In 1998, Steven Spielberg cast British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor in his movie Amistad, launching his film career.
He’s gone on to star in such acclaimed movies as Endgame, Children of Men, Dirty Pretty Things and Inside Man. It’s not a resume that would indicate room for a blockbuster – but here he is, co-starring in Roland Emmerich’s doomsday scenario, 2012.
In it he portrays Adrian Helmsley, a government scientist who reports to the White House when he discovers the end of the world is at hand. At the press junket for the movie, which was held in Wyoming, Chiwetel spoke about his adventures in the world of big budget thrillers.
What did you like about this project?
The central themes were fascinating. The script read incredibly well to me, a wonderful kind of page-turner. It’s a great idea, it’s a story about people and humanity and struggling against the kind of natural chaos that can ensue. I think that’s something that we’re all acutely aware of at this particular time. We all ask ourselves, what is our responsibility?
Have you thought about the premise of the movie? Would you want to know if the end was coming?
I’d stand by the view that people should know. And the consequences of that can be quite large. It’s one of the complications in the film, that sort of doubt – there wouldn’t be an easy answer, there’s not an easy answer in this film and there wouldn’t be an easy answer in real life.
What do you think you’d want to do as the end grew near?
I would spend it kind of quietly I think, with family and friends, and hope for the best. I don’t have a real opinion about 2012. John Cusack [who plays Jackson Curtis in the film] thinks it’s hopefully a shift in consciousness or something like that. It does feel like things are converging and something has to change. Maybe it will start around that time.
Did you have a lot of physical stunts to do?
I got off pretty lightly as my character is part of the government. I had a couple of days of fun water work but that was more or less it. I was slightly envious not to get to work on the shaky floor, it looked pretty cool.
Do people really get together at times of great upheaval and look out for each other like they do in the movie?
People tend to in tragedies. Obviously in recent tragedies that we see in the world now, people tend to find great unity in that, and I think that is one of the things that this story talks about. I think you have to have a lot of optimism in humanity and people. I think that is part of the story of this movie and what it’s really kind of getting at; that there is an inherent good and these things bring that out.
What was it like working with Roland Emmerich?
Roland is really in control of his films and that’s one of the things that I was always impressed by. You’re working with a director who completely understands the mechanics of this kind of story. How it has to fit in perfectly to work.
These characters are dealing with things that are on such a massive scale, that to actually commit to them dealing with daily life at all is kind of a leap. But a director who knows how to do that, and how to bring out that and make it believable and honest, is really great, really special.
It was a really great experience.