Back in 1996, the giant summer blockbuster Independence Day helped make rapper-turned-actor Will Smith a household name and turned him into a superstar. Before this, Smith was slogging through his day job as a best-selling rapper, lead in a successful TV show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and acting in low-budget art house fare like Michael Bay’s Bad Boys. Post Independence Day, Smith became the biggest movie star in the world with movies like Men In Black. Now that Roland Emmerich is working on a sequel to alien invasion adventure, the big question surrounding the project is will Smith return to the blockbuster franchise?
It’s still uncertain how it will play out—though most likely Smith will not return to the sequel—but that won’t stop Emmerich from hedging his bets when it comes to the 45-year-old actor. In an interview with the Playlist, the director admitted that he and his co-screenwriters, Dean Devlin (Independence Day) and James Vanderbilt (White House Down, Zodiac), wrote two versions of the Independence Day sequel—one version with Smith in the lead, one without.
In the original, Smith played Captain Steven Hiller, one of the film’s primary heroes. Vivica A. Fox played Hiller’s girlfriend, and she had an adorable son named Dylan. Rumor on the street is that Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station) could play an adult version of Dylan. If Smith doesn’t return to Independence Day, it is likely that Dylan will be the hero.
Smith may need to be in Independence Day 2 if he hopes to remain relevant in Hollywood. For the first time since 1996, his films have not been playing well with critics and general audiences. Although Men In Black 3 was technically a hit last year, its box office really slowed down, and critical response was tepid at best. His last movie After Earth was a straight-up box office and critical failure. It seems as if Smith doesn’t want to take riskier roles at this stage of his career (he famously turned down the leading role in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained), he has to stick with rehashed hits, like the Independence Day sequel or a Bad Boys 3. At the moment, Bill Pullman and Jeff Goldblum are expected to reprise their roles as President Thomas J. Whitmore and scientist David Levinson, respectively.
Independence Day 2 is currently set for release during the Fourth of July holiday in 2015, but comments from Emmerich suggest that the sequel might be pushed to a summer 2016 release date if necessary. The director explained that the current release date is merely a placeholder so another big summer blockbuster doesn’t move into claim the spot. If Twentieth Century Fox and doesn’t make up their minds about production, which is still up in the air, another film might just move into that slot anyway. A 2016 release would be more fitting anyway, because that would mark the 20th anniversary of the release of the original. But as it stands now, Independence Day 2 is set to do battle with Terminator 5, which is slated to open July 1, 2015.
The film was originally conceived as a two-part affair, but Emmerich put that topic to bed. He said, “I thought about spending four years of my life on one movie and I didn’t want to turn into something from the movie. It’s a movie about aliens, I don’t want to turn into an alien.”