Ethan Hawke was considered for Will Smith’s role in Independence Day, but Roland Emmerich refused to bow down to pressure from the studio.
On the 25th anniversary of the release of Independence Day, a film that launched Will Smith’s Hollywood career, director Roland Emmerich and writer Dean Devlin reveal that Smith’s role almost went to Ethan Hawke. The alien-invasion film starred Smith as Air Force Captain Steven Hiller alongside Jeff Goldblum, Vivica A. Fox, and Bill Pullman, who played one of the most iconic U.S. Presidents of all time. Prior to the film, Smith had primarily been known for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as well as other roles in Bad Boys and Six Degrees of Separation, but it was Independence Day that is regarded as helping him break out in Hollywood.
Click the button below to start this article in quick view.
Generally considered one of the best alien-invasion films, Independence Day was a huge success upon its release, going on to become the second-highest-grossing film ever at the time. As a result, Emmerich became known as a master of destruction cinema, later directing films such as The Day After Tomorrow and White House Down. His latest film Moonfall is set to be released in 2022 and will see a ragtag group, including Halle Berry and Patrick Wilson, as they try to prevent disaster after the moon is sent hurtling towards Earth.
In an interview with THR to mark the 25th anniversary of Independence Day, Devlin and Emmerich discussed the process of making the film. One of the most interesting pieces of information to come out of the interview was how initially 20th Century Fox wanted Smith’s role to go to Ethan Hawke. According to Emmerich this caused disagreements between the studio who felt that Smith was too “unproven” for the role and would have preferred that it went to Hawke instead. You can read Emmerich’s full statement down below:
“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] … 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 actually move studios], but it was a great threat.”
Notably, part of the reason why 20th Century Fox was so keen on having Hawke in the role is because they were allegedly worried about Smith’s race impacting the film’s box-office revenue overseas. According to Devlin, “They said, ‘You cast a Black guy in this part, you’re going to kill foreign [box office].’ … It was a big war”. The duo was steadfast in support of the actor however, and Emmerich apparently “really stood up for [Smith] — and we ultimately won that war.” While Smith would go on to be a standout within the film, it will remain a mystery what the film would have been like had Hawke been given the role instead.
Smith has since gone on to star in multiple summer blockbusters since appearing in Independence Day. While not landing the role doesn’t seem to have affected Hawke’s career too greatly, going on to be nominated for three Academy Awards for his roles in Before Sunset, Before Midnight, and Boyhood, he is generally better known for smaller films as well as his theatre work; he was nominated for Tony in 2007 for his performance in Coast of Utopia. If Hawke had landed the role in Independence Day, it’s more than likely that he would be a far more recognizable Hollywood name. He is currently filming the Moon Knight TV series for Disney+ as the villain opposite Oscar Isaac, and although very little is known about his role in the series, it could perhaps boost his career.
F9 Will Pass $500 Million Globally This Week At The Box Office
About The Author