Director Antoine Fuqua on Olympus Has Fallen


Last week, director Antoine Fuqua invited into the editing bay of his latest project, Olympus Has Fallen. Starring Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart and Morgan Freeman, the action thriller details a terrorist siege of the White House and boasts a supporting cast that also includes Angela Bassett, Dylan McDermott, Ashley Judd, Melissa Leo and Rick Yune.

“With a movie like this, you try to make it appealing to a broad audience and to make it exciting and fun,” Fuqua explains. “It should be fun and it is. You blow s–t up. Good stuff. What we managed to do was get great actors to make it feel more authentic and grounded. It has some substance. There’s a real sense of reality to it.”

The first scene showcased was from the very beginning of the movie and follows a Presidential motorcade on an icy winter night. The President (Eckhart) and the First Lady (Judd) are riding in one car while Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Butler) rides in another car with their young son. Although the night seems peaceful, the President’s car hits a patch of ice and is suddenly sent careening out of control, crashing into the side of a bridge and coming to rest with perilous balance over an immense drop. Although Banning rushes to rescue both the President and the First Lady, he can’t save both. Although the President is pulled to safety, the car plummets from the ledge into the darkness below.

“The Secret Service job is 100% success or 100% failure,” Fuqua continues. “There’s no in-between for them. If Kennedy dies, it’s a failure. If the First Lady dies, it’s a failure. Their job is to protect the President, even when Reagan was shot, that’s a failure. Just the fact that he got hit by a bullet and could have died. That’s a failure.”

To add as much realism as possible, Fuqua worked closely alongside technical consultant, Ricky Jones, a former Secret Service officer.

“We spent a lot of time discussing with him and a lot of people in Washington who will remain anonymous, ‘How would you really attack the White House?'” Fuqua explains. “That’s what appealed to me in the script. I thought, ‘That’s kind of fun. We need to scare the s–t out of Washington.’… There’s a quote that they’d always say that you might see on a poster sometime down the line. They’d say, “Antoine, it’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when.”

“It is a movie,” adds Jones, “but the chances of it happening are very real these days. Like Israel, America has enemies and cells living within our own borders and we don’t know who they all are. He captured all of that. I think that the Secret Service men and women will be very proud of this movie.”

Although the visual effects were far from finished, the next scene depicted the actual attack on the Capitol. Set a year after the death of the First Lady, Banning has, wracked with guilt over what happened, turned to a position with the Treasury department. That means he’s right in the middle of things when an airplane begins a strafing run across the National Mall and insurgents, disguised as tourists, begin storming the White House gates.

“The art of deception is played really well in this,” says Jones. “We use it. The countries that want to hurt America use it.”

Set on July 5th, Olympus Has Fallen finds a double meaning for that date. Not only do the terrorists take advantage of the post-Independence Day festivities to strike when America is distracted, but the date also homages July 5, 1865 when the Secret Service was first formed.

The final scene has Banning moving on his own within the White House, attempting to hide from the armed terrorists that have seized control. He makes his way to the Oval Office and manages to call the Pentagon. There, Freeman’s Speaker of the House has been made acting President and explains to Banning that the Commander in Chief is being held hostage in the PEOC (Presidental Emergency Operations Center), a real-life safe house constructed for just such an emergency.

The villains of Olympus Has Fallen, lead by Yune, hail from North Korea which, Fuqua explains, was another attempt at keeping the film grounded in reality.

“The Middle East is sort of done to death,” he says. “We know that story. We’ve dealt with it. It seems to me — and we talked a lot about this — that North Korea is like the black spot on the globe. There’s less known about that country than any other place. They don’t let anybody in. They don’t let cameras in… It’s a dangerous place and it’s so close to South Korea. It’s right there at their border. Part of the story that we deal with in our movie is the Seventh Fleet, which is there to keep the peace.”

While the race is on to finish Olympus Has Fallen in time for its release date, Fuqua is well aware that another, similarly themed project is on the way from Columbia Pictures in the form of Roland Emmerich’s White House Down.

“You know what, man?” he laughs. “I wish the best for everybody. Me and Roland are completely different filmmakers, good or bad. I think they’ll have some fun. Jamie [Foxx]’s a buddy of mine. They have way more money. They’re still spending money. I wish I had that money. We may be a smaller version but, as I think you’ll see, we have scale… But yeah, I’ve played sports my whole life, so I want to kick his ass. I used to box. I don’t want to lose. I mean, I don’t want to see him do bad, but I don’t want to lose.”

Olympus Has Fallen hits theaters March 22. If you missed yesterday’s debut of the trailer, check it out by clicking here.