The Day After Tomorrow: Fox Pushed For A Happy Ending To Climate Change

There's no real happy ending for climate change, but the studio wanted one anyway for The Day After Tomorrow.

The Day After Tomorrow

We’re pretty shameless about our love for Roland Emmerich’s disaster movies around these parts. The worst ones are arguably still pretty watchable, even at their most ludicrous, and while Independence Day is perhaps broadly held up as the champion of the flock, 2004’s The Day After Tomorrow strikes a slightly different chord.

There’s been a few periods of wild weather in the past that have inspired a “bloomin eck, it’s like The Day After Tomorrow out there!” exclamation. Occasionally, it’s a straightforward joke, but often there’s a dark edge to it – climate change has rapidly become a very real part of our lives, and though we’re unlikely to see CG-esque livestreams of the oceans flooding New York or the planet freezing over in a matter of minutes, things are likely to get worse in the near future under the apathy of global inaction.

Director Roland Emmerich was pretty adamant that his blockbuster follow up to Mel Gibson vehicle The Patriot carry an important message about climate change by sticking to the film’s fairly grim conclusion, but the studios he approached just didn’t understand why the project, which would go on to star up-and-comer Jake Gyllenhaal and Dennis Quaid, couldn’t have a happy ending.

read more: How 1974 Became The Year of the Disaster Movie

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“When I did The Day After Tomorrow, one or two of the studios who wanted it when I took the movie to auction said, ‘Can you not explode an atomic bomb or break a dam, [so that] everything gets flooded, and it all goes away?” Emmerich told Variety in during a series of interviews about his new film, Midway. “The moment we walked out, I said to my producer: ‘Yeah, not them. They don’t understand what I’m doing here.'”

The Day After Tomorrow was eventually released by Fox and it was a big hit for the studio, but an initial screening of the film left Fox honchos reeling.

“When they finally saw the movie, they had a little trouble with it. They said, ‘Oh, my God, there is no real happy ending.’ It was there on the page, but it really hit them when they saw it. I said, ‘Guys, I can’t make this a happy ending because if humanity keeps going like this, there will be no happy ending.’ It’s a little bit of what I hate about Hollywood so much right now. They could very easily, in one of the Marvel movies, create a situation which is clearly a climate crisis. But they don’t.”

Emmerich says he’s been inspired to make another movie about climate change in the future, but don’t expect an action-packed box office grab:

“I’m slowly starting to see a possible movie that deals with it. How different would the world look if 200 million, 300 million people become refugees because they cannot live off their land anymore? Brexit is the result of that. Nationalism is a result of that. This could be the biggest crisis in history: Not only will a lot of people die; wars will be created. Life will change.”

Midway will be released on November 8th.