Director Roger Spottiswoode tells about cloning Hollywood's biggest action star

By Gillian Flynn
November 21, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST
  • Movie

In the future, scientists can clone your pet, lonely hearts can create virtual partners… and Arnold Schwarzenegger can evolve into a new kind of action hero. Or so those involved with ”The 6th Day” hope. Columbia’s new sci fi flick has Schwarzenegger fighting to regain his life after being cloned. And the star is also battling to recapture box office glory (last year’s ”End of Days” earned a disappointing $67 million). asked the movie’s director, Roger Spottiswoode (”Tomorrow Never Dies,” HBO’s ”And The Band Played On”), about making a different type of Ah- nuld movie — while still delivering what action fans like.

When Schwarzenegger signed on, did plans for the movie change?
[The script] got a bit more intelligent, I think. It became less science fictiony and more real. Arnold was ready to do more of an acting part. He really wants to reinvent himself.

Even if people expect ”Commando Goes Sci Fi”?
There’s no way this film could ever have the kind of action that ”True Lies” or ”The Terminator” had. But he was prepared to work at it. He knew he’d be playing someone who talked, who had relationships. He’d be part of an acting team: Michael Rappaport [who plays the hero’s best friend] is freewheeling, Robert Duvall [the scientist villain] is from a whole different acting school. They weren’t going to be holding guns and running around. They were going to be playing people. To make that believable, the hero wasn’t going shoot his way out of any situations.

Were you concerned that he wouldn’t be able to pull it off?
We talked a lot about it. He has a public persona that’s not quite what he is. I know he has a macho image, but he spends time playing chess — and he’s very good at it. Yes, he is The Guy, but he also thinks a lot more than he lets on.

So how far into the future are we talking here?
Just a few years. The movie’s RePet store [where dead pets are cloned] looks like the Disney Store in the mall. Advertising’s the same, but it’s holograms. I wanted to go a little step forward, have fun with it.

Is that why you kept the film fairly modest in terms of visual effects?
I think that stuff can get in the way. I wanted to [envision] the future and make it funny and clever and witty, but not make it distracting. I want the audience to be engaged by a story and by people. I like movies that grab you, in the heart and the stomach, and take you someplace. You may not know what the hell happened, but my God, you feel different. To me, slow motion and bullets stopping in mid- air is MTV — and MTV’s fine for music, but it’s style over content.

”The 6th Day”’s content is very timely: the cloning of human beings for fun and profit.
While we were making it, a pig got cloned, a monkey got cloned. One of our characters made part of his fortune with [genetically engineered] wheat, beef, tuna, and salmon. Genetically engineered salmon was announced last week — it’s three times the size of normal salmon! Science does so many good things, but then there’s this question mark [of the excesses it can lead to]. Yet I don’t think science is stoppable. You can’t hold the door closed.

Schwarzenegger’s action movies have been controversial for being violent — will this movie, for its subject, be controversial, too?
I was in Rome two weeks ago, doing press, and a guy from the Vatican came up, talking about how the Pope was against genetic engineering of the type that was in this film. Of course the Pope was also against the use of condoms, and maybe we now know, [with the AIDS epidemic], that position may not be flawless. The Church ruled that Galileo couldn’t say the earth goes around the sun. When the church takes a solid position against science, it’s often completely irrelevant.

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 112 minutes
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