Independence Day: Resurgence Director Talks Aliens, Sequels, and Will Smith

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20 years ago, Roland Emmerich left his mark on cinematic history when he directed one of the most iconic films of all time: Independence Day. The film, which was far ahead of its time, saw Will Smith's Captain Steve Hiller lead a fight against an epic alien invasion.

Smith may not be returning for the sequel hitting theaters this weekend but Roland Emmerich is setting at the helm of Independence Day: Resurgence with several returning cast members and an impressive line up of young stars joining. had the chance to speak with Emmerich in an exclusive interview about the sequel. Check out our full conversation below!


CB: How did it feel to go back to Independence Day after such a big gap between movies? How was everybody on set? How was your attitude toward getting back in the groove of things?

RE: It's like my first sequel in a way and I tried to make it as little a sequel as possible because I don't like them very much. I tried to make this a new and original movie as possible. It was great fun to work for these great actors again. I just love actors, especially that group. I think back 20 years ago and it's so special to work with these guys.

You said you tried to make it original. What are the biggest ways in which this sequel differs from the original?

It's pretty clear that the aliens have to come back. That's the movie, but we tried to make it more complex. We tried to make it more. It's not that they're only coming back. The whole universe gets expanded and I think you have to do that.

Then the world is quite a different one. It's a world which is a post-war world and where you know that the enemy is still lurking out there. Everybody is pretty much united in the fight against aliens, and that was actually for me the most fun part to imagine with the whole world. There's some alien technology which for 20 years did nothing else than try to come up with ways to defend ourselves against aliens and what that would be for a world like that.

In what ways has human technology evolved in the movie to be better prepared for this?

We cannot build these alien engines or alien weapons, but they can harvest them and I've always kind of said the whole world became very clever in building stuff. It's alien technology but it's human in a way and they're only using certain parts of them. The laser weapons, the engines, and that's it. The rest is us. We come up with very clever ways how to do that.

Very cool. What about the alien side of it? How has their tech or their threats in general, how have they evolved?

That's just the process of coming down. They said, "There's a race that defeated us. What's going on? They're coming full force."

What's the first thing you would do in an alien invasion?

Hide. Just hide in a dark little hole and hope it will blow past me. That some hero is going to save my ass.

Do you and the cast members believe that there are aliens out there?

We constantly talk about it. Personally, I always hope aliens would exist but I don't quite know either. It's possible to believe in zombies or werewolves, but it's great characters.

It took 20 years to get us a sequel. Do you think a third Independence Day film is going to come and if it does will it take another 20 years?

I hope I am still making movies in 20 years. I don't know. I'm happy I did it because it's a great celebration of something. Independence Day, in a way, put me on the map in a big way and get me to do a lot of movies. The studio always kept saying, "Do a sequel, do a sequel," and I said, "I don't like sequels. I don't like sequels." Then after 20 years and you get older, you know that you owe it to the studio and you owe it to the actors because the actors were very interested in doing it. I don't know.

You come up with something and you try and give your best and it's interesting, but will I do this more often? I don't think so because I have all these new ideas for original movies and I try to be one of these directors who still does original movies. When you look at our film industry, it's pretty sad what you see around you. I'm not a comic book fan really, and because I'm not a fan, I'm not doing them. I grew up in Germany. We don't grow up with comic books.

Of all of your previous movies, if one of them besides Independence Day were to get a sequel, which one do you think you would like to revisit personally?

I'm always working on it because if I direct it or not is a whole other thing, but I think Stargate should be revisited because it's a whole universe and it's such a great device, to go through a gate and you're in other worlds. There was a TV series and there's a lot of material there. That's something I think should be done.

Here I was hoping for Universal Soldier.

[Laughs] Actually Universal Soldier was not really my film. I was just ... Here in America, had just quit some big Stallone movie and Mario Kassar at that time said he really liked what I was doing and kind of trusted me and said, "I have this other movie that just lost a director. It's called Universal Soldier," and I said, "Okay. How much money do I have?" I read the script and said, "We need a new script."

Then I made it a little bit my movie, but Stargate was my first American film.

Back to Independence Day now, you had a lot of the original cast return. You had a lot of newcomers. How did they work together? Did they just mesh very well?

Yes. The young actors were just in awe of all these older guys. They're quite special. Jeff Goldblum is just ... When you meet him, he's exactly like you think he is. He is the cool guy in the world. He dresses coolly. He's suave. He's kind of walking around like ... He's just Jeff Goldblum and these young actors couldn't believe it. They though it was some sort of act. No, it's him.

Then Brent Spiner is also really cool and he needed a beckon to the old role. You get to waken him and he's open. All these young actors were just admiring them. I think Jeff and Liam hit it off. They kind of had a good chemistry together, which was important.

Obviously one of the things people were looking at when the film first started coming together, speaking of the cast, was Will Smith, whether or not he would return. What were the talks about that in the early stages?

In the very beginning, he was aboard. He was actually very excited to do it, but then it kind of got a bit lucky there. Dean and I needed two years to get to a script. We wanted to make two scripts because when we have the opportunity, we say, "let's do Two right away." Then we send them the scripts and just when he was doing After Earth and wanted to create his own science fiction trilogy, and he had just done Men In Black 3, which was not a good experience for him. He just opted out. I pretty much opted out.

Over time, because I had eventually gave the script to a lot of people and said, "This is such an amazing idea you have there. Why is it only Will Smith for that?" and then I said, "Yes, but how?" ... Then it took me a couple years until I had this idea to make it not like to replace Will with one actor but with a whole generation. It was like probably the breakthrough. It was happening roughly two years ago. From then on, it was actually the story changed a lot because it was all of that not like the old characters returning. It was more like the old characters handing it over to another generation. It's really cool, in a way.


Independence Day: Resurgence opens in theaters this weekend.