“All my movies are created because I'm fascinated by a subject. Sometimes I think there's just a certain obsession about it all, when you want to do something just for the sake of it. A lot of directors are like that. I'm just very fortunate that most of my movies get made.” Roland Emmerich
German film director, screenwriter and producer Roland Emmerich first came to the attention of the public with his high priced student film “The Noah’s Ark Principle” (1981), which was nominated for a Golden Berlin Bear at the 1984 Berlin International Film Festival and an International Fantasy Film Award at the 1986 Fantasporto Film Festival. By the early 1990s, the ambitious filmmaker had crossed the Atlantic Ocean to make mainstream studio films. He has since built a reputation as Hollywood's moneymaking man. Recognized for helming large scale disaster movies, Emmerich is associated with such blockbusters as “Independence Day” (1996), “The Day After Tomorrow” (2004) and “2012” (2009). Other directing credits include “Universal Soldier” (1992), “Stargate” (1994), “Godzilla” (1998), “The Patriot” (2000) and “10,000 BC” (2008). He has also produced several movies, including “The High Crusade” (1994), “The Thirteenth Floor” (1999) and “Trade” (2007). From the early 1990s to early 2000s, Emmerich developed a fruitful partnership with writing and producing collaborator Dean Devlin.
Emmerich was handed the Honorary Bambi for “Germans in Hollywood” at the 2009 Bambi Awards. He also received several awards for “Independence Day,” including a Saturn Award for Best Director, and won an European Film Award for “Godzilla” and a Hessian Film Award for “Trade.” In 2005, Emmerich served as the president of the jury at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Emmerich is openly gay and has actively supported the lesbian and gay community. He is also an activist of global warming and equal rights issues. He is an avid collector of artwork. He mentions “The Poseidon Adventure” (1972) “The Towering Inferno” (1974) and “Earthquake” (1974) among his favorite movies.
Aspiring Production Designer
Childhood and Family:
Roland Emmerich was born on November 10, 1955, in Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, West Germany. The son of Hans Emmerich, an affluent owner of a garden equipment manufacturing company, he traveled throughout North America and Europe during his youth on vacations. With the hope of becoming a production designer, Roland enrolled at the University of Television and Film Munich in Munich, but transferred to the film director program after viewing “Star Wars” (1977). He created the film “The Noah's Ark Principle” (1981) for his final thesis. He recalled, “I came to film school in 1977 when directors like Fassbinder and Wenders were everybody's heroes. But it was also the time that 'Star Wars' and 'Close Encounters' came out and these were the seminal movies for me. Everybody is always so careful about these things. I mean, I'm good friends with Wim Wenders but it doesn't mean I have to like his movies. Some of them I like. Most of them I find boring and I would tell him that to his face.”
Roland has a sister named Ute Emmerich who is a producer. She has produced many of Roland's movies. The two joined forces to form the production company Centropolis Entertainment in 1985.
While still a film student, Roland Emmerich wrote and directed the full length film “The Noah's Ark Principle” (1981), a suspenseful tale of two astronauts trapped in a futuristic space lab. Costing approximately $600,000 to produce, Emmerich's effort paid off when his film rose to the Top 12 in West Germany and was sold to over 20 countries. “The Noah's Ark Principle” made its debut at the Berlin International Film Festival on February 22, 1984, and ended up receiving a Golden Berlin Bear nomination. The film also earned an International Fantasy Film nomination for Best Film at the 1986 Fantasporto Film Festival.
After the commercial victory, Emmerich established Centropolis Films with his sister, producer Ute Emmerich, and directed the movie “Joey.” A supernatural fantasy about a boy who can communicate with his deceased father via phone, the film was nominated for the International Fantasy Film Award for Best Film at the 1987 Fantasporto Film Festival. Emmerich also co-wrote the screenplay with Hans J. Haller and Thomas Lechner, in addition to directing. In 1987, he co-wrote and directed “Hollywood-Monster/Ghost Chase,” which was released in the U.S. on January 1, 1988. It was followed by the science fiction film “Moon 44” (1990), which he directed and co-wrote. The film starred Michael Paré, Lisa Eichhorn, Brian Thompson, Leon Rippy, Malcolm McDowell and Dean Devlin. Dean Devlin would later become his producing and writing partner. The film was released direct-to-video in the U.S. in 1991.
With his growing popularity in America, Emmerich was invited to Hollywood by producer Mario Kassar to direct a futuristic action film called “Isobar.” He brought Dean Devlin with him as his producing and writing collaborator, but the director subsequently withdrew from the project when producers refused Devlin's rework of the script. “Isobar” was eventually discarded. After serving as an executive producer on the German thriller “Eye of the Storm” (1991), which was directed by Yuri Zeltser and starred Lara Flynn Boyle, Bradley Gregg and Dennis Hopper, Emmerich made his Hollywood directing debut with the action movie “Universal Soldier” (1992). Replacing director Andrew Davis with Devlin co-writing the script with Richard Rothstein and Christopher Leitch, the movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren opened at No. 2 at the box office and was a huge success, earning more than $102 million worldwide.
Through Centropolis Film Productions, Emmerich produced the big screen adaptation of Poul Anderson's 1960 science fiction novel “The High Crusade” (1994). The film was directed by Klaus Knoesel and Holger Neuhäuser and starred John Rhys-Davies. The same year, he returned to the director's chair to helm Kurt Russell and James Spader in the military science fiction movie “Stargate,” which he co-wrote with Devlin. He also produced the film. The critical reception to the movie was generally negative, but the film enjoyed major triumph with audiences.
Already making a name for themselves in Hollywood as moneymakers, the relatively new creative team of Emmerich and Devlin were able to gather around $70 million for their ambitious film project “Independence Day,” which was about an aggressive alien invasion on Earth. Directed by Emmerich and co-written by Emmerich and Devlin, the science fiction movie was a massive box office hit and is one of the highest worldwide grossing movies of all time. “Independence Day” also received good reviews from critics and won an Academy Award for Best Effects, Visual Effects. The cast included Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Robert Loggia, Randy Quaid, Margaret Colin and Vivica A. Fox. For his work on “Independence Day,” Emmerich nabbed a Saturn Award for Best Director and an additional nomination for Best Writer from the 1997 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, an Amanda for Best Foreign Feature Film, a Readers' Choice Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 1997 Mainichi Film Concours and Universe Reader's Choice Awards for Best Director for a Genre Motion Picture and Best Writing for a Genre Motion Picture from Sci-Fi Universe Magazine. He also received a Razzie nomination for Worst Written Film Grossing Over $100 Million.
Emmerich and Devlin were reunited the following year when they created the science fiction TV series “The Visitor,” starring John Corbett. Debuting on Fox on September 19, 1997, the show ended after one season of 13 episodes. On the movie front, the two worked together on “Godzilla” (1998), a remake of the successful 1954 Japanese science fiction movie of the same name, with Emmerich sitting in the director's chair and co-scripting with producer Devlin. Starring Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, Maria Pitillo and Hank Azaria, the film was criticized by critics and picked up a Razzie for Worst Remake or Sequel. It also received Razzie nominations for Worst Director, Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay. Apart from Razzie nominations, “Godzilla” brought Emmerich European Film's Audience Award for Best Director and a Saturn nomination for Best Director.
“Godzilla” spawned the animated TV series sequel “Godzilla: The Series,” which was executive produced by Emmerich and Devlin. The series debuted on Fox Kids in the U.S. on September 12, 1998, and ran until April 22, 2000. In 1999, Emmerich returned to feature films as the producer of the thriller “The Thirteenth Floor,” which was directed by Josef Rusnak.
Entering the new millennium, Emmerich took a brief hiatus from science fiction to direct and executive produce the American Revolutionary War drama “The Patriot” (2000), which was written by Robert Rodat and starred Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger. The film earned primarily good reviews and was nominated for Oscars for Best Sound, Best Cinematography, and Best Original Music Score. On the commercial front, “The Patriot” collected over $113 million at the domestic box office and over $101 million on the international market for a total worldwide gross of over $215 million from an original budget of about $110 million. Talking about the movie, Emmerich said, “Everybody accuses me of doing the typical summer fare. Well, here's a movie that's different. It's very dark. It's very long. It's a historical drama.”
In 2002, Emmerich executive produced the thriller “Eight Legged Freaks” for director Ellory Elkayem and stars David Arquette, Kari Wuhrer and Scarlett Johansson. He did not return to directing until 2004 when he helmed the big budget, visual affects laden “The Day After Tomorrow,” which he produced with Mark Gordon and co-scripted with Jeffery Nachmanoff. Starring Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum, Sela Ward and Ian Holm, the film earned mixed reviews but was a huge success at the box office. The commercial success of the film allowed Emmerich to set up a new film production company in Germany called Reelmachine.
After producing the crime thriller “Trade” (2007) for director Marco Kreuzpaintner, Emmerich wrote, directed and produced the big budget movie “10,000 BC” (2008). About the journey of a tribe of mammoth hunters, the film enjoyed success at the box office by grossing over $269 million worldwide, but was panned by critics. The cast included Steven Strait, Camilla Belle and Cliff Curtis. His recent movie, “2012” (2009), an prophetic disaster film inspired by the theory that the ancient Mayans predicted the world would come to an end on December 21, 2012, received mixed reviews from critics but marked another huge box office success for Emmerich. The film became the 5th highest grossing film of 2009. “2012” starred John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Danny Glover, Thandie Newton and Woody Harrelson. In addition to directing, Emmerich also co-wrote the screenplay with Harald Kloser and shared producing duties with Kloser, Mark Gordon, Larry J. Franco and his sister Ute Emmerich.
“When you're not loved by the critics, it's very hard for anyone to say anything good about your movie. For me, it's more important that the audience enjoys it and embraces it anyway. You get something that does well, but is criticized. So you say, 'OK, they just didn't get it. There's 1% or 2% who didn't like it but there's 98% who did.” Roland Emmerich
Emmerich is scheduled to return to the German film industry with the drama “Anonymous” (2010), which was written by John Orloff.
Bambi: Honorary Bambi, “Germans in Hollywood,” 2009
Hessian Film: Special Award, Cinema for Peace Award, “Trade,” 2007
European Film: Audience Award, Best Director, “Godzilla,” 1998
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films: Saturn Award, Best Director, “Independence Day,” 1997
Amanda: Best Foreign Feature Film (Årets utenlandske spillefilm), “Independence Day,” 1997
Mainichi Film Concours: Readers' Choice Award, Best Foreign Language Film, “Independence Day,” 1997
Sci-Fi Universe Magazine: Universe Reader's Choice Award, Best Director for a Genre Motion Picture, “Independence Day,” 1996
Sci-Fi Universe Magazine: Universe Reader's Choice Award, Best Writing for a Genre Motion Picture, “Independence Day,” 1996