Dean Devlin was the luckiest kid in the galaxy. When he was only four years old his mom did a guest spot on an episode of the original Star Trek TV series in the sixties. After spending her day in a futuristic mini-skirt and go-go boots, she brought her son home a gift – an original prop of a phaser gun. Devlin became an instant fan. “I just freaked, and then I started watching the show religiously. I loved this toy and I became addicted to science fiction and that was mainly the kind of movies I wanted to see and the books I wanted to read.” Dean excitedly tells me the episode that his mother appeared in, just in case I want to check it out, “Wolf in the Fold was the episode!”
Devlin actually began his career as a child actor with parts in films like “My Bodyguard” and “Real Genius,” and even went on to numerous television parts including a recurring role on LA Law. He soon made the very easy adjustment from actor to screenwriter and producer when he paired with director Roland Emmerich. The two are responsible for giant studio pictures like “Stargate,” “Independence Day,” Godzilla and more recently, the Mel Gibson historical action film, The Patriot. The task of balancing the creative demands of a screenwriter and a $100 million dollar budget as a producer, seem to come easy to Dean. It’s been a long journey from a phaser gun-toting tyke to a filmmaker in Hollywood and Dean will tell you, he only makes it look easy.
Do you have an epiphany movie — a film you saw that changed your life? ^ Well definitely the opening day of Star Wars in ’77. I was there the first day. I was the ninth person in line. When that space ship came overhead in the beginning and it just kept coming and coming and coming, I was so wowed. I just wanted to recreate that feeling in a theater where you’re just sort of taken away to another place.
What made you want to make the shift from acting to writing and producing? ^ I think I was only an actor as a way to get to writing and producing. I had always wanted to write and produce. In fact, when I was 13 years old, I won best student filmmaker in California with a short film I had made called “Aversion to Violence”. Since this was something I always wanted to do, and since I had not had a stellar academic career, I figured the best way in was through acting.
The one criticism that I hear over and over about “Independence Day” is that the film is not original. I’ve heard the film borrows from Star Wars and “Battlestar Galactica.” Do the fans forget that Star Wars borrowed from everything, from westerns, old war movies, and “Flash Gordon”? How do you respond to fans that might be too anal-retentive? ^ I think you’re right in the way you phrase that question. At the time Star Wars came out people forgot that it was in itself a tribute to all the films of George Lucas’s childhood. Everything from the films you mentioned to “Flash Gordon” and this was a way to pay tribute to all the movies he loved as a child. That’s really what “Independence Day” was for us. We’re just of a different generation, but the tributes in the movie are not hidden. It’s not like we’re trying to pretend it’s not influenced by other films. In fact, we directly reference a lot of the movies that we were paying tribute to, because in essence that’s what Independence Day was. It was a celebration of all the science fiction that we’d grown up with and loved. We’d always seen these movies where aliens would come and take over someone’s body, or it was in a small town. But we’d never seen it as a large-scale invasion, really more of a natural disaster.
Read the whole story and get the scoop on “Godzilla”, Emmerich, “The Patriot” and Mel Gibson the merry prankster in INDEPENDENT VISION: A DEAN DEVLIN INTERVIEW (part 2)>>>