'I don't know why I'm the only one who does it,' laughs Roland Emmerich about the speculative auction process whereby he sets up his movies at particular studios. 'It's a perfect system actually.'

Emmerich's latest deal was with Sony Pictures, which stepped in to greenlight and finance 2012, a script Emmerich and his 10,000 BC co-writer Harald Kloser co-wrote dealing with the end of the world in four years' time. They finished the script on a working trip to Thailand in December as soon as Emmerich had completed his work on 10,000 BC.

Emmerich's agents CAA sent out the 2012 script to all the studios on Tuesday, February 19. Most of them met with Emmerich the following day to hear his pitch on the project and his projected budget. Later that day, Sony signed on to pay for the film, which could cost up to $200m and is locked into an opening date of July 10, 2009.

Similar auctions, with budgets and release dates, were conducted on Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow - and both were won by 20th Century Fox with spectacular box-office results.

'I love to develop my own stuff and I send it to the studios mid-week so it's not a Friday and they all have to cancel their lunches,' he explains. 'I just hope everybody likes it when they get it. It's the best way to do these movies because you can have everything pre-approved and then it's at your discretion to take script notes or not. Every other studio knows what it is so they prefer to stay away from the release date.'

Emmerich will not talk about the exact nature of the cataclysm he plans to inflict on the world this time - 'It's one event that will destroy the world is all I can tell you' - but he gives some background as to the reason it will happen in 2012.

'The Mayan calendar ends on December 21st, 2012,' he says, 'and a lot of people believe the world will end then. Some people are already writing survival guides for 2012. One of the safe places is meant to be the Drakensberg Mountains (in Africa) and I actually wanted to shoot there but they wouldn't let us. For some odd reason Thailand is also supposed to be safe.'

In order to come out a few years before the prophecy, he was anxious to get the film into theatres next summer, resulting in a much tighter production schedule than 10,000 BC, which took him about two and a half years to prepare and produce.

Clearly Emmerich is not losing his appetite for big, splashy effects movies dealing with planet-threatening catastrophes. 'I always say to people, would you ask Woody Allen to do a movie with a car chase' You just find your place in life and your kind of movies. I did these movies from the very beginning because they are the ones I like to make. They are big adventures and as long as Hollywood lets me, I will do them.'