitely not part of the plan, but I had no choice but to work with it and I love it now”.

Snow in the desert, I say, that must have been difficult to stage-manage? “Tell me about it”, Emmerich replies, “this was the hardest movie I’ve made so far, because we shot 98% of it outside, on location in the desert, in all kinds of weather. Madness, ja? We were battling the elements and the location, re-writing whole scenes in our little trailer in this blizzard”. Emmerich taps frantically on the tabletop in front of him. “Then the snow would melt, naturally, and we’d be back in the trailer, type type type!”

Even though his self-consciously epic film is entirely invented, Emmerich was determined to deliver honest thrills when it came to the prehistoric monsters. “We took a lot of liberties with the timeline and the characters but the animals are super accurate. A sabre toothed tiger really was that big. They have found these simply enormous skulls. Terrifying. And the mammoths were terribly powerful and so, so dangerous. We took time over that and we did a lot of research to make those creatures as realistic as possible. Everything else is a fantasy, but you know, I don’t pretend to be making documentaries”. He laughs heartily to himself at the very idea. “As a film director, my job is to tell an entertaining story.”

Pyramids feature strongly in the second half of 10,000 BC, when the searchers come across a huge stone city built beside a river, where tens of thousands of enslaved workers are building a massive structure in the desert. Earlier, Emmerich had mentioned in passing a lost, ancient civilisation, so I asked him what is it about these pseudo-historical mysteries that fires his imagination? “I believe that these early pyramid builders lived alongside early man, for a long time. There are tantalizing hints in the archaeological record. Only the three pyramids of Giza were claimed by the ancient Egyptians, nobody knows for sure who built the others. Around that time and place, there are so many amazing discrepancies. The Sphinx has water marks high up on the stone that were created in 7,000 BC. Did you know that the pyramids are aligned to the star map of Orion, as it was 12,000 years ago? Isn’t that fascinating? Why would they do that and how? Those are interesting questions to me.”

I make the observation that his obsession with ancient Egypt goes all the way back to his second American studio film, the sci-fi adventure Stargate. “Oh, it goes back further than that”, he replies. I remember being 17 years old and standing in front of these extraordinary structures in Cairo. The pyramids have this otherworldly, timeless quality. They are incredibly simple but also deeply complex and mysterious. The experience of being there has stayed with me all my life, and it informs my thinking still.” I go on to say that the two films also share the same science-fiction idea that this ancient society was ruled by alien gods, but Emmerich stops me. “They’re not really gods in 10,000 BC. The leader of the pyramid-builders is from beyond the ocean, not the stars. We never use the word, but I always thought of this king as coming from Atlantis, you know, with advanced technologies for building and making war, those huge ships, that level of organization”.

Another common theme running through Emmerich’s films, and it’s fair to say, a lot of American studio movies, is the relationships between fathers and sons. “Oh, yes”, says Emmerich, “and you know what, I am told it’s in almost every movie I have made but I only realised it for myself when I made my last movie, The Day After Tomorrow. I’m not doing it on purpose, it’s just how these stories turn out, and I really cannot explain it. I had a very good relationship with my own father, who died two years ago, so it’s really not a personal thing.” For Emmerich, regardless of the time and place, the far past or the distant future, the same elemental rules of storytelling apply. “I think it started at the time of this movie, around the camp fire, the first beginnings of the myth of the hero which is the same one we have today. We knew we were writing a hero myth, an old-fashioned story of a selfless man taking responsibility for others. We were thinking the same way when writing the character of Old Mother, who can see visions of the future. Heroes and oracles are basic and ancient parts of telling stories”.

Story aside, Emmerich is best known for his extravagant special effects sequences; huge and hugely expensive scenes that punctuate his films with thrills. Some of his most spectacular moments, like blowing up the White House or flooding New York, have become classic moments in popcorn cinema. He has always wanted to make big, bold statements. “My very first film in Berlin Film School was a science fiction movie with lots of special effects called The Noah's Ark Principle, about weather control. It was on a much cheaper budget, naturally, but the effects were as good as I could make them. Everybody else had two guys talking about philosophy in a small room, but not me. It’s fun to do something that nobody’s ever seen before. Even though I know how the trick is done, I still see the magic even now.”

I tell him that I couldn’t imagine an Emmerich movie as a dialogue-driven chamber piece and he leans forward to tell a story. “My ideas of film are a reaction to what was happening when I was growing up in Germany. I’m 53 now and when I was coming of age, all you could see were Wim Wenders and Fassbinder films, what they called the New Cinema. I couldn’t relate to them, that kind of film didn’t interest me at all. I was drawn to movies like ET or Star Wars or anything by John Carpenter. I saw Close Encounter of the Third Kind in Paris, when I was a student. I was already in film school, but I really wanted to be a production designer. Spielberg blew me completely away. I came out and for the first time I thought, ‘I want to be a director’”.

Emmerich made his name in Hollywood with his first four studio films, science-fiction adventures like Universal Soldier, Stargate and the global blockbuster Independence Day. Since then, the director has enjoyed mixed fortunes; the costly and attention-seeking failure of his Godzilla remake would have been enough to destroy any career. Emmerich found the taint of the giant Japanese mutant lizard a hard one to shake off and the silence that followed its release brought about a re-think in his approach to the business. The director is unusual in that he funds the pre-production on all of his films from his own pocket, before selling them to studios, fully formed. “I am an outsider in Hollywood now” he says. “The normal way of doing things is to wait for the phone to ring or a script to arrive. I have my own creative process and I like to be in control. I make the decisions and I take the risks. When I think it’s ready, I present it to the studio. That’s how I like it and luckily, most of the time, it works out.”

When I ask him about his next film 2012, he advises me togo check the internet”. When I gently press him for more detail, he laughs and says when the idea came to him last year, the first thing he did was turn go online for information. “It’s about this ancient Mayan prophesy that says that in 2012 the world will face a huge change. All I’ll say is that it is a disaster movie. I’m not telling you anything more”. Another disaster? What is the fascination with killing us all off? “Well, it’s nothing personal, you know, but it's not just my obsession. The fear of witnessing the end of the world is a universal phenomenon. It’s there in all people, all cultures. I really hope it doesn’t happen”, he says with another laugh, “but if it does, I can always say, ‘I told you so!’.”