Will Smith almost wasn't cast in Independence Day because he's Black, says screenwriter
It's hard to imagine anyone else starring in the blockbuster, but the film's director Roland Emmerich and screenwriter Dean Devlin recently said that 20th Century Fox initially pushed back on casting The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star.
In an interview about the movie's 25th anniversary, Emmerich told The Hollywood Reporter that the studio said, "'No, we don't like Will Smith. He's unproven. He doesn't work in international [markets].'"
"They said, 'You cast a Black guy in this part, you're going to kill foreign [box office],'" Devlin added. "Our argument was, 'Well, the movie is about space aliens. It's going to do fine foreign.' It was a big war, and Roland really stood up for [Smith] — and we ultimately won that war."
Emmerich went on to reveal that Ethan Hawke was on their list for the part, but he felt the actor was too young and was set on the combination of Smith and Jeff Goldblum, who played David Levinson in the film. But according to the director, the impasse over Smith's casting lasted for so long that when filming was about to begin, they still hadn't "locked in Will and Jeff."
Finally, he told THR, "I put my foot down. 'Universal people are calling every day, so give me these two actors or I move over there.' I don't think it would have been a possibility [to actually move studios], but it was a great threat."
The filmmakers would quickly see that they made the right choice in casting Smith — the movie made $817.4 million at the global box office and is now regarded as one of the best sci-fi action flicks of all time.