A director/writer/producer with a flair for special effects-driven action, German Roland Emmerich made himself at home in blockbuster-hungry 1990s Hollywood. Born and educated in West Germany, Emmerich studied production design as well as direction at the Munich Film and Television School. After his student film, The Noah's Ark Principle, debuted at the 1984 Berlin Film Festival, Emmerich formed his production company Centropolis and directed supernatural fantasies Making Contact (1986) and Ghost Chase (1987), and the straight-to-video action film Moon 44 (1990). On the latter, he met actor Dean Devlin who subsequently switched jobs to become Emmerich's writing and producing partner once Emmerich set up shop in Hollywood.
After making his solo Hollywood debut directing Jean-Claude Van Damme in the cyborg action fest Universal Soldier (1992), Emmerich and Devlin revealed a talent for conjuring A-level action spectacles out of B-movie scenarios with their first film together, Stargate (1994). A space odyssey mixing ancient Egyptiana and high-tech wizardry, Stargate became an unexpected hit. Emmerich hit his blockbuster stride with his next film, Independence Day (1996). With its eye-popping destruction of major cities and climactic annihilation of a spacecraft via portable computer, Independence Day blew away its summer movie competition on the strength of its visual flash. Geared to repeat with the endlessly- and creatively-hyped version of Godzilla (1998), Emmerich instead faced the conundrum of directing a $100 million grossing film that did not live up to box office expectations. Emmerich and Devlin next turned their epic visions to the decidedly lower-tech (but still CGI-enhanced) action of the American Revolution in the Mel Gibson summer vehicle The Patriot (2000).