Will Smith almost wasn’t in ‘Independence Day’ “because he’s Black”

"The studio said, 'You cast a Black guy in this part, you’re going to kill foreign [box office]'"

Will Smith reportedly almost missed out on his role in Independence Day “because he’s Black”.

Screenwriter Dean Devlin and director Roland Emmerich recently spoke to The Hollywood Reporter for the film’s 25th anniversary, explaining how they fought to cast Smith alongside Jeff Goldblum.

“The one character we had in our mind from day one was Jeff Goldblum,” Devlin explained. “As we were working on the script, I would do my Jeff Goldblum imitation. Then we were basing his father [Judd Hirsch’s Julius] off of my grandfather, who was also named Julius.”

Advertisement

Emmerich added: “Ethan Hawke was on our list too, but I thought at that time he was too young.

“It was pretty clear it had to be Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum. That was the combo we thought. The studio said, ‘No, we don’t like Will Smith. He’s unproven. He doesn’t work in international [markets].’”

Recalling the conversations with 20th Century Fox at the time, Devlin went on: “They said, ‘You cast a Black guy in this part, you’re going to kill foreign [box office]’. Our argument was, ‘Well, the movie is about space aliens. It’s going to do fine foreign.’

“It was a big war, and Roland [Emmerich] really stood up for [Smith] — and we ultimately won that war.”

Meanwhile, Will Smith recently paid $100,000 (£85,700) to save New Orleans’ Fourth of July fireworks display for the real-life celebration of Independence Day.

The annual display was said to be in jeopardy due to a lack of funding. Smith, who is in the city shooting upcoming slave thriller Emancipation, was praised for his gesture by Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

Advertisement

Cantrell took to Twitter to voice her gratitude. “The gift of city fireworks was made possible by actor and producer Will Smith, along with his company Westbrook,” she wrote.

Advertisement
Advertisement