A former teen actor, Dean Devlin stepped behind the camera in the early 1990s to become the co-writer and producer of some of the biggest science fiction films in history, including "Stargate" (1994), "Independence Day" (1996) and "Godzilla" (1998) before moving into television with such hits as "The Librarian" franchise and "Leverage" (TNT, 2008-12). A dedicated sci-fi fan, Devlin and director Roland Emmerich blended 1950s-style speculative fiction - alien invasions, giant monsters - with the latest achievements in special effects to produce their blockbusters; fans flocked to these films, while critics dismissed them as pure popcorn. But after "Godzilla" failed to meet its projected gross, Devlin parted ways with Emmerich to work on more modestly scaled fare for television. These efforts, including "The Triangle" (Sci-Fi Channel, 2005), were massive hits for basic cable, and affirmed Devlin's Midas touch with the fantastic in not one but two mediums.
Born Aug. 27, 1962, he was the son of show business professionals: his mother was Filipina actress-dancer Pilar Seurat, while his father was actor-turned-producer Don Devlin, whose behind-the-camera credits included "The Witches of Eastwick" (1987). Their son developed a fascination for science fiction at an early age, and delighted when his mother brought home a prop from an episode of "Star Trek" (NBC, 1966-69) that had featured her in a minor role. By his early teens, he was committing his own no-budget science fiction efforts to Super-8 film, and gaining exposure to the professional movie community through his parents' projects.
He earned his first screen credits through one of his father's productions, the much-loved teen drama feature, "My Bodyguard" (1980), which featured him in a minor onscreen role as well as a production assistant behind the scenes. More bit parts in films and television soon followed, but Devlin's true goal - film school - was out of reach due to his middling grades. He relocated to New York City, where he knocked around as a stage actor and stand-up comic while serving as Al Pacino's chauffeur. Eventually, more significant parts came his way, most notably as a law clerk busted for dealing drugs on "L.A. Law" (NBC, 1986-1994) and as a fresh-faced journalism school graduate working at a major metropolitan newspaper on the short-lived "Hard Copy" (CBS, 1987).
In 1990, Devlin went to Germany to appear in a low-budget science fiction film called "Moon 44." Though largely ignored by audiences, the picture served as the launch of his partnership with the movie's director, Roland Emmerich. Devlin soon joined Emmerich's company, Centropolis Film Productions (later Centropolis Entertainment) as a writing and producing partner. Their first collaboration was to be a science fiction-action hybrid called "Isobar" for producer Mario Kassar, but Emmerich abandoned the project after Devlin's script rewrite was rejected. Kassar then brought the pair onto another futuristic thriller called "Universal Soldier" (1992), which was groomed as a vehicle for then-popular martial arts star Jean-Claude Van Damme. Though panned by critics, it was a modest hit in the States and a substantial blockbuster in international markets, which minted Emmerich and Devlin as up-and-comers in the action and science fiction genres.
Their next collaboration was "Stargate" (1994), an imaginative blend of military action and speculative fiction about a group of soldiers and scientists who travel through the title device, a portal that opens doors to an alien world that influenced the ancient Egyptian culture. Though again largely dismissed as pulp fantasy by critics, it received a warmer response from audiences, who spent over $200 million worldwide on the $60 million feature. It also developed into a cult favorite that spawned an astonishing number of TV spin-offs, each more arcane than the last in terms of its mythology.
While promoting "Stargate" in Europe, Devlin and Emmerich hit upon the idea for their next project. Based on classic alien invasion films of the 1950s, but on a grander scale and using the latest in computer-generated technology, "Independence Day" (1996) depicted a devastating attack on the cities of the world by an alien race who must then battle the human survivors - led by President Bill Pullman and Air Force pilot Will Smith - for supremacy. Buoyed by an aggressive advertising campaign that hinged on the sight of the White House's destruction by death ray, "ID4," as it was known in the industry, became the highest grossing film that year, and kicked off a revived interest in science fiction and disaster films within Hollywood. Though audiences loved the film, critics were not so kind, with Emmerich and Devlin's script receiving the majority of the brickbats for its stock characters and leaden dialogue. Flush with success, Devlin and Emmerich moved to television for their next joint venture; "The Visitor" (Fox, 1997-98) concerned a man (John Corbett) abducted by aliens in the Bermuda Triangle during World War II who returns to the present day with extraordinary powers. Though heavily promoted, it failed to attract the same devoted audience as the network's other big science fiction series, "The X-Files" (Fox, 1993-2002). The pair then began work on their next feature, which they hoped would be even bigger than "Independence Day."
American filmmakers had been trying to make their own version of Japan's iconic monster, Godzilla, for decades, but the budget required to make the giant lizard believable for Hollywood audiences brought most of those efforts to a halt. Having proven their adeptness with computer-generated effects, Devlin and Emmerich seemed to be the right people to bring "Godzilla" (1998) to the States. Many of the same variables used to make "ID4" a success were brought into play - an all-star cast led by Matthew Broderick and French actor Jean Reno, state of the art effects, and a massive advertising push - but the film itself was a soulless exercise in technological advances, weighed down by Devlin and Emmerich's bête noir of dreadful dialogue and a monster without the pugilistic bravado of his Japanese counterpart. When "Godzilla" failed to meet Sony's projections for box office take in its opening weekend, the film was condemned as a failure; while its final gross more than tripled the $130 million spent to bring the picture to screens, word of mouth and industry press helped to establish "Godzilla" as a black mark on Devlin and Emmerich's career.
Devlin and Emmerich shifted gears for their next collaboration, a Revolutionary War drama called "The Patriot" (2000) with Mel Gibson as a farmer driven to fight by atrocities visited upon his family by a cruel British officer (Jason Isaacs). Robert Rodat, who penned "Saving Private Ryan" (1998), wrote the film's script - a wise decision in the eyes of many - and the film was a substantial success, as well as a three-time Oscar nominee for sound, cinematography and score. The film would also serve as Devlin's final project with Emmerich; when Sony failed to renew the multi-year deal it had struck with Centropolis, he left the company to form his own production slate, Electric Entertainment, in 2001. The company featured its own interactive media division, as well as an in-house digital effects and post-production division called EFX. Devlin's efforts as a solo entity were marked by more modest budgets than his work with Centropolis, but also stronger storytelling and more engaging characters. His first production under the Electric shingle was "Eight-Legged Freaks" (2002), a tongue-in-cheek tribute to 1950s-era "big bug" films, with a rash of monstrous spiders overtaking a small Arizona town. A modest hit with audiences and critics, he followed it with "Cellular" (2004), a thriller with Oscar winner Kim Basinger as a kidnap victim whose call to a stranger (Chris Evans) sets a rescue plan in motion. It too performed moderately well at the box office, but Devlin moved to television for his next production.
"The Librarian: Quest for the Spear" (TNT, 2004) starred Noah Wyle as an ancient history expert whose new job at a major metropolitan library sends him on an adventure to rescue the Spear of Destiny, which pierced the side of Christ. The film's mix of derring-do and tongue-in-cheek humor scored with audiences, who made it the top-rated feature on ad-supported cable for the year. Two more films followed, each more popular than its predecessor: the second film, "The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines" (TNT, 2006), was among the top five movie telecasts of 2006, as well as the highest rated movie sequel in ad-supported cable history. A third film, "The Librarian: The Curse of the Judas Chalice" (TNT) followed in 2008, along with a comic book series. Electric Entertainment soon moved almost exclusively into producing content for television, including the Emmy-winning "The Triangle" (Sci-Fi Channel), a miniseries about a team of scientists who change the course of history by investigating the Bermuda Triangle, and the pilot "Talk to Me" (TNT, 2006), with Adam Baldwin as a hostage negotiator.
Devlin made occasional returns to theatrical releases, including the well regarded documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?" (2006). However, his return to the epic action field with "Flyboys" (2006), about a team of American fliers who join the French Air Force during World War I, was a dismal and costly failure for Devlin, who spent a reported $60 million of his own money to fund the project. He was soon back at work on television with "Leverage," a sly comedy-drama about a team of con men led by a former insurance investigator (Timothy Hutton) who takes on corporate and government malfeasance. Its breezy mix of caper action and witty dialogue found a faithful audience over the course of three seasons, as well as a fistful of Saturn Award nominations for Hutton and his cast mates. Devlin also made his directorial debut with the series, eventually helming 10 episodes in all. In 2009, Devlin announced that he had re-teamed with Emmerich to write a sequel to "Independence Day," and that contract negotiations were underway to bring Will Smith into the project. A raft of subsequent projects that would bring the two together was also quickly announced, including new "Stargate" films and the long-in-gestation "Isobar."
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Made feature debut at age 14, serving as a production assistant and appearing as a performer (playing "Boy") in "My Bodyguard", produced by his father Don Devlin
Appeared in a bit part in "The Wild Life"
Made TV miniseries acting debut playing Pedro Sanchez in "North Beach and Rawhide"
Made series debut playing the recurring role of law intern Sullivan on the hit NBC legal drama "L.A. Law"
Made debut as a series regular playing eager neophyte reporter David Del Valle on the short-lived CBS news drama "Hard Copy"
Played the recurring role of illiterate but popular hospital orderly Henry Metrano on the CBS medical drama "Island Son"
Met future collaborator Roland Emmerich while acting in the director's West German sci-fi feature "Moon 44"
Joined Emmerich's production company Centropolis Films
Made screenwriting debut co-writing (with Richard Rothstein and Christopher Leitch) "Universal Soldier", a Jean-Claude Van Damme/Dolph Lundgren sci-fi vehicle, helmed by Emmerich
While in the midst of promoting "Stargate", rented a house with Emmerich in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; spent three weeks collaborating on the rough script for "Independence Day"
Made producing debut on "Stargate"; also co-wrote with director Emmerich
Had first solo producing credit, "Independence Day" (also co-wrote with Emmerich and acted in a small role)
With Emmerich, co-wrote pilot and co-executive produced the Fox sci-fi drama "The Visitor"
With Emmerich, signed to a multi-year contract by Sony Pictures Entertainment
Served as one of the producers of the Emmerich-directed drama "The Patriot"
When Sony failed to renew multi-year deal with Centropolis, split with Emmerich and formed own production company Electric Entertainment
Produced first film under Electric Entertainment banner, "Eight Legged Freaks"
Produced "The Librarian: Quest for the Spear," the first in a trilogy of popular TV adventure films starring Noah Wyle
Executive producer on the documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?"
Produced the costly flop "Flyboys" partly with $60 million of his own money
Returned to the "Librarian" franchise with "The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines"
Produced the third "Librarian" feature, "The Librarian III: The Curse of the Judas Chalice"
Was director and executive producer on "Leverage"
Converted the "Librarian" franchise to an episodic format with "The Librarians," with Noah Wyle reprising his role from the film trilogy
Produced the poorly received ID4 sequel "Independence Day: Resurgence"
Wrote, directed, and produced the Gerard Butler-starring sci-fi thriller "Geostorm"