As well as celebrating the 25th anniversary of Independence Day arriving in theaters and blowing up some of the most recognizable landmarks in the United States, we’ve also been greeted with a barrage of brand new behind the scenes information thanks to director Roland Emmerich and co-writer Dean Devlin revisiting the sci-fi blockbuster.
On top of the revelation that Ethan Hawke was the studio’s preferred candidate to fly into battle as Captain Steven Hiller at the expense of Will Smith, a casting decision Emmerich fought so hard for that he threatened to take the project away from Fox and set up shop at Universal, Devlin has now dropped the bombshell that Kevin Spacey was once in line for President Whitmore, the role eventually played by Bill Pullman, who got to deliver one of cinema’s most memorable rousing speeches.
“I knew Kevin since high school. We had just seen The Usual Suspects, an early cut. The original idea was to portray the president as a villain, and it was going to be a twist that he’s heroic when he gets in the plane. That’s why we were pushing for Kevin Spacey. At one point we said, ‘We can get Kevin for $200,000 right now. In a year from now he’s going to win an Oscar and he’s going to $2 million’. The studio executive said, ‘Kevin Spacey will never win an Oscar in my lifetime’.”
Pullman brought a warmth and everyman quality to his performance, and if Spacey was given the gig instead it would have been a much different character, even without Devlin hinting that he’d be positioned as something of a villain up until the third act. There’s always been a certain sneering smugness to the majority of Spacey’s work, which is the complete opposite of what Pullman brought to the table.
We’d probably be looking at Independence Day in an entirely different light had he been hired, given that Spacey was held up as one of the finest talents of his generation with two Academy Awards under his belt, before a string of serious allegations saw him essentially exiled from Hollywood and sent out into the wilderness, although his unnerving Christmas videos channeling House of Cards‘ Frank Underwood have become a bizarre recurring feature.