Scott Derrickson is a rarity in Hollywood — a committed Christian director who openly admits that his films reflect his religious views and serve as a kind of testimony. I spoke to him about his latest film, the remake of the 1951 Cold War classic The Day the Earth Stood Still. He was nice enough to begin by saying that he is a fan of Beliefnet.
I am glad to be talking to a website about messages and ideas. I read the site and like it very much. I have an ever-growing feeling that movies should have messages that trust the audience and do not give all the answers. I am resistant to being told what to think or how to vote. This movie has a lot of things to say but it is less a message than a very American perspective about America and human nature itself. We have this dual side to our nature, destructive and creative and at the same time as individuals and as a nation and as a species we have to make mistakes and evolve and grow. If you can get something like that into a big Hollywood popcorn movie without sounding preachy, that is a great thing.
Did you see the original film as a child?
The first time I saw it was in college. It was very much a product of its times, the Cold War, the bomb, the U.N. This is the story for a new time and a new era; this is a post-September 11 movie, a movie that acknowledges being in a country that has experienced a bit of a disaster.
How does this movie address its moment in history?
I knew that the movie would come out when we would have elected a new President but before he took office. This campaign was different — no one made a big deal about the race issue until Obama was elected and then everyone on all sides agreed that it was something to celebrate, a step toward healing the deepest wound in American history.
I read something recently: “We’re now living in a time when we saved our banks but destroyed our biosphere.” The movie is a reflection of that idea, of these messes that we’ve gotten ourselves into, but it is not cynical or pessimistic, it has a refreshing sense of optimism, of radical change for the better coming to the world at large. Things have gotten bad enough that we are going to roll up our sleeves, start admitting our mistakes and start dealing with them.