'Independence Day' Director Says Will Smith Was Almost Rejected for Being Black

Ahead of this year’s 4th of July celebrations, The Hollywood Reporter revisited 20th Century Fox (now 20th Century Studios)’ ’90s sci-fi blockbuster Independence Day to mark the film’s 25th-anniversary.

Sitting down with director Roland Emmerich and writer Dean Devlin, the outlet learned that studio executives were against casting Will Smith as Captain Steven Hiller. Despite already being a household name, the executives believed that Smith wouldn’t appeal to foreign audiences because he was Black.

“The studio said, ‘No, we don’t like Will Smith. He’s unproven. He doesn’t work in international [markets]‘,” Emmerich said. “[Fox] 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.”

Despite not necessarily being plausible, director Roland Emmerich threatened that if they were not able to secure stars Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum they would be taking the film over to Universal Studios right before production was set to begin.

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