Next month, just in time for the 20th anniversary of Independence Day, a sequel will be released, titled Independence Day: Resurgence. The film will bring back several key cast members from the original film, including Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Judd Hirsch and Vivica A. Fox (along with newcomers Liam Hemsworth, Jesse Usher, and Joey King.) But not making the return trip will be Will Smith, whose movie superstardom was kicked off by the first movie in 1996.
During the sequel’s long development, the Resurgence filmmakers were reported to be preparing versions of the film both with and without Smith. After the actor opted to star in Suicide Squad next instead, the filmmakers released a viral marketing campaign that made it part of the Independence Day franchise canon that Smith’s character, Col. Steven Hiller, died in 2007.
Now, Roland Emmerich, the director of both the original film and the sequel, has addressed Smith’s absence from the new movie and how the franchise can move forward. In an interview with Comic Book, Emmerich confirmed that Smith was courted for Independence Day: Resurgence, but ultimately decided not to do it. Emmerich and his collaborators, in turn, decided that combining other holdover stars from the first film with a new generation of younger actors was a formula that could work for the sequel, even without Smith on board:
“In the very beginning, [Will Smith] was on board. He was actually very excited to do it but it got a little bit unlucky there. Even I needed kind of like two years to get through two scripts. We wanted to make two scripts because when we have Will we want to have two right away. We sent him the scripts just when he was doing After Earth and wanted to create his own trilogy and had just done Men in Black 3 which was not a good experience for him. So, he just opted out. And I pretty much opted out… It took me a couple of years until I could replace Will as not just one actor but a whole generation which is probably the breakthrough which was happening roughly two years ago… From then on, it was actually the story changed a lot. All the sudden, it was not about the old characters returning but it was more about the old characters handing it over to another generation in a very cool way."
Sure, Smith was a huge part of the first Independence Day and a big aspect of its success. But let’s not forget - in 1996, Smith was best known as a novelty rapper and sitcom lead who, while he’d appeared in the highly regarded Six Degrees of Separation three years earlier, was far from a movie star. The aliens and the concept were the selling point of the first movie, not Smith or any of the other actors. Furthermore, the idea of combining holdovers from the “old” cast with young upstarts is the basis of numerous other current franchise revivals, Star Wars included, and has often been very successful.
The question is, especially if Resurgence is a big success and kicks off a whole trilogy of movies (as is reportedly the tentative plan), will Smith regret passing on the Independence Day sequel in the first place? That remains to be seen, but in the meantime Smith is moving on to a role in a different franchise sequel/revival, in the form of Bad Boys 3, and may yet have Suicide Squad 2 in his future too.
Independence Day: Resurgence opens in U.S. theaters on June 24th, 2016
Source: Comic Book