Ever since director Roland Emmerich announced he was making a sequel to Independence Day (1996), one of the largest questions hanging over the production was the possible return of Will Smith as Marine pilot Steven Hiller. Since Independence Day, Smith has become one of the biggest names in Hollywood and is, according to Forbes, the most bankable actor in the world. Smith commands a much higher price now than he did in 1996 and Deadline says that Emmerich will not be able to match it.
Independence Day followed Jeff Goldblum as a satellite technician, Bill Pullman as President of the United States, and Will Smith as a Marine pilot as they repelled a global alien invasion on July 4. The film grossed over $800 millions dollars worldwide. Goldblum and Pullman are both expected to reprise their roles with Ross Bagley appearing as the stepson of Smith’s character. After a delay that pushed the release back a year, Independence Day 2 is scheduled to come out on July 1, 2016, almost 20 years after the release of Independence Day.
Emmerich has been working writers Dean Devlin and James Vanderbilt (White House Down) on two possible scripts, one with Will Smith and one without. While Smith has not made the decision final, it seems likely that Emmerich will move forward with the latter script. The loss of the franchises biggest star is certainly a setback for Independence Day 2, though Emmerich has found repeated success with large-scale disaster films. Independence Day 2 will be his first direct sequel.