×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Why Director Roland Emmerich Cut His Salary to Help Finance ‘Midway’

Pulling together $100 million to finance an elaborately staged, historical film without major studio support was a herculean feat for “Midway” filmmakers. At Tuesday night’s premiere in Westwood, Calif., director Roland Emmerich told Variety that he took a significantly smaller salary to helm the World War II film.

“We did this really frugal,” Emmerich explained. “The very first time I wanted to make this movie — 20 years ago — we had a budget like, I think, for $155, $160 million. Then, when we went out to the studios, it was still $125 [million]. Then, when we realized we have to do it the independent way, I brought it down to $98 [million]. And it worked.”

“All of a sudden, you realize sometimes how much waste is in studio movies, in a way,” Emmerich continued. “But I have to say, I gave a little bit up of my salary. Quite a big part, so you know. But it’s fine.”

Emmerich played coy about exactly how much he slashed his salary. “I cannot say that. My agent would like kill me. He would just like cut me down,” he said, but acknowledged that it was reduced “by a lot.”

The World War II film — starring Ed Skrein, Mandy Moore, Aaron Eckhart, Darren Criss, Nick Jonas, Luke Evans, Patrick Wilson, Dennis Quaid and Woody Harrelson — follows the story of American military officers in the Pacific, from 1941’s Pearl Harbor attack through 1942’s Battle of Midway, the latter of which proved to be a decisive victory for U.S. forces in the war.

Emmerich’s previous cinematic blockbusters and their expensive productions, including “Independence Day,” “2012” and “The Day After Tomorrow,” have often been fueled by ample budgets, ultimately making more than $3 billion in global revenue. But for “Midway,” the film relied on independent financiers — including Hong Kong’s Starlight Culture Entertainment, whose CEO Peter Luo told Variety through a translator that he believed in Emmerich’s vision to see “Midway” through after planning it for years. Lionsgate will handle U.S. distribution.

Emmerich told Variety that pursuing independent financing for “Midway” was “an important moment for me because I realized all over the world there are people who want to see a movie like that. Then you go to them and collect the money. The really great thing is, you are in the driver’s seat. There are so many partners. You’re all of a sudden the studio. … At the end, I had the final say so.”

Producer Harald Kloser, who partnered with Emmerich for the fifth time on “Midway,” agreed that reducing salary was key.

“Take lower pay. Secondly, lower the pay again. Then, thirdly, talk to all our friends, call in all our favors,” Kloser told Variety of “Midway’s” budgeting. “Also, be a little bit of a preacher to say, ‘Dude, this story needs to be told. You will want to be part of this. You will want to be able to tell your kids that you worked on this movie.’ Through that, we got just an amazing spirit going.”

“Midway” hits theaters on Friday.

Mandy Moore and Ed Skrein attend the Lionsgate's MIDWAY World Premiere at the Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles, CA on November 5, 2019.Lionsgate's MIDWAY World Premiere, Los Angeles, USA - 05 Nov 2019
CREDIT: Eric Charbonneau/Shutterstock

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • In ‘Motherless Brooklyn,’ Edward Norton Takes

    In ‘Motherless Brooklyn,’ Edward Norton Takes on Timeless Power Struggles

    In Edward Norton’s “Motherless Brooklyn,” the ‘50s-set New York noir detective story he produced, directed, wrote and stars in, politics are never far from the surface. But they’re not the obvious parallels to any racist autocrats from New York of modern times, but instead focus on more timeless politics – the way disabled people and [...]

  • 'Joker' Cinematographer Lawrence Sher Wins at

    'Joker' Cinematographer Lawrence Sher Wins at EnergaCamerimage Film Festival

    “Joker” cinematographer Lawrence Sher’s bid, along with director Todd Phillips, to try something “perhaps even a bit artful” won big Saturday in Torun, Poland as he took the top prize at the EnergaCamerimage Intl. Film Festival. The Golden Frog for cinematography, along with the audience prize, went to his work filming Joaquin Phoenix in the [...]

  • Roberto Schaefer

    Netflix Image Enhancement Rules Take Cinematographers by Surprise

    A Netflix requirement that cinematographers capture films in HDR, or high dynamic range, has taken many by surprise, filmmakers say, but those at the 27th EnergaCamerimage festival in Poland seem increasingly accepting of the change. DP Roberto Schaefer, whose “Red Sea Diving Resort” screened at the cinematography fest in the historic city of Torun, said [...]

  • Lech Majewski and Josh Hartnett

    Lech Majewski on ‘Valley of the Gods,’ Navaho Mythology, Josh Hartnett, Keir Dullea

    TORUN, Poland – In his latest work, “The Valley of the Gods,” director Lech Majewski explores the ancient mythology of a downtrodden people and the absurd wealth of the world’s richest man in a surreal vision of modern America. The film screened at the EnergaCamerimage Intl. Film Festival as part of special showcase honoring Majewski, [...]

  • The Red Sea Diving Resort

    Cinematographer Roberto Schaefer on Gideon Raff's Thriller ‘The Red Sea Diving Resort’

    TORUN, Poland – While Gideon Raff’s Netflix thriller “The Red Sea Diving Resort” shot largely in South Africa and Namibia, the project was a welcomed opportunity for cinematographer Roberto Schaefer due to his own memorable travels through Ethiopia. The film, which screened in the EnergaCamerimage Intl. Film Festival’s Contemporary World Cinema section, is loosely based [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content