The director and stars from the original film talk to EW about its impact and missing Will Smith
Credit: Everett Collection

Independence Day was a record-breaking film that helped turn Will Smith into a megastar. Yet, in an industry that churns out sequels for anything that resembles a success, it has taken 20 years for the follow-up to Roland Emmerich’s alien invasion film.

At a screening for the 20th anniversary of Independence Day, Emmerich told EW why it took so long for Independence Day: Resurgence, due in theaters June 24, to become a reality. “I’m always against sequels and only when I can see another way how to make it not look like a sequel but a continuation of the 20 years,” the director says. “And that’s great when you have a whole new generation coming in and the whole world has changed. We had time to rebuild, and naturally what we do is rebuild all these landmarks exactly like they looked because humans are traditionalists when it comes to that. I said, ‘Okay, that’s cool,’ because now you have a whole new playing field.”

Emmerich says he’s been approached for years by fans who wanted to know when a sequel would come. He thinks the reason the original resonated with so many people is because that the film was ahead of the curve. “I think it’s the first movie where you saw aliens come in a total overwhelming way, and I think after that no one could do it because everyone said, ‘That’s like Independence Day.’ I think I put that kind of stamp on it.”

Returning for Resurgence is Jeff Goldblum, who is no stranger to sci-fi thanks to roles in Independence Day, Jurassic Park, and The Fly. The veteran actor has his own thoughts on the original film’s continued success. “The question of are we alone and our place in the universe is fascinating when handled interestingly,” he tells EW. “And in this made-up version of the world, people realize when push comes to shove and the darkest hours seem possibly upon us what the important things are — how much we mean to each other, how precious this planet is, how passionately we want to save it — and we band together.”

Credit: Mary Evans/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection

One person who opted not to return to the franchise was Smith; Emmerich said they wanted Smith back, but he declined, stating he couldn’t do four sci-fi films in a row; Smith had just completed After Earth and Men in Black 3 , and Emmerich’s original plan was to film two Independence Day sequels back-to-back.

Once Smith passed, Emmerich and co-writer Dean Devlin’s new script had Smith’s character die off-screen, which Smith was not excited to hear. “I told Will that his character dies in the film, and he was very upset,” Emmerich laughs. “Will and I are still friendly. We kind of thought that he had to have a heroic death, and we don’t make a big thing out of it in the film because we don’t want to hold the movie down with that.”

Vivica A. Fox, who played Smith’s fiancée in the original film, was disappointed for personal reasons not be to reunited with the actor. “Well, of course who’s not going to miss Will Smith with his gorgeous self?” the actress jokes with EW. “I was ready to slobber him down one more time just for old times’ sake and maybe win another MTV award for Best Kiss, let them show that we [are] still making out.”

Fans get to reignite their love affair with the franchise when Independence Day: Resurgence, which also stars Bill Pullman, Liam Hemsworth, and Jessie T. Usher, lands in theaters June 24.

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