After seventeen years of rumors, speculation, and false starts, director Roland Emmerich appears to finally have some traction for the long-awaited Independence Day follow-up, tentatively titled ID Forever. If all goes according to plan, the sequel will actually be comprised of two feature length filmsPart I and Part II – with the first installment tentatively scheduled for July 3rd, 2015. The filmmaker has been busy promoting his soon-to-be-released thriller White House Down, starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx, which sees a hostile force take control of the White House and put the President’s life in jeopardy (not to be confused with Olympus Has Fallen).

Unsurprisingly, ID Forever has been a regular topic of conversation for Emmerich on the White House Down press tour and today we’ve got good news for fans of patriotic speeches and outer space cigar smoking – as the director has confirmed that both Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman are expected to return for the sequel(s).

Speaking to in a New York City Q&A, Emmerich asserted that the actors, who played fan-favorite cable guy/computer hacker, David Levinson, and fighter pilot/President, Thomas J. Whitmore, are two returning faces set for ID Forever. As we’ve previously reported, the sequel’s cast is expected to be a mix of familiar franchise participants and entirely new characters – roughly a 50/50 blend for the main cast. Previously, Goldblum and Pullman have expressed interest in the project, but this is the first report suggesting that Emmerich has included them in his plans for the film – and that he expects they’ll reprise the roles. That said, the director does not outright say the actors have signed contracts – meaning that, until we hear official confirmations, it’s still possible one or both of the characters might not make it into the final film.

Regardless, the most notable omission to the ID Forever crew will be Will Smith’s Captain Steven Hiller – who is not expected to return. In the new interview, Emmerich asserts that they simply cannot afford the actor but the filmmaker was quick to clarify that Smith has not yet read the final script and that a Hiller cameo is still possible – if for no other reason than to “pass the torch” to new cast members.

Regardless of how viewers might feel about Smith these days (considering the amount of backlash aimed at After Earth), Hiller was a fan-favorite character responsible for many of the best (and most memorable) moments in Independence Day. As a result, a cameo by the actor would be a nice way to close-out the Hiller storyline – without requiring the production to front a huge salary.

That said, if Smith opts to pass on Emmerich’s cameo ideas, there are still plenty of ways for the filmmaker to explain Hiller’s absence – especially since early plot details suggest the movie will take place in real time, 20-25 years after the original alien invasion. That time jump (made possible by complicated space travel/wormhole physics) should also help provide Goldblum and Pullman with fun material for their characters – since they’ll be playing much older versions of Levinson and Whitmore.

Even at the most basic level, a story about people who survived the first alien attack and then spent the next 20 years (possibly) preparing for a second wave is intriguing – even before you consider the continued personal stories that will be included. For example: President Whitmore should no longer be President and his young daughter, Patricia (played by Arrested Development‘s Mae Whitman), will be in her twenties. Similarly, will Emmerich bring back Margaret Colin to reprise her role as Levinson’s wife, Constance Spano? If so, it’s likely the pair could have decided to have their own children in the subsequent two decades.

Until we know more, let’s all keep our fingers crossed that – since Goldblum is back – Levinson’s father, Julius (portrayed by Judd Hirsch), will also make an appearance.

The interview also (casually) suggests that Emmerich is still interested in a Stargate sequel, and that it might be next on the filmmaker’s schedule after ID Forever Part I and II. However, that appears to only be speculation at this point – as Emmerich collaborator Dean Devlin already mentioned they were interested in returning to the Stargate franchise in the future. As a result, Emmerich’s comment is merely confirmation that the pair could return to their other beloved sci-fi property at some point.

ID Forever: Part I invades theaters on July 3rd, 2015.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for more on ID Forever as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.