POLITICS

'Olympus Has Fallen' movie raises disaster movie stakes with attack on the White House

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Yeas and Nays,Politics,Alicia M. Cohn

What makes an iconic action star and award-winning director "seriously" nervous? Showing "Olympus Has Fallen," a movie about terrorists occupying the White House, to a District audience.

"We were both seriously nervous about it," said Antoine Fuqua, sitting down with Yeas and Nays along with producer/star Gerard Butler the day after a Georgetown screening of their new movie.

"I love the fact that the audience, they're sitting shocked, breathless on the edge of their seat, and then the next minute they're cheering and they're applauding," said Butler, who plays former Secret Service agent Mike Banning. "If that's happening in a high-brow crowd like here in Washington ... I feel like we delivered on all fronts."

Fuqua and Butler said they used humor and patriotic appeal to help balance the "sensitive" issue of terrorists attacking Washington.

"The imagery certainly is part of our world now, no question. It wasn't not intentional," Fuqua said. "You've got planes flying over, hitting Washington, that's important. The fun thing about the movie is we all get to go home, we all get to sit here and talk about it afterwards."

Angela Bassett, who plays the Secret Service director, said the White House setting is particularly provocative because it's a "symbol of our home, collectively."

The movie takes place mostly in a White House replica filmmakers built to precisely mirror the real place. They also built a block of Pennsylvania Avenue, using only aerial shots and B roll from Washington.

In the movie, Aaron Eckhart's President Asher is held hostage by a North Korean extremist group. Eckhart -- who decided his Secret Service code name would be "Big John -- said he based his character on "my idea of what a good president would be."

"I think we have a good example of the president today, and Antoine and I talked about JFK being a youthful, exuberant, athletic example of a president," he said, noting Asher spends more time in crisis than governing. "What you're really getting is a father, a husband, a leader that's able to make the right decisions under duress."

Eckhart's POTUS spends much of the movie tied up in a bunker, but don't call him the "damsel in distress" waiting for Butler's character to save him. "Instead of the damsel in distress, I would say the president is the prize," Eckhart joked. "That's how my agent described it to me so that I'd take the part."

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