Back in the 1990s, Will Smith was able to solidify his A-lister status in Hollywood – leaving his Fresh Prince of Bel-Air days behind him – thanks to the one-two punch of Independence Day in 1996 (which grossed $817 million worldwide), followed by another sci-fi hit with Men in Black ($589 million global take) a year later. Smith has since protected Earth from the scum of the universe in two additional Men in Black movies, but despite frequent discussions over the years, an ID4 sequel has never come to fruition.
Writer/director Roland Emmerich is working to change that, as he’s been actively developing a followup to his famous monument-leveling alien invasion adventure for at least the past year. He and his ID4 co-writer Dean Devlin have put together two different script drafts for the project (semi-officially known as Independence Day 2, but previously referred to as ID Forever) – one with Smith as Steven Hiller returning and one without him. But which script (both of which have since been revised by White House Down writer James Vanderbilt) is Emmerich likely to end up using?
According to Deadline, the latter is the best guess at this stage, as Smith has “pretty much decided” not to return for the Independence Day sequel. Deadline‘s Mike Fleming Jr. cautions that Smith hasn’t closed this door completely just yet, and the fact that the actor went back and forth on this issue throughout 2013 – first he was definitely out, then he was possibly in – means there may well still be flex room here. Still, the recent progress on planned Smith vehicles like the sci-fi thriller Selling Time and the fantasy drama City That Sailed seems to signal the actor’s interest in pursuing original fare and sticking with his commitment to not becoming “the sequel guy.”
Emmerich has indicated before that the Independence Day sequel will feature several new characters, so it’s possible that part of Smith’s disinterest is due to his character not getting much time in the spotlight – he passed on starring in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained for similar reasons (i.e. because Django wasn’t really the lead). To be fair, though, it might also be because Smith feels it’s time to let someone else take the helm and guide the Independence Day property (which was always more of an ensemble adventure, anyway) onward from here.
He’s suggested before that it’s for similar reasons that he’s doubtful about coming back for a fourth Men in Black film, and the latest report from Deadline affirms that Smith is unlikely to reprise as Agent J in the future. Sony has recruited screenwriter Oren Uziel (co-writer on the upcoming 22 Jump Street) to put together a Men in Black 4 script, with the intention of rebooting the franchise. That’s partly because having to pay Smith and costar Tommy Lee Jones’ high-salaries has made profiting on the MIB films increasingly difficult (Sony rebooted Spider-Man for similar reasons), but also because Men in Black 3‘s quality indicated that… well… maybe it was time for some new blood, to keep that cash cow alive and well.
Independence Day 2 is currently scheduled for theatrical release on July 1st, 2016.
We’ll keep you posted on Men in Black 4‘s development as more information is made available.