Sunday, July 26, 2015


AT LAST, gay filmmaker Roland Emmerich’s long-awaited LGBT rights drama “Stonewall” will be released on September 25, distributor Roadside Attractions announced this week.

Best known for his blockbusters INDEPENDENCE DAY, GODZILLA, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, 10,000 BC and 2012, Emmerich has been a staunch supporter of LGBT causes and has fought homophobia in Hollywood for years. 

The new film stars Jeremy Irvine, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Caleb Landry Jones, Joey King, Ron Perlman, Matt Craven and newcomer Jonny Beauchamp.

Written by Jon Robin Baitz, the story chronicles the 1969 Stonewall riots that started the modern LGBT rights movement. 

Irvine plays Danny Winters, a fictional young man who’s forced to leave behind friends and loved ones when he is kicked out of his parent’s home and flees to New York.

Alone in Greenwich Village, homeless and destitute, he befriends a group of street kids who soon introduce him to the local watering hole The Stonewall Inn; however, this shady, mafia-run club is far from a safe-haven.

As Danny and his friends experience discrimination, endure atrocities and are repeatedly harassed by the police, we see a rage begin to build.

This emotion runs through Danny and the entire community of young gays, lesbians and drag queens who populate the Stonewall Inn and erupts in a storm of anger. With the toss of a single brick, a riot ensues and a crusade for equality is born.

“I was always interested and passionate about telling this important story, but I feel it has never been more timely than right now,” says Emmerich, who took a break from directing big-budget blockbusters to direct and produce this important film.

Less than 50 years ago, in 1969, being gay was considered a mental illness; gay people could not be employed by the government.

It was illegal for gay people to gather and police brutality went unchecked. 

Today, thanks to the events set in motion by the Stonewall riots, the gay rights movement continues to make incredible strides towards equality. 

In the past several weeks in the US alone, the Boy Scouts of America has moved to lift its ban on gay leaders, the Pentagon will allow transgender people to serve openly in the military, and the US Supreme Court has declared that same-sex marriage is legal nationwide in all 50 states.

“It was the first time gay people said ‘Enough!'” explains Emmerich.

“They didn’t do it with leaflets or meetings, they took beer bottles and threw them at cops. Many pivotal political moments have been born by violence," he notes. 

"If you look at the civil rights movement, at Selma and other events of that kind, it’s always the same thing. Stonewall was the first time gay people stood up and they did it in their own way," Emmerich says.

"Something that really affected me when I read about Stonewall was that when the riot police showed up in their long line, these kids formed their own long line and sang a raunchy song. That, for me, was a gay riot, a gay rebellion," he adds. 

"What struck me was that there was a story in there, which I felt had an important message.

"It’s the people who had the least to lose who did the fighting, not the politically active people," the German-born director says. 

"It was the kids that went to this club that consisted of hustlers and drag queens, and all kinds of people that you think would never resist the police, and they did it.”

And the events they set in motion would have a profound impact on the future.

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.

He has also claimed he has encountered homophobia from the same forces in Hollywood and is vocal in his opposition of such behavior.

"I grew up in Germany, and when I went to film school, I didn't want to say 'I'm gay' because I was worried that I cannot do the movies I want to make," Emmerich recalls. 

"I wanted to go and make movies like Steven Spielberg or George Lucas, and when you're in Germany, a gay director, it meant something. You know they would always be like, 'the gay director who's trying to attempt a certain kind of film'. And so I was kind of like ... I was out to my friends but never in public."

The director, who turns 60 this year, says: "When I was 33, I came to America, and it was, for me, quite an awakening because there were no openly gay directors who were shooting action movies. And that really got me going, and I became more and more open and more public and then became a big supporter for some of the big organizations, you know, because I wanted to, and now I've made a gay movie."

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