Roland Emmerich Biography
Roland Emmerich is a German film director, screenwriter, and producer who works mostly in the disaster and action genres. He is the 18th-highest grossing director of all time, with his films generating over $945 million in the United States. He began his work in the film industry by directing the film The Noah's Ark Principle as part of his university thesis and also co-founded Centropolis Film Productions in 1985 with his sister. He is a collector of art and an active campaigner for the lesbian and gay community, with Emmerich himself being openly gay. He is also a campaigner for an awareness of global warming and equal rights.
Early life and career
Emmerich grew up in Sindelfingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. As a youth, he traveled extensively throughout Europe and North America on vacations financed by his father, Hans, the wealthy founder of a garden machinery production company. In 1977, he began attending University of Television and Film Munich with the intention of studying to become a production designer. After watching Star Wars, he instead decided to enroll in the school's film director program. Required to create a short film as his final thesis in 1981, he wrote and directed the full-length feature The Noah's Ark Principle, which was eventually screened as the opening movie of the 1984 Berlin Film Festival.
In 1985, he founded Centropolis Film Productions (now Centropolis Entertainment) in partnership with his sister, producer Ute Emmerich, and directed his major film debut, a fantasy feature named Joey. He subsequently directed the 1987 comedy Hollywood-Monster and the 1990 science-fiction film Moon 44. Theatrically, these were only released in and nearby his native country, although Emmerich filmed them in English and went against conventional German styles in an attempt to appeal to a larger market. This subsequently resulted in Moon 44 being released direct-to-video in the U.S. in early 1991. Joey and Hollywood-Monster eventually also saw home video releases in the U.S. (as Making Contact and Ghost Chase, respectively) once Emmerich achieved more prominence in America.
Hollywood director - 1990s
Producer Mario Kassar invited Emmerich to come to the United States to direct a futuristic action film entitled Isobar. Dean Devlin, who appeared in Moon 44, soon joined Emmerich as his writing and producing partner, and served in this capacity until 2000. Emmerich subsequently refused the offer to direct after producers rejected Devlin's re-write of the script, and the Isobar project was eventually scrapped. Instead, Emmerich was hired to replace director Andrew Davis for the action movie Universal Soldier. The film was released in 1992, and has since been followed by two direct-to-video sequels, a theatrical sequel, and another sequel scheduled for a 2010 release.
Emmerich next helmed the 1994 science-fiction film Stargate. At the time, it set a record for the highest-grossing opening weekend for a film released in the month of October. It became more commercially successful than most film industry insiders had anticipated, and spawned a highly popular media franchise.
Emmerich then directed Independence Day, an alien invasion feature, released in 1996, that became the first film to gross $100 million in less than a week and went on to become one of the most financially successful films of all time, at one point having been the second-highest grossing film in terms of worldwide box office. Emmerich and Devlin then created the television series The Visitor, which aired on the Fox Network during 1997-1998 before being cancelled after one season.
His next film, Godzilla, opened in 1998. An extensive advertising and marketing campaign generated significant hype during the months leading up to the film's release. The film did not meet its anticipated success, and was largely panned by critics.
Taking a short break from science-fiction, Emmerich next directed the American Revolutionary War epic The Patriot. Only the second film (Universal Soldier being the other) Emmerich has directed in which he didn't contribute to the screenplay, the film received generally favorable critical and commercial response, and is Emmerich's most well-reviewed film to date. After teaming up with new screenwriting partner Harald Kloser, Emmerich returned once again to directing a visual effects-laden adventure with 2004's blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow, another disaster film about a rapidly oncoming Ice Age brought upon by the effects of global warming. Soon afterwards, he founded Reelmachine, another film production company based in Germany.
In 2008, Emmerich directed 10,000 BC, a film about the journeys of a prehistoric tribe of mammoth hunters. It was a box office hit, but consistently regarded by professional critics as one of the worst movies of the year. He was slated to direct a remake of the 1966 science-fiction film Fantastic Voyage, but the project slipped back into development hell. His most recent film is 2012, an apocalyptic film inspired by the theory that the ancient Mayans prophesied the world's ending on December 21, 2012. Emmerich usually finishes production of a large-scale movie both in a time frame shorter and on a budget lower than what is typically requested by other directors.
A general consensus amongst critics is that Emmerich's films rely too heavily on visual effects, and suffer from clichéd dialogue, flimsy and formulaic narrative, scientific and historical inaccuracies, illogical plot development, and lack of character depth. Emmerich contends that he isn't discouraged by such negative criticism, and that he aims to provide enjoyable "popcorn" entertainment to movie-going audiences. Stating that he's "a filmmaker, not a scientist", he creates his own fiction based on actual science or history to make the messages he sends "more exciting".
In response to accusations of insensitivity for including scenes of New York City being destroyed in The Day After Tomorrow, less than three years after the September 11th attacks, Emmerich claims that it was necessary to depict the event as a means to showcase the increased unity people now have when facing a disaster, because of 9/11. When accused of resorting too often to scenes of cities being subjected to epic disasters, Emmerich says that it's a justified way of increasing awareness about both global warming, and the lack of a government preparation plan for a global doomsday scenario in the cases of The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 respectively.
Acknowledging what he was told were flaws with Godzilla, Emmerich admitted to regretting having agreed to direct it. He stated that his lack of interest in the previous Godzilla movies, the short time he promised it would take for him to complete the film, and the studio's refusal to screen it for test audiences were all factors that may have negatively affected the quality of the final product,and cited the former reason as to why he turned down an offer to direct Spider-Man as he couldn't imagine himself as getting enthusiastic about the project because he was never intrigued by comic books and superhero-related fiction. However, Emmerich still defends Godzilla, noting that the film was highly profitable and claiming that, of all his movies, people tell him Godzilla is the one they and their kids watch the most repeatedly.
In his scathing review of Stargate, film critic Roger Ebert compared Emmerich's skills to those of infamous director Ed Wood. Emmerich responded by including an arrogant character named after and based on Ebert in Godzilla. Ebert has since complimented Emmerich's directorial abilities in his positive reviews of The Patriot and The Day After Tomorrow.
Personal life and advocacy
Emmerich owns homes in Los Angeles, Manhattan, London, and Stuttgart. Emmerich likes to decorate his homes in a self-described "outlandish" manner, adorning them with rare Hollywood memorabilia, murals and portraits of dictators and Communist figures, and World War II-era relics.
Emmerich's extensive collection of artwork includes a painting of Jesus Christ wearing a Katharine Hamnett-styled t-shirt during his crucifixion, prints of Alison Jackson's works of a Princess Diana lookalike making obscene gestures and engaging in sex acts, a wax sculpture of Pope John Paul II laughing as he reads his own obituary, and a Photoshopped image of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a homoerotic pose. Emmerich, who is openly gay and an active liberal, states that the decorations and pieces aren't declarations of any beliefs, but rather reflections of his "predilection for art with a political edge".
Emmerich has claimed that he witnessed overt racism when producers and studio executives were opposed to allowing him to cast Will Smith for the lead in Independence Day, and reluctant to allow him to portray an interracial couple in The Day After Tomorrow. He has also claimed that he has encountered homophobia from the same groups, and is vocal in his opposition of such behavior. He has stated that sometimes he does " the movie business", describing it as a sometimes "very cold, brutal business", but his motivation to keep directing is that he genuinely "like making movies".
In 2006, he pledged $150,000 to the Legacy Project, a campaign dedicated to gay and lesbian film preservation. Emmerich made the donation on behalf of Outfest, making it the largest gift in the festival's history. In 2007, on behalf of the LGBT community, he held a fundraiser at his Los Angeles home for Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Emmerich is in favor of the campaign for stunt performers to receive recognition at the Academy Awards, and has worked to raise awareness over the issue of global warming. A chain-smoker who has been known to smoke as many as four packs of cigarettes a day, Emmerich has often included in his films characters who are trying to quit smoking, and/or warn against the dangers of tobacco use. Along with several other celebrities, he is a producer of The 1 Second Film, a non-profit project intended to raise money for women's rights in the developing world.