Roland Emmerich is a German director who is the undisputed king of American Disaster Movies in the past fifteen years or so. He's known for blowing up the White House, among other things. Although his films have a tendency to get mixed reviews, he makes films that absolutely kill at the box office and they are usually enjoyable in their own rights.
He became interested in film after seeing Star Wars (like many others), and attended the University of Television and Film in Munich. His early films are generally unknown by most audiences, but were praised in his home country. His first film was Das Arche Noah Prinzip (The Noah's Ark Principle), about a space station that could be used to control the weather, which holds the record for Germany's most expensive student film (about 1.2 million DM). He made several further films in Germany that are borderline unknown; Joey, Hollywood-Monster and Moon 44; one of which featured one of his frequent collaborators in scripting: Dean Devlin.
In The '90s, he traveled to Hollywood to direct his first blockbuster: Universal Soldier. While it received less-than-kind reviews, the film made a decent amount of money in the USA, it made over twice the amount of money overseas. After this, he directed Stargate, which later kicked off its own TV Series and franchise.
After Stargate, he would move on to direct his best known film: Independence Day. It was the first movie to make $100 Million in one week, and later became the second highest grossing film for the time. After taking a break from directing, he worked with Devlin on the one-season show called The Visitor.
Then, he worked on the 1998 Remake of Godzilla, or Godzilla: In Name Only (GINO) as some fans called it. It used clever Viral Marketing, describing the size of the monster without giving it away. When the actual film came out, it wasn't received well. Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, who criticized his previous movies, pointed out his Take That! in the film, and was displeased to find that he didn't get eaten or stepped on by the giant lizard. Ebert still held a grudge to his death over this. Over time, reportedly, some Godzilla fans have considered the movie to be better than less-enjoyable installments in the series.
In the 2000's, he directed the war epic The Patriot, which is generally seen by critics as his best movie, although it is often maligned as being a Revolutionary War-based re-tread of Braveheart. He made 2004's The Day After Tomorrow, about an ice age enveloping the northern hemisphere in a matter of weeks due to an extreme change in the climate caused by extreme global warming note . Four years later, he directed and co-wrote the poorly-received 10,000 BC (which again drew comparisons to another Gibson film, Apocalypto).
2012, is apparently his swansong for disaster movies. Though the film has very little to do with the apocalypse theory in questionnote , movie fit in as many disasters as it could. It's his most visually impressive movie, and given who we're talking about that's saying a lot. Interestingly, Roger Ebert (previously critical of Emmerich's work) praised the film, claiming that it was as entertaining as any disaster movie could hope to be.
After 2012, he did Anonymous, about Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford, whom some suspect is the real author of the plays of Shakespeare. As always, there are many historical liberties and inaccuracies taken with the film, besides the obvious. Before the movie's release, Emmerich responded to the criticisms of the film's support of the oxford theory by calling the scholars who objected to the theory liars.
He also directed White House Down (it had him damaging/destroying the White House, yet again), which also happened to come out the same year as Olympus Has Fallen. Then he made the sequel to Independence Day, with Devlin again. He is currently working on a film about the World War II battle of Midway.
Emmerich is openly gay, and 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. He owns homes in Los Angeles, Manhattan, London and Stuttgart. He 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. His 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. His three favorite movies are The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno and Earthquake, all disaster movies. note
- Artistic License: He justifies the silly logical inconsistencies with this, feeling that the action in his movies don't need to be completely accurate to be entertaining. This is probably for the best.
- Contrived Coincidence: A frequently employed tool in his work, particularly in 2012, Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow. In short, it's best not to think to hard about how his heroes make their way towards survival; just be happy that they do.
- Conspiracy Kitchen Sink: Although he is best known as a Master of Disaster, nearly all of his movies feature a popular conspiracy/fringe theory in some fashion (from Ancient Astronauts (Stargate) to Area 51 (Independence Day) and Atlantis-like pre-civilizations (10,000 BC), and even the less exotic one about Shakespeare not having written his plays (Anonymous)
- Disaster Movie/Epic Movie: Usually in tandem.
- Genre Throwback: Almost all of the summer blockbusters that he's made tend to homage B-Movies.
- Stargate was this for Sci-Fi films.
- Independence Day was this for Alien Invasion flicks.
- The above film, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 are these for Disaster Movies.
- 10,000 BC was this for "Prehistoric" picture shows from the 50s.
- Hollywood Science: The neutrino-related stuff in 2012. Also, the thermodynamic forces at play in The Day After Tomorrow moved faster than in real life (obviously).
- Loads and Loads of Characters: The cast listing for his films run long. 2012 alone credits 150 people in the cast, both credited and uncredited.
- Monumental Damage: His disaster movies always feature at least one monument getting destroyed or damaged.
- Rule of Cool: Absolutely any film that he's involved in. And we wouldn't have it any other way.
- Rule of Fun
- Running Gag: Something bad usually happens to the White House in his films whether it's being blow up by aliens, having an aircraft carrier smashed into it, or being occupied by terrorists.