Having seen Roland Emmerich's Moon 44 in an internal presentation, actor Sylvester Stallone recommended Emmerich to producer Mario Kassar for a his next project, a movie called Dead Reckoning (which was later renamed to Isobar ).
Kassar and Stallone believed that Moon 44 had cost 7 million dollars, so they thought Roland to be the perfect director for their new action project, as he made Moon 44 look like a 20 million dollar film. What they didn't know and what Roland didn't tell them at that time was that Moon 44 actually cost 7 million Deutsche Mark (which was only half of what they thought it cost).
Anyway, being frustrated with the situation in Germany - Roland was not getting the recognition he deserved, instead, the German press ironically called him the "lil' Spielberg of Sindelfingen" - Roland decided to take the offer from Kassar and move to Hollywood.
There was a big pressure on Roland, for the budget of Isobar was 30 to 60 million dollars, which was more than all of his previous films had cost together, and for he was to replace director Ridley Scott, who resigned the project because the story reminded him too much of his previous film Alien .
Isobar was a so-called "go project", which meant that the star, cast, crew and producers were already set, and Emmerich had to join the team as director. Everything was ready, a creepy monster was created, but the project lacked a good script. In Emmerich's opinion, the story wasn't working out yet, so he demanded changes in the script to improve it.
His producer Joel Silver insisted on the given script, and after several quarrels they broke up and Emmerich resigned from the project. Silver said: "If you leave now, you're never gonna work in Hollywood again", to which Roland answered: "We'll see." It seemed like Emmerich's dream of making movies in Hollywood came to a quick ending. Roland could have taken his fee, but he didn't want to make easy money: He wanted to make a name for himself in the US.
Carolco boss Mario Kassar offered Emmerich another "go project": An action drama, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren. The story wasn't set yet, only a concept was ready. Having found their common interest in the same movies while shooting his previous film Moon 44 , Emmerich teamed up with actor Dean Devlin to develop the story around the given concept.
Emmerich said to Devlin: "It's great, they're gonna let us do any story we want, as long as we keep the name and as long as we keep those two actors." Devlin replied: "Roland, have you ever seen a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie? Have you ever seen a Dolph Lundgren movie?" Roland hadn't. So they went to a video store and watched some of their movies. In the end, Roland said: "Oh mine... how do we do a movie with these guys??"
Again, Emmerich was forced to quickly come to a decision, whether he wanted to take the project or not. As it seemed to be his last chance of making it in Hollywood after the cancellation of Isobar , Emmerich took the risk and agreed.
Based on an idea of Richard Rothstein and Christopher Leitch, Roland and Dean wrote an own script in the course of three weeks, which was being refined for another month, and only another four weeks later, shooting began August 12, 1991.
Thus, Universal Soldier became the first film Roland Emmerich made in Hollywood, and Dean Devlin joined the Centropolis family.
(sources: Book "Roland Emmerich - Eine Werkbiografie" and TV documentation "Master of Desaster" by Jo Müller)