When you think of Independence Day, the first thing you probably think of is Will Smith. The victory cigar, for example, or the iconic, casual “Welcome to Earth” slogan. Although only equipped with a successful surprise hit (Bad Boys) and a very successful sitcom (Prince of Bel-Air), Smith snatched the million-dollar blockbuster for himself.
His charisma outshone stars like Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman. Will Smith was an absolute Lucky strike for the production. And those responsible almost got it wrong.
Netflix Anniversary Independence Day: Why Will Smith Was Rejected
The sci-fi blockuster from 1996 is 25 years old since last weekend. Of the Hollywood Reporter draws the in a large interview with many participants History of origin after. This shows how much the 20th Century Fox studio was reluctant to cast Will Smith as a fighter pilot, Steven Hiller.
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The reasons sound extremely stubborn even for this time in the mid-1990s. But above all, they give us a good impression of the blatant racism in the boardrooms of Hollywood studios.
Director Roland Emmerich decided on the duo Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum early on, he explains. You should be wearing the film. Indeed “the studio said, ‘No, we don’t like Will Smith. It has not yet been tried out. It doesn’t work in international markets. ‘”
Why? Why would a young, aspiring actor like Will Smith do the slowing down the global success of a blockbuster? Producer Dean Devlin continues the story and gets to the details: The open racism of the studio bosses.
They said, ‘If you cast a black man in that role, you will kill the overseas box office.’
In fact, prestigious leading roles (if at all) went to African-American actors like Morgan Freeman or Denzel Washington.
Devlin and Emmerich stood up for young Smith. Devlin:
We said, ‘Well, this movie is about space aliens. It will do well internationally. ‘ It was a great war, and Roland really broke a lance for Smith – and in the end we won the war. ‘
Emmerich was bluffing and threatening to shoot the film with another studio if he didn’t get Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith. “‘Universal people call me every day so give me these two actors or I’ll go.’ I don’t think it would have been possible, but it was a great threat. “
Why the sci-fi action in Independence Day wouldn’t work without Will Smith
How wrong the nameless studio bosses of 20th Century were with their assessment was shown by Will Smith’s golden years soon after the alien spectacle: From 2002 with Men in Black 2 to 2008 with Hancock, he brought 8 films to the cinema in a row, all of which cracked the $ 100 million mark. Nobody else could do that.
Emmerich’s efforts should also pay off for his film – Smith saved the extremely successful Independence Day ($ 817 million global gross) possibly from a flop. Smith balanced the sometimes heavy pathos of the blockbuster with his comedy talent and his flair for timing.
Without a Will Smith character, this movie would have been hard to bear. It is easy to believe from a Will Smith character when it knocks out a runaway alien with a dry punch. Stars like Will Smith give gigantic blockbusters a grip on their feet.
With Independence Day, the actor, Roland Emmerich and Dea Devlin also set a precedent that the systematic discrimination against African American actors in Hollywood
– even if only slowly and by no means everywhere – softened.
In the 50 most successful films of the 1990s, only four African-American actors play a leading role, two of which were played by Will Smith: Independence Day and Men in Black. There are also Bodyguard with Whitney Houston and Sieben with Morgan Freeman. Two years after Independence Day, for example, Blade and Wesley Snipes came out in theaters.
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But a few years ago, the Marvel film Black Panther, with its mostly black cast and billions worldwide, was again a sensation. So Hollywood still has reservations about black actors, who have to be refuted over and over again. The war against discrimination that Roland Emmerich addresses: It consists of ever new battles for goals that are only apparently achieved.
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Can’t you imagine Independence Day without Will Smith?