Emmerich and his Independence Day co-writer Dean Devlin had been discussing the possibility of a sequel since the first film’s release in 1996, but were determined to proceed only if they came up with an idea “as original to the first film as James Cameron’s Aliens was to the first one”.
According to Devlin way back in 2002, it was 9/11 that first inspired a suitably fresh idea. “The interesting parallel [between 9/11] and Independence Day was how the world came together in the aftermath,” Devlin told IGN. “How people who had been arguing stopped arguing and started working together. I think our world did the same thing… so as we started talking about that, a story popped up and Roland and I got very excited.”
But that script never made it past the outline stage, and it was more than a decade before Independence Day: Resurgence was finally greenlit by 20th Century Fox, in November of last year.
The Will Smith problem
The long and tortuous development process for ID2 came down essentially to the question of “will he or won’t he?”. It was reported in 2011 that Will Smith was demanding more money (a reported $50 million, for what was then two sequels) than Fox were willing to pay for his return, and two years later Emmerich finally confirmed it.
More recently, Emmerich’s backed off the salary story somewhat, explaining that the original plan was to focus ID2 around Smith’s Steve Hiller and his son Dylan. Having recently done a father-son sci-fi story with After Earth, Smith wasn’t eager to go over the same territory (and if you’ve seen After Earth, you’ll know why).
It’s now been confirmed that Smith’s Captain Steven Hiller is dead in the new movie – his demise being the result of a botched experiment with the alien technology. So with Smith unwilling to get back up there and whoop ET’s ass a second time around, who could Emmerich possibly enlist to fill his shoes?
While the absence of Smith is a blow, the good news is that pretty much everybody else you know and love from the original is back in action for Resurgence. Jeff Goldblum and Judd Hirsch’s lovable father-son duo David and Julius, Bill Pullman’s (now former) President Whitmore, and Vivica A Fox’s Jasmine are a few of the most familiar faces, who are reassembling alongside a younger generation of new characters.
Probably the most crucial piece of new casting is Jessie Usher as Dylan, the stepson of Will Smith’s Hiller (and the son of Jasmine), who’s now all grown up and presumably has a bone to pick with the agency whose experiments killed his father. Liam Hemsworth will play the other male lead, Jake, a rebellious fighter pilot who lost his parents in the 1996 alien invasion, and has been exiled to a moon base for insubordination. Sela Ward plays the new President Lanford, who’s described as a tougher, more aggressive POTUS than Pullman’s.
More controversial was the casting of It Follows star Maika Monroe as the President’s daughter Patricia, who in the original film was played by the brilliant Mae Whitman. Why Whitman was recast remains unclear, but her good friend Anna Kendrick had a few choice words for the producers in response, and she wasn’t alone. Patricia’s now working for President Lanford in some capacity, and has a bond with Jake based on their both having lost parents in the first attack.
Other cast members include Asian actress Angelababy as a fighter pilot named Rain, William Fichtner as General Adams and Charlotte Gainsbourg as Dr. Catherine Marceaux.
Oh, and Brent Spiner’s Dr Okun? Not as dead as he seemed in the first movie.
Filming began on April 20, 2015 and ended on August 22. Principal photography was largely in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at the very same studio that Breaking Bad and now Better Call Saul call home.
Resurgence’s budget is an estimated $200 million – $125 million more than its predecessor, which even adjusting for inflation is a substantial hike.
Independence Day: Resurgence will be invading (see what we did there?) cinemas worldwide from June 24, 2016. By Emma Dibdin