Will Smith has starred in numerous blockbuster movies to date. He began his career by playing a fictionalized version of himself in the NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bell Air in 1990. The Academy Award-winning star has gained the reputation of being one of the most bankable stars in the Hollywood entertainment industry.

Smith’s breakthrough, Independence Day, released in 1996, was the second highest-grossing movie of the year with a staggering box office collection of $817 million. However, in a recent interview, director Roland Emmerich, and writer Dean Devlin, revealed that Will Smith almost didn’t land the role of Captain Steven Hiller.

Will Smith as Captain Steven Hiller in Independence Day
Will Smith as Captain Steven Hiller in Independence Day

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Will Smith Could Have Lost Independence Day

Despite having established himself as a household name by the mid-1990s, Will Smith was almost rejected for the lead role of Captain Steven Hiller in Independence Day by the 20th Century Fox studios. The director and the writer of the movie had to fight tooth and nail with the studio executives to cast Smith as the lead.

Will Smith in Men in Black 3
Will Smith in Men in Black 3

The argument that the studios put forth was that casting Smith will “kill foreign box office” because he was “a Black guy“. The studios went on to add: “No, we don’t like Will Smith. He’s unproven. He doesn’t work in international markets.

Roland and Dean refused to back down and argued back, saying,

Well, the movie is about space aliens. It’s going to do fine foreign.” Dean continued, “It was a big war, and Roland really stood up for Smith – and we ultimately won that war.

Emmerich and Devlin’s determination to have the Men in Black star in the lead was so strong that they didn’t have to think twice about giving Fox Studios an ultimatum. They threatened to move studios and give the movie to Universal Studios, although that really wasn’t a possibility.

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Will Smith Gave Up Independence Day 2

Independence Day was ultimately a success and even though it got mixed reviews, it did exceptionally well at the box office. It also won a good number of awards including the Oscar for Best Visual Effects. Devlin and Emmerich reunited for a second time in 2016 to make a sequel of this movie, officially named Independence Day: Resurgence.

Cast of Independence Day Resurgence
Cast of Independence Day: Resurgence

The cast members of the first movie such as Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Vivica A. Fox, Judd Hirsch, and Brent Spiner were brought together for the sequel. Will Smith, however, refused to be a part of it. When Emmerich was questioned about Smith passing the role, he said:

“Well, you know, like near the very beginning, I wanted to work with him and he was very excited to be in it, but then after a while, you know, he just was tired of sequels and he did another science fiction film, which was his father-son story, so he opted out.”

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The director said that he was initially disappointed about it but then decided to try out something new upon the insistence of his friends. Smith is still very much a part of the Independence Day universe but him opting out of the role led to the newer generation having a chance in the movie.

Source: Complex

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