Roland Emmerich

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Roland Emmerich
Independence Day- Resurgence Japan Premiere- Roland Emmerich (28502013341) CROPPED.jpg
Emmerich in 2016
Born (1955-11-10) 10 November 1955 (age 67)
  • Germany
  • United States
Alma materUniversity of Television and Film Munich
  • Film director
  • producer
  • screenwriter
Years active1979–present
Omar De Soto
(m. 2017)
Signature of Roland Emmerich.svg

Roland Emmerich (German: [ˈʁoːlant ˈɛməʁɪç] (listen); born 10 November 1955) is a German film director, screenwriter, and producer. He is widely known for his science fiction and disaster films and has been called a "master of disaster" within the industry.[1] His films, most of which are English-language Hollywood productions, have made more than $3 billion worldwide, including just over $1 billion in the United States, making him the country's 15th-highest-grossing director of all time.[2][3]

He began his work in the film industry by directing the film The Noah's Ark Principle (1984) as part of his university thesis and also co-founded Centropolis Entertainment in 1985 with his sister. He is also known for directing films such as Universal Soldier (1992), Stargate (1994), Independence Day (1996) and its sequel Independence Day: Resurgence (2016), Godzilla (1998), The Patriot (2000), The Day After Tomorrow (2004), 10,000 BC (2008), 2012 (2009), White House Down (2013), Midway (2019), and Moonfall (2022).

Early life and career[edit]

Emmerich was born in Stuttgart, West Germany, and grew up in the nearby town of Sindelfingen.[4] 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.[5] In 1977, he began attending University of Television and Film Munich with the intention of studying to become a production designer.[5][6] After watching Star Wars, he instead decided to enroll in the school's film director program.[5][7] 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 screened as the opening film of the 34th Berlin International Film Festival in 1984.[6]

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.[5] 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.[5][8] 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[edit]


Producer Mario Kassar invited Emmerich to come to the United States to direct a futuristic action film entitled Isobar.[9] Dean Devlin, who appeared in Moon 44, soon joined Emmerich as his writing and producing partner, and served in this capacity until 2000.[8] Emmerich subsequently refused the offer to direct after producers rejected Devlin's re-write of the script, and the Isobar project was eventually scrapped.[9] Instead, Emmerich was hired to replace director Andrew Davis for the action movie Universal Soldier. The film was released in 1992.

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.[10] It became more commercially successful than most film industry insiders had anticipated,[8][11] and spawned a highly popular media franchise. Around the time, Emmerich and Devlin got involved with Bethesda Softworks to develop the video game The 10th Planet, which was scheduled to be released in October 1997, but got canceled.[12][13]

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[14][15] and went on to become one of the most financially successful films of all time,[16] at one point having been the second-highest-grossing film in terms of worldwide box office.[17] 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 was a box office success but was met with negative reviews from critics and fans. It garnered a Saturn Award for Best Special Effects, a BMI Film Music Award, and the Audience Award for Best Director at the European Film Awards while also receiving a Razzie Award for Worst Remake or Sequel. It has only a 16% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[18] Emmerich said that prior to getting involved with Godzilla he and Devlin had planned a disaster movie centered around an asteroid fall, which wound up cancelled after Armageddon went for a similar idea.[1]


Taking a short break from science-fiction, Emmerich next directed the American Revolutionary War epic The Patriot (2000). One of only five films (Universal Soldier, Anonymous, White House Down, and Midway being the others) Emmerich has directed in which he did not contribute to the screenplay, the film received a generally favorable critical and commercial response,[19] and is Emmerich's best-reviewed film to date.[20][21] 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 afterward, 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 his worst film, as well as one of the worst films of the year.[22] He was slated to direct a remake of the 1966 science-fiction film Fantastic Voyage,[23] but the project slipped back into development hell. In 2009, Emmerich directed 2012,[24] an apocalyptic disaster film based on the conspiracy theory that the ancient Mayans prophesied the world's ending on 21 December 2012.[25] Despite mixed reviews, the film went on to be his second-highest-grossing film to date (after Independence Day) and received praise from audiences. 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.[6][8]


Roland Emmerich at the German Film Awards in 2012 in Berlin, Germany.
Emmerich in 2012

Emmerich's next film, Anonymous, released on 28 October 2011, is based on the premise that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford is the real author of the plays and sonnets of William Shakespeare.[26] According to Emmerich, "It's an historical thriller because it's about who will succeed Queen Elizabeth and the struggle of the people who want to have a hand in it. It's the Tudors on one side and the Cecils on the other, and in between [the two] is the Queen. Through that story we tell how the plays written by the Earl of Oxford ended up labelled 'William Shakespeare.'"[27]

In 2011, Sony Pictures had purchased a pitch for Emmerich's project Singularity, a sci-fi epic about a man composed of nanomachines. Originally planned for a 2013 release, the project has since gone into development hell.[28]

Emmerich directed the action-thriller film White House Down, which involved a terrorist attack on the White House by a paramilitary group. The spec script was written by James Vanderbilt and was purchased by Sony Pictures for $3 million in March 2012. The Hollywood Reporter called it "one of the biggest spec sales in quite a while". The journal said the script was similar "tonally and thematically" to the films Die Hard, Air Force One and Olympus Has Fallen (2013). Emmerich began filming in July 2012 at the La Cité Du Cinéma in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The film was released on 28 June 2013 in the United States.

Whenever asked about making a personal project, Emmerich thought it would be "a gay film", and after friends during production of Anonymous asked if he could make a film on the Stonewall riots, Emmerich got interested in the idea.[29] Stonewall was released in 2015.[30] He followed it with a sequel to his most successful film in Independence Day: Resurgence, released twenty years after the original Independence Day on 24 June 2016.[31]

In November 2019, Emmerich directed the film Midway based on the battle of Midway during the Pacific Theater of World War II.


In 2020, it was announced that Emmerich's next film project would be entitled Moonfall, released in 2022 by Lionsgate. The project is a space disaster film about a mysterious force knocking the moon from its orbit around Earth, sending it on a collision course with the planet. In response, a ragtag team launches a last-ditch mission to land on the lunar surface and save Earth from annihilation.[32][33] with the production budget standing at $150 million.[34]

Future projects[edit]

Following the release of Moonfall, Emmerich said he has been working on a TV series based on T. E. Lawrence for around a decade, and stated he has three projects he would like to make, a mistaken identity period piece set in 1919 about a young writer having to take control of a film set, another about a conquistador, and a third about the death of Marilyn Monroe.[1]

Personal life and advocacy[edit]

Emmerich owns homes in Los Angeles, New York City, London and Stuttgart.[5][35][36][37][38] He likes to decorate his homes in a self-described "outlandish" manner,[38] adorning them with rare Hollywood memorabilia, murals and portraits of dictators and Communist figures, and World War II militaria.[5][37]

He is a collector of art and an LGBT activist, and is openly gay.[39] Emmerich's extensive collection of artwork includes a painting of Jesus Christ wearing a Katharine Hamnett-styled T-shirt during his crucifixion,[38] prints of Alison Jackson's works of a Princess Diana lookalike making obscene gestures and engaging in sex acts,[36][40] a wax sculpture of Pope John Paul II laughing as he reads his own obituary,[36][40] and a Photoshopped image of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a homoerotic pose.[38] Emmerich, a financial supporter of U.S. progressive politics,[41] states that the decorations and pieces are not declarations of any beliefs,[38] but rather reflections of his "predilection for art with a political edge".[40]

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.[42] He has also claimed that he has encountered homophobia from the same groups, and is vocal in his opposition to such behavior.[42] He has stated that sometimes he does "[not like working in] the movie business", describing it as a sometimes "very cold, brutal business", but his motivation to keep directing is that he genuinely "like[s] making movies".[5]

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.[43] In 2007, on behalf of the LGBT community, he held a fundraiser at his Los Angeles home for Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.[37] In 2011, he became a U.S. citizen while keeping his German citizenship. He stated he did so because he "wanted to have a vote in the next US elections" and that he waited because he "didn’t want to become an American under Bush."[44]

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.[45][46] He once was a chain-smoker who was known to smoke as many as four packs of cigarettes a day,[47] Emmerich has often included in his films characters who are trying to quit smoking 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.[48]

Emmerich is married to Omar De Soto.[49]


Author Bret Easton Ellis alleged that two of his former partners had attended underage sex parties hosted by Emmerich and Bryan Singer. [50]


In addition to film,[51] Emmerich also co-created and produced the short-lived television series The Visitor, and, in 2001, directed a one-minute commercial entitled "Infinite Possibilities" for DaimlerChrysler.[52]


Year Title Director Writer Producer
1979 Franzmann Yes Yes No
Wilde Witwe (Short film) Yes No No
1984 The Noah's Ark Principle Yes Yes Co-producer
1985 Joey Yes Yes Co-producer
1987 Hollywood-Monster Yes Yes Yes
1990 Moon 44 Yes Story Yes
1992 Universal Soldier Yes No No
1994 Stargate Yes Yes No
1996 Independence Day Yes Yes Executive
1998 Godzilla Yes Yes Executive
2000 The Patriot Yes No Executive
2004 The Day After Tomorrow Yes Yes Yes
2008 10,000 BC Yes Yes Yes
2009 2012 Yes Yes Executive
2011 Anonymous Yes No Yes
2013 White House Down Yes No Yes
2015 Stonewall Yes No Yes
2016 Independence Day: Resurgence Yes Yes Yes
2019 Midway Yes No Yes
2022 Moonfall Yes Yes Yes

Executive producer



Year(s) Title Director Executive
Writer Notes
1980 Altosax No No Yes TV movie
1997–1998 The Visitor No Yes Yes
1998–2000 Godzilla: The Series No Yes No
2012 Dark Horse Yes Yes Yes TV movie
TBA Those About to Die Yes Yes No Upcoming series

Critical reception[edit]

Reviewers often criticize Emmerich's films for relying heavily on visual effects and suffering from clichéd dialogue, flimsy and formulaic narratives, numerous scientific and historical inaccuracies, illogical plot developments, and lack of character depth.[53][54][55] Emmerich contends that he is not discouraged by such criticism and that he aims to provide enjoyable "popcorn" entertainment to movie-going audiences.[45] Stating that he is "a filmmaker, not a scientist", he creates his own fiction based on actual science or history to make the messages he sends "more exciting".[56]

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 11 attacks, Emmerich said 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.[35][45][56] When accused of resorting too often to scenes of cities being subjected to epic disasters, Emmerich says that it is 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.[56][57]

Acknowledging what he characterized as flaws with Godzilla, Emmerich admitted he regretted 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,[35] and cited the former reason as to why he turned down an offer to direct Spider-Man, as he was not interested in comic books or superhero-related fiction.[35] However, Emmerich still defends Godzilla, noting that the film was highly profitable[35] and claiming that, of all his movies, people tell him Godzilla is the one they and their kids watch the most repeatedly.[56]

Emmerich has also faced criticism from the LGBT community. His film Stonewall was criticized for being whitewashed and diminishing the contributions of transgender women of color to starting the Stonewall Riots,[58] and for being sex-negative.[59] In response to these claims, Emmerich has said the Stonewall riots were "a white event".[60] The film received generally negative reviews from critics.[61]

Similarly, Emmerich touted his 2016 film Independence Day: Resurgence as having a gay couple,[62] but when the film was released, Johnny Gayzmonic of Unicorn Booty criticized the film because the couple in question was two trivial characters lacking in believable chemistry who were utilized solely for comic relief, one of whom was needlessly killed off in a way that was not vital to the plot (the other having been depicted as strictly heterosexual in tie-in material to the first film), the characters only being revealed to have been a gay couple during the aforementioned death scene (with references to their relationship being cut from the Chinese version of the film), a fate that Gayzmonic observed befell many gay couples in film.[63]

Year Film Rotten Tomatoes[64] Metacritic[65]
1992 Universal Soldier 33% 35/100
1994 Stargate 53% 42/100
1996 Independence Day 67% 59/100
1998 Godzilla 15% 32/100
2000 The Patriot 62% 63/100
2004 The Day After Tomorrow 45% 47/100
2008 10,000 BC 9% 34/100
2009 2012 39% 49/100
2011 Anonymous 45% 50/100
2013 White House Down 52% 52/100
2015 Stonewall 9% 30/100
2016 Independence Day: Resurgence 29% 32/100
2019 Midway 41% 47/100
2022 Moonfall 43% 36/100

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year[a] Nominated work Category Result
Golden Raspberry Awards
1997 Independence Day Worst Written Film Grossing Over $100 Million Nominated
1999 Godzilla Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel Won
Worst Director Nominated
Worst Picture Nominated
Worst Screenplay Nominated
2017 Independence Day: Resurgence Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel Nominated
Worst Director Nominated
Worst Picture Nominated
Worst Screenplay Nominated
Hugo Awards
1997 Independence Day Best Dramatic Presentation Nominated
Kids' Choice Award
1997 Independence Day Favorite Movie Won
Jupiter Award
1997 Independence Day Best International Director Won
Best International Film Won
2005 The Day After Tomorrow Best International Film Won
MTV Movie Awards
1997 Independence Day Best Movie Nominated
People's Choice Awards
1997 Independence Day Favorite Dramatic Motion Picture Won
Saturn Awards
1997 Independence Day Best Director Won
1999 Godzilla Best Director Nominated
Best Fantasy Film Nominated
2005 The Day After Tomorrow Best Science Fiction Film Nominated
2010 2012 Best Action or Adventure Film Nominated
2017 Independence Day: Resurgence Best Science Fiction Film Nominated
Scream Awards
2010 2012 Best Director Nominated
Universe Reader's Choice Award
1996 Independence Day Best Director Won


  1. ^ Year in which awards ceremony was held


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External links[edit]