Ethan Hawke has never been particularly interested in the blockbuster business, with the actor having starred in just two projects during his 36-year career that cost over $100 million to produce, and even then his appearance in the Total Recall remake was restricted to the Director’s Cut. However, things could have turned out drastically different in the mid-1990s, had be ended up in either Batman Forever or Independence Day.
Once Michael Keaton declined the opportunity to return for Joel Schumacher’s threequel, Hawke turned down the chance to replace him as the Dark Knight, something he later admitted he regretted immensely. On top of that, Roland Emmerich has revealed in a new interview celebrating the 25th anniversary of Independence Day that the studio were pushing for Hawke to be cast as Captain Steven Hiller, due to concerns over Will Smith’s commercial viability.
“Ethan Hawke was on our list too, but I thought at that time he was too young. It was pretty clear it had to be Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum. That was the combo we thought. The studio said, ‘No, we don’t like Will Smith. He’s unproven. He doesn’t work in international markets’. It was pretty shortly before the shoot and we still hadn’t locked in Will and Jeff. I put my foot down. ‘Universal people are calling every day, so give me these two actors or I move over there’. I don’t think it would have been a possibility, but it was a great threat.”
Of course, Emmerich’s sci-fi disaster epic proved to be Smith’s breakthrough role and his chemistry with Jeff Goldblum powers the third act of the movie as the odd couple jet off into outer space to save the world, so it was the right call for the filmmaker to stand his ground. Hawke is a fantastic actor, but he doesn’t possess anything close to the former Fresh Prince’s natural charisma and undeniable star power, but very few people in Hollywood do, so it’s hardly an insult losing out on a role to the man who went on to be dubbed the ‘King of Summer’.
Instead of Batman Forever and Independence Day, Hawke continued to carve out a path as one of indie cinema’s most daring and versatile talents, a road he’s still traveling on to this day in between his guest spots in various B-tier genre thrillers.