Normally Roland Emmerich only seems to like to make movies if he gets to blow everything up, but it appears he’s considering something a little smaller and more personal. It won’t involve the destruction of the whole of New York – as in Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and Godzilla – instead focussing on the civil disobedience of the Stonewall Riots in the city, which helped kick off the modern gay rights movement.
Empire recently spoke to Emmerich, who revealed that before launching himself into the Independence Day sequels ID Forever Parts 1 & 2, “I may want to do a little movie – about $12-14 million – about the Stonewall Riots in New York. It’s about these crazy kids in New York, and a country bumpkin who gets into their gang, and at the end they start this riot and change the world.”
If you’re not up on your gay history, before the 1970s police commonly raided gay bars, arrested the patrons and hauled them off to the police station – something that could result in those exposed having their entire lives destroyed. However on June 28th, 1969 (the day of Judy Garland’s funeral, no less), the police raided the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in New York. While the authorities were used to getting no resistance from the gay people whose lives they were potentially ruining, on that night the patrons, led by a group of angry drag queens and homeless gay people who were using the Inn as a shelter, fought back.
This led to several nights of rioting, the effect of which spread across the US and the world. By the following June, several cities held Christopher Street Day parades, which was essentially the birth of Pride and the modern gay rights movement.
Emmerich adds, “It’s one of these civil rights moments, like Rosa Parks,” he told Empire. “And very little is known about it. Even gay people don’t know much about it. There are only two books written about it.”
Playwright John Robin Bates is writing the script, about a homeless gay teen who ends up involved in Stonewall. “I’ve got more and more involved in the Gay & Lesbian Centre in Los Angeles,” says Emmerich, “and I learned that 40% of homeless kids are gay. So things haven’t changed very much. But I put this together and said, I should make a movie about that, so it starts with a kid who gets thrown out of his home and ends up on the streets of the village, and becomes friends with all these kids. In a weird way, it shows that it’s still something that happens today.
“I read a lot about it and was so surprised. It was the first time that gay people had shown the police that they should take them serious. And when the riot police came – this has always been fascinating for me – these kids formed a chorus line and sang ‘We are the village girls, we wear our hair in curls!’ It was such a cool thing.”
The story has been told on-screen before, such as in the 1995 film Stonewall, but the low budget movie never got much distribution so few people have seen it (even though it’s pretty good). It’ll be interesting to see Emmerich’s take on it.