Film interview: Will Smith talks Independence Day: Resurgence
It's 20 years since Will Smith and co saved Earth from an alien invasion - Keeley Bolger talks to those behind the apocalyptic sequel
The end of the world is nigh... again.
Two decades on from Will Smith’s apocalypse-defeating heroics in Independence Day, and in keeping with the current wave of Nineties nostalgia, a follow-up movie - Independence Day: Resurgence - is about to strike.
And who can forget the hype around the original film? The highest grossing movie of 1996, Independence Day was lauded by Time magazine for bringing sci-fi to the forefront of popular culture, with Bill Pullman’s rousing address as President Whitmore earning him a spot on Forbes magazine’s list of best ever TV or movie presidents.
Now, Whitmore is back - but palpably shaken after the war of 1996 saw half the world’s population annihilated.
Smith is out of action (though there is a brief glimpse of his portrait early on in the film), dismissing his reprisal as Col Steve Hiller, apparently due to a recent run of sci-fi roles and sequels - and so the task of saving the world is left to Steve’s son Dylan, played by Jessie Usher, and his pilot peers.
Joining Usher in that Herculean feat are youngest Hemsworth brother Liam as hotshot Jake, newcomer Maika Monroe as Whitmore’s loyal daughter Patty, and Chinese model and actress Angelababy, as fighter pilot, Rain.
There are familiar faces too, with Jeff Goldblum returning as computer expert David Levinson and Star Trek’s Brent Spiner as excitable scientist Dr Brackish Okun and a surprising new casting in indie actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, who joins the line-up as psychiatrist Catherine.
But with annihilation on the horizon, Earth needs as many hands on deck as possible to come up with a solution. “This time, the mother ship itself comes to Earth, grabs hold of it like a big spider and sucks out the core,” explains German director Roland Emmerich.
So what else can we expect from the sequel?
“At the beginning, this was a standalone film for me,” explains Emmerich. “But over the years, it kept getting played on TV so much and it had this cult status and everybody was imitating it.”
The growth of technology means Emmerich had better tools to play with this time too - but he insists Resurgence “is not really a sequel.
“It feels like something new and different,” he adds.
As for a third movie, the director admits it could be a possibility. “When you go down this route and you shoot a new generation in the film, it’s a set up for a sequel. If it’s successful enough, sure we’ll do it [a third], because then it’s a trilogy. You know what it’s like... a three-disc box set.”
Goldblum, no stranger to a blockbuster with starring roles in Jurassic Park to his name, enjoyed returning to the Independence Day universe, revealing that he often passed time on set by setting his co-star film quizzes.
“David knows that another alien invasion is not a question of if but when,” says the bespectacled actor of the plot. “He is thrust into this position of responsibility of defending all of Earth against another attack, which is even more massive than the one in 1996.”
As for the overall experience, the actor, 63, who became a father for the first time last year, is effusive.
“Out of a possible 10 Goldblums, I’d give it a full 10 Goldblums,” he says with a wry smile and thumbs up.
Hemsworth, 26, vividly remembers watching the original.
“I was around seven years old when it came out,” says the star, who jokes that he was a “devil child” at the time. “I watched it on videotape.”
“Battling an alien invasion fleet was a dream come true.”
Jake can be a little outspoken, because he’s always been the underdog, who had to fight for every scrap,” he says of his character. “As a result of growing up an orphan, Jake became resentful and jealous of other people’s positions.”
Charlotte Gainsbourg, known for her work with avant-garde Danish director Lars Von Trier, doesn’t see her move to the blockbuster as unusual.
“For me, there aren’t different kinds of acting,” says the 44-year-old, the daughter of Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg.
“Of course, the whole alien attack was pretty new, although if you think of [2011 sci-fi drama] Melancholia, it wasn’t that far away. I didn’t have to fake an American accent and there wasn’t a lot of pretending, which was helpful in all that ‘end of the world’ scheme.”
One of the first people to watch Independence Day was the then President Bill Clinton, at a special screening at the White House. Has President Obama made a similar request?
“I don’t know,” says Emmerich. “You always get asked very close before the film’s released, but I don’t expect it. Clinton, you have to understand, is a real big science-fiction fan. I mean he loves science-fiction films, so he had to see it first, that’s why he invited us.
“He loved it and was very complimentary,” the film-maker adds. “Hillary, at the end, turned to me and said, ‘Well it looks like Bill has to get his pilot licence!’”
Independence Day: Resurgence is released on Thursday, June 23.