*Will Smith almost wasn’t cast to lead the 1996 sci-fi blockbuster “Independence Day” because he’s Black.
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, director Roland Emmerich and writer Dean Devlin discuss their fight with 20 Century Fox to cast Smith in the film. The studio wasn’t convinced a Black actor would appeal to foreign audiences.
“The studio said, ‘No, we don’t like Will Smith. He’s unproven. He doesn’t work in international [markets]’,” Emmerich told THR ahead of the film’s 25th anniversary.
“[Fox] 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.”
Emmerich gave Fox with an ultimatum: either Smith gets the role, or he would take the film to another studio.
“‘Universal people are calling every day, so give me these two actors or I move over there,’” he recalled telling Fox executives. “I don’t think it would have been a possibility [to actually move studios], but it was a great threat.”
“Independence Day” premiered during the Fourth of July weekend and grossed more than $817 million at the box office.
Meanwhile, Smith has revealed his upcoming autobiography will be titled “WILL”
“It’s been a labor of love,” Smith said in a video posted on social media. “I’ve been working on it for the past two years and it is finally ready.”
The book is an “inspirational tale of how [Will Smith‘s] true self-knowledge helped to propel him to extraordinary success, and then evolve further to a place of deeper peace – with himself, his loved ones, and the world,” according to the press release announcing the book deal in October 2018.
The memoir will be published by Penguin Press on Nov. 9.