As a filmmaker, Roland Emmerich is first and foremost a savvy opportunist who cannily exploits topics and controversies currently percolating in the culture to grab attention for his particular brand of spectacle-driven entertainment. The Day After Tomorrow, for example, was a climate change-induced environmental disaster movie, while 2012 played off of the superstition that the world will end next year as the Mayans supposedly predicted centuries ago. With his new film, Anonymous, Emmerich has inserted himself another ongoing debate: Was William Shakespeare the actual author of such timeless plays as Hamlet, King Lear and The Comedy of Errors?
The last filmmaker you'd associate with an Elizabethan-era drama exploring the identity of the "real" author behind the work of William Shakespeare would be Roland Emmerich, the director of such spectacle-driven, explosion-filled entertainments as Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012. And yet, there's Emmerich's name in the credits for the already-controversial Anonymous, which opens in theaters on Friday. It's a daunting departure for Emmerich, but he's far from the first director that's attempted to upend his image by accepting an assignment that seems well outside of his comfort zone. Here are some of the other biggest directorial change-ups from within the past decade or so.