Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Real Reason Will Smith Almost Wasn't Cast In Independence Day

It's been 25 years since one of the most famous alien invasion films of the '90s, "Independence Day," also became one of the biggest blockbusters of the 4th of July weekend. The film has stood the test of time as a thrilling piece of cinema that brought science fiction and spectacular action together, a winning combination that works in large part thanks to the charismatic presence of its leading man, Will Smith.

In "Independence Day," Smith played Captain Steven Hiller, a fighter pilot for the United States Air Force and a hopeful candidate for the space program. When the alien invasion begins in earnest with the destruction of major American cities such as Los Angeles and New York, and landmarks like the White House, Captain Hiller manages to become the only pilot able to take out an enemy craft. His success leads him to uncover the secret alien research carried out by the government at Area 51 and even realize his ambitions to travel to space, albeit in a refurbished UFO.

While "Independence Day" would become a defining role in Smith's career and his contributions to the film are a highlight, the studio almost passed him over for the part. Here is the real reason Will Smith almost wasn't cast in "Independence Day."

Execs worried that Smith wouldn't appeal to international audiences

As told to The Hollywood Reporter, when director Roland Emmerich put the script for "Independence Day" up for auction, it immediately sparked interest at nearly every major studio. The bidding war put plenty of power in the hands of Emmerich, but when it sold to 20th Century Fox, he still had to apply some pressure to cast the actors he thought would help him achieve his vision.

Emmerich and his writing/producing partner Dean Devlin settled on Will Smith as the best possible candidate for Hiller early on. However, the studio was unsure if Smith had the required star power to drive ticket sales. Emmerich recalled, "The studio said, 'No, we don't like Will Smith. He's unproven. He doesn't work in international [markets].'"

Devlin elaborated on the conflict, explaining, "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.'" Emmerich even threatened to drop his agreement to make the movie with 20th Century Fox if Smith was not cast in the role, using interest in the project from Universal Pictures as leverage.

Thankfully, for Emmerich, Smith, and "Independence Day," 20th Century Fox was eventually convinced, and the movie proceeded with Smith in the lead role. Almost 25 years later, it remains clear that Emmerich made the right choice.