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Roland Emmerich had a specific plan when he started casting the lead roles for his new feature film, “10,000 B.C.” There was no way he was going to cast a familiar face.

“I knew I wanted to have good actors who had some talent. But I didn’t want someone to say, `Oh, look, there’s Jake Gyllenhaal running after a mammoth.’ So we went through the hard job of trying to find unknowns. The problem was that the really, really good actors often get immediately discovered,” Emmerich says during an interview at the WonderCon Convention.

cover art

10,000 B.C.

Director: Roland Emmerich
Cast: Steven Strait, Camilla Belle, Cliff Curtis, Affif Ben Badra, Nathanael Baring, Joel Virgel

(Warner Bros. Pictures; US theatrical: 7 Mar 2008 (General release); UK theatrical: 14 Mar 2008 (General release); 2008)

Review [7.Mar.2008]

The three-day event was held Feb. 22-24 and featured multiple panel discussions with cast and crew of the film, which opens Friday. Emmerich and his two stars had just finished a panel session where a standing-room-only crowd saw scenes from the movie and got to quiz the director and actors.

As if on cue, the film’s stars entered the small room in the belly of the Moscone Center West convention center.

At first glance, Steven Strait and Camilla Belle look like they have gotten lost on their way to a casting call for “Make Me a Supermodel.” Strait wears a black leather coat and hat. Belle’s short black dress would be fashionable on any runway in Europe. The outfits are a few dozen millennia away from the scant and primitive clothes they wore in the movie.

Belle says working on the action-heavy film was really different.

“I was the only girl,” Belle, 21, says as she brushes the dark bangs from her forehead. “At the same time, I did not have to do as much training as Steven.”

In the film, Belle plays Evolet, the woman whom Strait’s character, D’Leh, loves. He must save her when she is kidnapped by warlords. His quest takes him into many battles, including a showdown with a saber-toothed tiger.

Belle brings more acting credits to the film than her co-star. She has been acting since she was 7, and she appeared in such films as “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” and “The Chumscrubber.” Strait, 21, has worked more as a model.

No amount of acting would have prepared them for the ordeals of the shoot. They faced climate changes that went from energy-sapping heat to bone-chilling cold. They were required to use a simplistic form of dialogue to communicate in the film.

And then there were all of the big special-effects sequences in which huge beasts were added long after the actors had completed their work.

That was a big change for Belle, who has done a host of independent films. And independent films rarely have the budget for the amount of special effects that are in a film such as “10,000 B.C.”

“In independent films, you spend more time working on character development, the story. In this kind of movie, you can’t be really developing your character. It is a popcorn movie where people don’t care much about your character,” Belle says.

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