There is little doubt that Will Smith is one of the biggest stars in Hollywood right now. However, there was a time when studios didn't trust his star power. It has just been revealed that 20th Century Fox initially refused to cast Smith in Independence Day because they believed a Black actor would affect international box office sales.
Independence Day was released on July 4, 1996, and was the highest-grossing film that year. It also made Smith a household name but that almost didn't happen. Director Roland Emmerich and writer Dean Devlin have revealed that although they had Smith in mind right from the start, the studio was opposed to casting the Bad Boys actor.
"It was pretty clear it had to be Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum," Emmerich told The Hollywood Reporter. "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].'"
Devlin added, "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.' It was a big war, and Roland really stood up for [Smith] — and we ultimately won that war."
Emmerich further stated that he continued fighting for Smith by threatening the studio that they will be taking the film to Universal. Luckily, 20th Century Fox finally conceded and Independence Day went on to become the second-highest-grossing film ever at the time, only behind Jurassic Park.
The first film was followed by the slightly less successful Independence Day: Resurgence in 2016 which, interestingly enough, didn't feature Will Smith.
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