Will ‘Independence Day 2′ Work Without Will Smith?

Source: 20th Century Fox

Independence Day 2 is officially kicking into gear. After years of speculation over a possible follow-up installment, 20th Century Fox has officially green-lighted the long-awaited sequel to the original 1996 disaster movie.

According to Deadline, the studio has already staked out a release date in the summer of 2016 for the sequel and is currently in the midst of finalizing a deal with filmmaker Roland Emmerich, who wrote and directed the original alien invasion blockbuster almost two decades ago. Emmerich has long since been looking to create an Independence Day sequel or two, penning a first draft of the script for the sequel alongside original co-writer and producer Dean Devlin.

So far, not much is known about Independence Day 2’s plot line, but fans should already expect at least one major difference between the first film and its forthcoming sequel. Will Smith, who starred in the 1996 version alongside Bill Pullman and Jeff Goldblum, will not be reprising his role as hero fighter pilot Captain Steven Hiller in the new movie. The original film, which eventually grossed over $811 million worldwide, catapulted Smith to a new level in his career and helped put him on a path that has since turned him into Hollywood’s most bankable movie star. Despite this, his absence won’t come as a complete surprise to those who have been following the project’s progress over the years. Smith, who — with a few notable exceptions, like the Men In Black franchise — usually shies away from sequels, reportedly first informed the studio that he isn’t interested in joining the upcoming film back in February.

So will Independence Day 2 work without the actor in the lead role? Though some moviegoers may feel the loss, the potential return of Goldblum and Pullman could be enough to attract some of the original film’s fans. Neither actor has confirmed their participation in the forthcoming sequel yet, but both have previously expressed interest in reprising their respective roles.

It’s also worth noting that Emmerich and Devil prepared for the possibility of Smith’s absence well before Fox gave the sequel its go-ahead. Per Deadline, the duo came up with two different versions of the movie while writing the first draft — one with Smith at the center and one without the character. The script was then handed over to The Amazing Spider-Man writer James Vanderbilt, who worked on both versions. It has since undergone a third round of revisions, courtesy of Spyhunter writer Carter Blanchard.

Casting for the film will reportedly begin shortly after Emmerich’s deal is closed. Though there was speculation that the director initially had the idea of two more Independence Day sequels, with filming for each taking place back-to-back, Fox has only decided to move forward with one follow-up as of now. The studio will likely want to see how well the sequel does so many years later and with the loss of its original star before going ahead with any more installments. Though some franchises with long gaps between sequels have fared poorly in recent months, the huge popularity of Independence Day (which became the second-highest grossing flick at the time of its debut and still remains in the top 50 now) could mean there’s still an audience eager to see the follow-up.

The sequel begins production in May and is set for release on June 24, 2016.

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