There are two sorts of films that Roland Emmerich is fascinated by crafting: tales of historical heroism and big ticket blockbusters. Emmerich’s modern retelling of the battle of Midway falls into the former category, and Midway ended up being a surprise hit in last November’s crowded box office calendar. Which means the fact that he’s interested in telling yet another tale of World War II warfare is probably something his current studio partners are going to be exceedingly interested in hearing about.
During a phone interview with Roland Emmerich on behalf of the home video release of Midway, I asked if there were any other tales from American military history that he’d want to adapt for the big screen. While his answer wasn’t a tale from the U.S. side of World War II, Emmerich did mention the following real life figure he’d want to tell the story of on the big screen:
You know what, I have one more World War II movie which I would love to do. It’s not about American history, it’s about German history. I’m like fascinated by Erwin Rommel, “The Desert Fox,” because he led such an amazing kind of life story.
An integral figure in the war apparatus of Nazi Germany, Erwin Rommel was best known as a military strategist who helped the Axis powers keep a firm grip on their outposts in Africa through his superior tactics involving tank warfare. Eventually, Rommel would turn against Hitler, and that decision would ultimately lead to his own suicide in 1944, as his involvement in the failed coup “Operation Valkyrie” would force the Nazi leader to offer him the choice of a trial that would discredit him to the public, or a death that would allow him to remain a hero.
However, as Roland Emmerich explained what drew him to Erwin Rommel’s story, a picture of what sort of film the Midway director wants to make started to form. Instead of a rousing war epic, much like the film we were paired to discuss, his Rommel biopic would go into a lot of the pieces of his personality that most people don’t recognize automatically.
Roland Emmerich continued to explain his fascination with the man as follows:
[He was] a guy who started as a military teacher, then was handpicked by Hitler to kind of become the guy who runs his personal security force, and then ends up being this kind of amazing battle commander in Africa. And then at the end, he ends up kind of being against Hitler, and being part of people who want to assassinate him. It’s just an incredible journey of one man. On top of that he comes from an area where I came from, so that’s a little something which I’ve always been drawn to.
While the public at large might not know much about Erwin Rommel’s life, aside from his infamous nickname and a rather memorable reference by George C. Scott’s portrayal of General George S. Patton in the 1970 film Patton, there’s part of Erwin Rommel’s story that has already been told on film, albeit in an adjacent sort of manner.
As Erwin Rommel was part of those who banded together in the failed coup known as “Operation Valkyrie,” that infamous rebellion was committed to cinematic history through Bryan Singer’s 2008 film Valkyrie. That film’s modest success, as well as the fact that Emmerich scored a decisive win against films like Terminator: Dark Fate and Doctor Sleep with the first place debut of Midway last November, shows that there is probably a market for a biopic covering Erwin Rommel’s life and times during his service in World War II. And knowing his attachment to the material, the director would be a great fit to tell such a story.
Most importantly, much as Midway sought to humanize both sides of the conflict between the American and Japanese forces involved in that skirmish, the efforts to bring Erwin Rommel’s story to life would also show that while the Nazi war machine had its fair share of those whose aims were inhumane, there were those who attempted to destroy it from the inside, and paid the ultimate price.
A fan of stories involving the triumph of the underdog, Roland Emmerich’s tackling of that very subject has bound both his sci-fi and historical pursuits since the very beginning. With star studded casts and rousing battles as some of his cinematic trademarks, hits like Independence Day and The Patriot nailed in those values with pretty solid results.
With a proposed film on Rommel, Roland Emmerich would, in essence, round off his coverage of World War II. As Midway covered both the American and Japanese forces fighting in the Pacific theater of war, an Erwin Rommel film would cover the more familiar European theater of war with the director’s signature style.
Unfortunately, if you’re looking forward to this hypothetical Emmerich history film, it looks like you’ll have quite a bit of a wait ahead of you. When talking about this potential Midway follow up, he set the following expectations when it comes to any movement on this film:
It’ll take a while, because I have two or three other movies to do.
The projects currently occupying Roland Emmerich’s slate are presumed to be both his adaptation of Blake Crouch’s best-selling sci-fi novel Dark Matter, as well as a project that the director confirmed he’s hard at work with, his other long discussed sci-fi epic Moonfall. And then, of course, there’s always the possibility that the long slumbering Independence Day 3 will be revived by Disney, ready to whup some more E.T. ass; something that would undoubtedly brighten Roland Emmerich’s spirits, since he’s currently a bit sad about how that project has been fairing.
Still, Roland Emmerich believes in the underdog. As he pushed to make Midway over the course of 20 years, with different studio partners attached throughout, he saw his dream through to victory. If anyone has the mindset to get a film such as this, or any other dream project, made into a reality, it has to be the man that just loves an upset in the face of adversity.
Midway is available now on Digital HD, 4K Ultra HD , Blu-ray and DVD from Lionsgate.