It’s been twenty years since Independence Day exploded into theaters, with incredible special effects, one of film’s best pre-battle speeches, and the punch heard ’round the world, courtesy of Will Smith. But it seems that the fat lady never did actually sing: the aliens are back for more in Independence Day: Resurgence, which tells the story of both old and new characters, two decades after the alien invasion that decimated some of the world’s biggest cities.
But can humankind survive another catastrophic attack from our old, tentacle-y friends? More importantly, do more famous landmarks get blown up? We chatted with the director and co-writer of both Independence Day films, Roland Emmerich, to find out.
This is the fist time you are directing a sequel. Have you found there to be any difference in the process?
You know, I’ve always stayed away from sequels, because I’m always kind of more interested in doing original movies, standalone original movies, because that is just my passion. So when I decided to do a sequel to Independence Day, I just didn’t just want to do a sequel, but do a continuation. So it’s a very different deal in that way. It’s twenty years later, we meet some of the characters again and how they’ve developed in those twenty years, how the world developed. There’s a new generation and everybody is quite in a different place than in the first film. It is a sequel, but it’s also not.
Was there a specific character that you were excited to revisit from the original Independence Day?
Yeah, when you’re a director, you always think back at movies, you know… and Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Brent Spiner, Judd Hirsch, they’re such amazing actors, and I just kind of wanted to work with them again. It was interesting, it was a little bit like a class reunion because when we shot the first film, we had a lot of fun and we immediately took off where we left. (laughs) It was like a class reunion with new kids.
With all of the technological advances have been made in the twenty years since Independence Day came out, was the process any easier, particularly regarding special effects?
No, not really, because these kind of movies have changed quite a lot. When you look at these movies in the nineties, there were, like, five thousand special effects. There were a lot of special effects. And there were those kind of movies like Star Wars, which had like maybe sixteen hundred or so, but even they tried to do a lot of that, which were completely built, etcetera . So when you have to do these things, you have to work a lot of blue screen, you have to have a lot, lot more effects. It’s just kind of the competition. So it was quite different. But I’m doing these kind of movies regularly, so it was not, for me, that different. Over the last twenty years, a lot has changed.
Speaking to that, you've directed quite a few doomsday-type movies: 2012 and the day after Tomorrow are some examples. Comparing the social climate now as opposed to 1996,do you feel the general attitude of those types of movies has to be different than it was?
Yeah, I always think every one of these movies has to have a theme or some sort of a story… I mean, when you look at all the Marvel movies and all these superhero movies they also have to find, always, some sort of a new angle, otherwise, you know, people feel they’re seeing the same movies again and again. This year, it’s like the conflict between superheroes, so it’s like in the same way as these kind of doomsday movies. I think 2012 is kind of the re-telling of Noah’s Ark, in a way. The Day After Tomorrow was an ecological movie with a kind of warning about what we’re doing to our earth. Independence Day was an alien invasion movie, so they’re all quite different from each other, and they have to be different. Otherwise, the people are like, “Well, why should I watch this?” And Independence Day: Resurgence is built on… the outcome of such a war. And we won it with pure luck. It wasn’t the fact that we beat them because we’re stronger, but because we got lucky. But this time, the aliens left all their weaponry and anti-gravity engines on Earth. We humans are very clever, how we can kind of build around these alien engines, our own ships. And so what we did for the last twenty years, we’ve STAYED unified. The whole world is unified. There’s this one purpose: to defend planet Earth against aliens because we know they’re coming back. We don’t know when they’re coming back, but they’re coming back. It’s a quite different world, you know? It’s amazing to think what we could if we would all be united. I always said this on the set: “Look, guys, we could be on the moon!” You know what I mean? We could have a base on the moon and you could kind of take vacations there. The amount of money we spend on weapons to kill other humans, it’s just staggering.
Going back to the special effects, there were some really iconic destruction scenes in Independence Day. Can we look forward to more of that in the new movie?
I think we came up with some very iconic stuff, too, in the new one. When you see the trailer, it shows, you know, twenty percent of that. Keeping out stuff… there’s always a little bit of a tendency nowadays to pack everything in the trailer, what you have. I’m actually very happy that Fox isn’t doing that with this film. We talked about it, and I said, “We cannot do this, we cannot do that, otherwise why would people go and see this movie?” So we have quite a bit more stuff going on which we don’t show in the trailer.
Other than directing and film, what are you nerdy about?
(laughs) You know, I’m nerdy about books. I love, love to read. Whenever I have some time, I read a book.