Roland Emmerich (born November 10, 1955) is a German director and producer who is known as the undisputed king of American disaster movies, a title he's held for the past thirty years or so. Although his films have a tendency to get mixed if not horrible reviews from critics, they usually kill at the box office.
He became interested in film after seeing Star Wars in 1977 (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 B-movies 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, and made over twice the amount of money overseas. After this, he directed Stargate, which later kicked off its own TV series and franchise, and opened him the door to direct bigger and bigger films, with his most notable box office hit being Independence Day.
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
- The Noah's Ark Principle (1984)
- Joey (1985)
- Making Contact (1985)
- Hollywood-Monster (1987)
- Moon 44 (1990)
- Universal Soldier (1992)
- Stargate (1994)
- Independence Day (1996)
- Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)
- The Visitor (1997-1998)
- Godzilla (1998)
- The Patriot (2000)
- The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
- 10,000 BC (2008)
- 2012 (2009)
- Anonymous (2011)
- White House Down (2013)
- Stonewall (2015)
- Midway (2019)
- Moonfall (2022)
- Artistic License: His films are known to have this in spades, and Emmerich himself justifies the silly logical inconsistencies with this, feeling that the action in his movies don't need to be completely accurate to be entertaining. And it's 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 (sharing this with his idol Irwin Allen), 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)
- Creator Backlash: Of a sort. Emmerich regretted that he rushed Godzilla for a Memorial Day release. He still defends the film, though.
- 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).
- Monumental Damage: His disaster movies always feature at least one monument getting destroyed or damaged.
- One Degree of Separation: In relation to Contrived Coincidence above, individuals from his ensemble casts are somehow connected to each other in the most convenient of ways, which often leads to them making it out alive because of said connections.
- Playing Against Type: While known mainly for his disaster films, Emmerich has also done thrillers as well, such as Anonymous, a pseudo-historical mystery-thriller about William Shakespeare, and later a dramatic retelling of the Stonewall riots.
- Production Posse:
- His major movies were all written by Dean Devlin.
- Production designer Patrick Tatopoulos worked on pretty much all of his films.
- David Arnold composed all of his 1990s films' soundtracks (from Stargate onwards.)
- Harald Kloser not only became his go-to composer starting with The Day After Tomorrow (aside from Stonewall), but his story suggestions in that movie made Emmerich bring him in as a writing\producing partner as well.
- 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.
- What Could Have Been:
- He said that he and Dean Devlin were planning a movie about an asteroid crash before being roped into Godzilla. And then that very year came Armageddon (1998) and Deep Impact to make him cancel the project.
- In 2011, Columbia purchased a spec script from him named Singularity. It entered Development Hell during the following years, and doesn't seem to be leaving any time soon.