We've already explored the history of 2012 here on Cinematical and what you need to know to see the movie (hint: the world might blow up!), but here's what 2012 stars John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, and Woody Harrelson and director Roland Emmerich have to say about the end of the world. Do they believe the world will end with a whimper or a bang, T. S. Eliot-style? Will we go out in fire or in ice? Do they even believe the world will end in 2012? Let's find out.
Roland Emmerich: It's always great if you find some sort of belief people have and put it in your movies, as fantastic as they may be. For example, Independence Day, I used Area 51 and centered my whole story around Area 51 because I found out in my research that people really believed in it. And in this movie, as we discovered the phenomenon of 2012, because some culture, the Mayas, gave the end of the world a date. An exact date. The 21st of December, 2012. And that's just so incredible and so interesting that a lot of people are fascinated by it and there's believers; there's people like you [who] just find it fascinating. I hope it will not happen. But when you research it a little bit deeper, you kind of find a lot of other cultures [that] believe the same thing. They only don't put an exact date to it, but they have other predictions which all point to 2012. It's quite eerie...
Emmerich contd: Actually, it was [co-writer Harald Kloser]'s idea to call it 2012... And I said, but it dates it! What happens in 2013? Is our movie outdated? And I said, well, that's three years until then! [laugh] And then he said, Don't you think 2001 is still the best science-fiction movie ever made? I said, yes, it is. And he said, see? It's not a bad movie because it's 2009! So he convinced me and then the more I thought about it, I said, I thought it's genius... The discussion about 2012 is good, it's a good one because if people discuss it a lot, they say, why are we having wars? Why are we doing this? Why are we doing that? If the world's coming to an end, is there a way [to] save ourselves? Should we start planning on building spaceships?... I think it's a good discussion... [On December 21st, 2012], I would be with my family probably, with people I love.
John Cusack: I think they're fascinating [Nostradamus, prophecies, etc.] and really kind of inherently dramatic, and whenever you read about them or hear about them, you always want more. Who doesn't want to know about it? And I think probably, like Revelations, no matter what you think of the Bible, that's some of the craziest imagery in writing that you can ever imagine when you're talking about the apocalypse and what that means and just all that kind of area – when you get into that area, it's so thick and dramatic and it makes the hair on the back of your head stand up and it's just pretty cool. Pretty cool stuff. I think more that it's, instead of actually people dying in 2012, what I sort of see those things are as they're metaphors for consciousness or ways of being, so maybe [it will be] an epochal end but it's an epoch of materialism or something... [this] sort of savage capitalist, me-first thing. Maybe some new era. Something will shift, or something's going to die, and this new thing will begin. So I think humans will still be stuck with each other, and the world will be a mess, but I hope it doesn't end.
Woody Harrelson: [When asked if he'd choose Zombieland or 2012 as the end of the world] There's not like a "C" [option]? Just "A" and "B" – that's it? Well, you got more of a shot with the zombies than you do with what goes on in 2012; that's a very small group of people [who] survive . On the other hand, a bunch of zombies running around? That could be fun... There's a lot of conjecture about what [the Mayan prophecies mean]. It's all conjecture, because we don't [know] why the Mayans stopped their calendar in 2012, so it's all like, why did this calendar stop in 2012? Why doesn't the Hopi calendar stop in 2012 as well? What was it about these people that really had a vast amount of knowledge that they were ending their calendars. So there's a lot of speculation. I guess you could say to yourself, you know, if you were looking at this objectively, like, [you] came from another planet, saw all these calendars ending, looked at what's going on ecologically, you could probably say, well, it seems like we're right on course.
Thandie Newton: You know, I think that there are dire ecological problems that we are more aware of than we've ever been through the media and so on, but there are also problems of a more profound nature – human rights issues, which for me, signify the end of the world. What's going on in the Congo, what's happening in the Middle East, where... the law of human rights just don't seem to exist. And I feel like, in a way, that's more complex and more painful and more destructive than a tidal wave... I think that at some time it was believed that 2012 was the year that things were going to happen, but the prediction has been disproved. I mean, I don't know the details of it, I'm afraid. I'm sure it's in your press pack. [laughs] But that's my personal opinion. I want to focus more on the things that can be dealt with, the disasters that human beings are responsible for... It's more problematic and more complex and terrifying the way people treat people.
Chiwetel Ejiofor: The Mayan prophecy and where it connects with this film is based around, more than anything, the date and the fact that the prophecy exists. And there are some prophecies that don't have any heat, you know, that just kind of don't – people don't really consider all that much – but for various reasons this one is something that's really stuck around and people are kind of invested in [it]. That's the basis of the film; it's not directly linked [to] the minutiae of the prophecy itself or with Mayans, but it bubbles from that concept of something that has stuck with us and the fact that basically every religion has some concept of the end of time, the end of the planet... The various cultures and religions have this concept of the end of time as we know it and the beginning of a new time and often a more enlightened time. But certainly a destructive and violent end of one phase that then sets us up for a new understanding.
Conclusion: Probably not.
[Full disclosure: These roundtables were conducted as part of a Sony junket in Cancun.]