Will Smith, one of Hollywood’s highest-paid actors, has built an illustrious career, though not without facing some challenges along the way. Despite his current status as a sought-after leading star, back in the 90s, he had to overcome obstacles to secure a pivotal role.
Starting his journey as a rapper and gaining fame from the sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Smith’s breakthrough came with his role as Captain Steven Hiller in the 1996 sci-fi blockbuster “Independence Day.” However, getting him cast as the lead was not a straightforward process.
Roland Emmerich, the director of the film, had to fight against the studio’s reluctance to cast Smith. In a recent interview celebrating the film’s 25th anniversary, Emmerich revealed that Fox Studios initially rejected the idea, believing Smith wouldn’t perform well in international markets. They cited concerns about his lack of a proven track record.
However, the real reason behind the studio’s resistance, as revealed by the film’s writer Dean Devlin, was Smith’s race. Fox expressed fears that casting a Black actor in the role would harm foreign box office earnings. Despite these hurdles, Emmerich was determined to have Smith in the lead and strongly advocated for him.
Eventually, Emmerich’s persistence paid off, and he stood his ground, asserting that the movie’s theme of space aliens would resonate regardless of the lead actor’s race. He even threatened to take the film to another studio if Fox did not agree with his casting choice.
In the end, Emmerich’s conviction prevailed, and Smith was cast as the lead in “Independence Day.” The film went on to become a massive success, grossing a staggering $817.8 million worldwide, and Smith’s portrayal of Captain Steven Hiller was well-received by audiences.
Despite the initial doubts and challenges, Will Smith’s talent and charisma shone through, cementing his position as one of the industry’s leading stars. His journey from rapper to actor to Hollywood royalty remains a testament to his tenacity and undeniable talent.