Independence Day was one of the biggest films of the 1990s, and one of the things that made Will Smith into an absolute A-list megastar.
But director Roland Emmerich and writer/producer Dean Devlin recalled to The Hollywood Reporter that the studio Fox weren’t keen on having Smith lead the film, despite his music career and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air TV series.
And sadly, the reason why they weren’t keen was due to the color of his skin.
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“It was pretty clear it had to be Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum. That was the combo we thought,” Emmerich recalled. “The studio said, ‘No, we don’t like Will Smith. He’s unproven. He doesn’t work in international [markets].'”
“They 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.”
Obviously the pair did manage to get Smith in the role, but, as Emmerich explains, it was pretty close to the wire and he had to employ a risky strategy to do so.
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He explained: “It was pretty shortly before the shoot and we still hadn’t locked in Will and Jeff. I put my foot down: ‘Universal people are calling every day, so give me these two actors or I move over there.’
“I don’t think it would have been a possibility [to change studios], but it was a great threat.”
Smith opened up last year about racist treatment from police growing up, and a few years back stated that “I live with constant prejudice” when it comes to Hollywood.
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