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The Day The Earth Stood Still - Scott Derrickson interview

The Day The Earth Stood Still

Interview by Rob Carnevale

SCOTT Derrickson talks about directing the remake of classic sci-fi movie The Day The Earth Stood Still and why it’s arguably even more relevant to modern audiences. He also discusses why he left much of the religious allegory intact…

Q. When did you get the idea of remaking The Day The Earth Stood Still?
Scott Derrickson: Well, the idea to remake it came from Twentieth Century Fox. I was sent a script and I was a bit sceptical when I first read it. I do love the original film but reading it I felt the update made a lot of sense. I liked the idea of telling basically the same story but updating it to different social issues of modern times. Really, after reading it and thinking it would make a good film for modern audiences, I thought through the degree to which modern audiences are not familiar with the original.

The modern movie going public for the most part hasn’t seen that story told and I liked the idea of bringing the story to a new audience, because it is a good one. In seeing the first one, what stayed with me was this simple but remarkable idea of an alien outsider assessing human nature and trying to make sense of what we are; trying to figure out what it means to be original. I really liked that from the original and tried to keep it close to the heart of the story as well.

Q. Do you think the film will be viewed differently in the Bush era in which it was made and released, as compared to the Obama era that will live on…
Scott Derrickson: When I was making the movie I knew what our release date was going to be and that it would come out in December 2008, and I think that had a big impact on how the movie was made. I knew it would be coming out after we’d elected a new President and before that President had taken office. I think I felt, like a lot of Americans felt, optimistic about that. I didn’t know who the candidates were going to be and I certainly didn’t know who the President was going to be, but I felt optimistic that some significant change was going to be coming and that the film would be coming out at a time when we would be able to celebrate that change. I didn’t expect it to be as dramatic as it has been, but I’m happy about that. It was made in the hope and faith that we’d demonstrate some willingness to take some drastic measures to right some wrongs.

Q. Klaatu obviously walks on water and brings people back to life. Could you say something about the religious aspect of the story?
Scott Derrickson: It is what it is. In the original film there was a really strong Christ allegory for Klaatu and it worked very well in that story. It certainly seemed to be so entrenched in the narrative that it couldn’t be something that could be extracted. I liked that aspect of the story, so I tried to keep it in there and make it work. I like the very notion, in the end, that the sacrifice – which is a very big part of the Christ myth story – is symbolised because the issues that the film addresses demand sacrifice to be solved. They just do. Personally… and this was one of the reasons I decided to do the film, I felt that the presence of those images and the representation of that great mythic tale was great. And it is a mythic tale. It’s made for a lot of great cinema, from The Matrix to Braveheart to ET. It’s a good story that people respond to. But it meant something to me that the story was in service of a point of view that was pretty far from the right wing.

Unfortunately, I think religious imagery and just the idea of religion or spirituality when it comes to its involvement with anything social or political tends to be far right. I liked the idea that this movie had a very different blending of those issues.

Q. What’s your favourite movie remake?
Scott Derrickson: The Wizard of Oz. It’s a remake of a 1910 silent film, but not many people know that… or John Carpenter’s The Thing – that’s a great one.

Read our review of the movie