Tell anyone there’s an Independence Day sequel in the works and their first question is, “Is Will Smith coming back?” He’s not, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Now, it seems like one of reasons why he isn’t is M. Night Shyamalan.
Smith has long been a mainstay of science fiction with hits like the first Independence Day and Men in Black. He last returned to that genre in M. Night Shyamalan’s 2013 film After Earth, which co-starred his son Jaden. Upon release, After Earth was crushed by critics and met with minimal financial success. In a new interview, Roland Emmerich, the director of both Independence Day and the 2016 sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence, hinted that Smith’s experiences on that film seemed to sour him on the genre and be at least partially responsible for him not returning. Here’s Emmerich talking to Collider:
Well, you know, like near the very beginning, I wanted to work with him and he was very excited to be in it, but then after a while, you know, he just was tired of sequels and he did another science fiction film, which was his father-son story, so he opted out.
Losing Smith’s character, who was the hero and star of the first film, posed a challenge for the director, which he now views as a positive:
I was first very disappointed, but then actually a couple friends told me, ‘Well, this could be a great chance to try something new,’ and I said, ‘Hm, maybe I should.’ It took me three years to figure that one out, but actually at the end I figured it out and now it’s like a handover. We deal with the disappearance of Will Smith – I don’t want to give it away – but in a very kind of respectful manner and he’s still part of this universe, but it’s mainly kind of a little bit a handover from the old generation to the new.”
Independence Day: Resurgence is currently filming and will be released June 24, 2016, right in time for the 20th anniversary of the original film. A relative unknown named Jesse Usher is playing the stepson of Smith’s character and his wife, played by Vivica A. Fox, is back along with pretty much everyone else. Maybe Smith’s absence will let some of the new stars, like Usher as well as Liam Hemsworth, reach the heroic heights Smith did. Or maybe it’ll just piss fans off. We’ll find out next year.