Way back in 1996, Independence Day was the bonafide smash hit of the summer. Without question, the film became the kind of crossover blockbuster event film that unites both movie geeks and the general movie-going public alike (similarly to last year’s The Avengers). It also made director Roland Emmerich’s signature brand of global mayhem (The Day After Tomorrow, 2012) a big-screen staple and made rapper-turned-sitcom star Will Smith a box office leading man.

In most Hollywood stories, that success would have been parlayed into a film franchise, with Smith and costars Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman locked into long-term contracts. However, that looks like it may soon change, as Independence Day 2 (tentatively titled ID Forever) has since announced a summer 2015 release date. That date could still change – it would place the film in the same jam-packed season as heavyweights like Avengers: Age of Ultron and the unofficially titled Batman vs. Superman – but an even bigger question surrounding the film’s seemingly inevitable release is whether or not Smith would appear at all.

The answer to that question might not be settled just yet (and we’ve heard both “yes” and “no” responses to Smith’s potential return), but it looks like Fox is prepared to put the film into production regardless. IndieWire recently asked Emmerich about Independence Day 2, and the director let slip that there are currently two completed versions of the script in play, only one of which features Smith’s character of Steven Hiller.

Both scripts are presumably written by James Vanderbilt – who also scripted Emmerich’s White House Down – but it’s unclear how the version of the film which doesn’t include Hiller explains his absence. Still – despite describing the sequel as “a daily battle” to get into production – Emmerich says that things are looking up for the version with Hiller. He also confirms that only one sequel is currently in development.

If Smith truly is (once again) in talks to join the film, the fact that the proposed two-part plan has fallen by the wayside was likely a factor in his decision. After all, Smith is one of the most in-demand movie stars in the world, and it’s a lot easier on his schedule to work in one Independence Day sequel. Plus, we can’t help but think that the disappointing financial and critical response to After Earth might motivate him to return to what remains one of his most famous roles.

Still, it’s interesting to hear that the studio is banking on Smith either being a driving force in the sequel or apparently not having him appear at all. Emmerich previously mentioned that a cameo from the actor to “pass the torch” to a new set of characters (including possibly Michael B. Jordan) was a possibility, but it now sounds like the film won’t rely on such a gimmick to help sell the sequel.

In any case, Independence Day 2 will have to decide one way or the other soon if the film hope to stick with its current release date. Perhaps pushing it back to the less-crowded summer 2016 season (the 20th anniversary of the first film) – as rumored – isn’t such a bad idea after all. It would give Emmerich and his crew more time to fine-tune the film before (and after) production and allow Smith a wider window of opportunity to reunite with Goldblum and Pullman onscreen. Why rush a sequel at this point unless you’re going to do it right?

Independence Day 2 (aka ID Forever) is currently aiming for a July 3, 2015 release.

Source: IndieWire