As he prepares to launch an Independence Day sequel 20 years after the original movie, director Roland Emmerich says he hopes fans won't be deterred by Will Smith's absence.
While Jeff Goldblum, Vivica A. Fox and Bill Pullman will reprise their roles from the original, Smith passed on the project.
"It was disappointing in the beginning," says Emmerich, of Smith not signing on for the sequel, which hits theaters on June 24th. "But my friends convinced me I should keep going. I said, 'Maybe I just shouldn’t do it. I have so many other projects I want to do.'"
"And they said, 'You have to do it. This movie is much bigger, your ideas are much cooler and some people will miss Will, but then they'll forget about it,''' Emmerich recalls. "I hope they’re right!"
While the 1996 blockbuster saw Washington, D.C. and New York City destroyed amid an alien invasion, Emmerich admits he shied away from showing major destruction in his films following the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.
"When 9/11 happened I said to myself, 'I will never ever destroy any building ever again,'" Emmerich told ET at the launch of the Independence Day 20th anniversary edition.
"Then when I had the idea for The Day After Tomorrow, I thought, 'Well, it warns people about global climate change so I could maybe do it.' But when you watch the movie, not one building falls. This huge wave comes in and there's not one building falling because I was so paranoid about people not wanting to watch that," he said. "But now in every Marvel movie you see, everything get smashed and broken. I felt I could do it again, but I also feel that if you cannot show certain things in movies, in a weird way the terrorists have won. So, we do destroy [buildings] in this film, but not to the same extent as the first film."
Set 20 years after the War of '96, Independence Day: Resurgence follows a new generation (led by Liam Hemsworth as fighter pilot Jake Morrison) as they battle the returning aliens, who have developed an anti-gravity weapon that can suck whole cities into the sky. "I can suck up Asia and dump it on Europe!" says Emmerich.
Fox, who returns as Smith's character Steven's widow, Jasmine, was also crushed when she heard Smith would not be back. 'I hated to be a selfish actress, but I thought, 'Damn, there goes my role!'" she says. "I was so grateful when I got the call from Roland that he kept my character alive. And Will gave us his good wishes."
"What’s great about Independence Day: Resurgence is that Roland's combining the OGs [original gangsters] with the whippersnappers to introduce kicking serious alien butt to Generation Next," she says. "The whole family can see the movie and the dad will go, 'There's Jeff Goldblum,' while the kids will fall in love with Liam Hemsworth and those baby blues. That Australian honey… yes please! I was so happy to hear he was going to be in the film."
We hear ya, Vivica! We can’t wait to see Liam taking down aliens on the big screen, and it wasn’t just the ladies he impressed during the shoot. "He was fantastic," praises Goldblum. "He's a wonderful actor and the sweetest guy you could possibly imagine. We had a lot of laughs together."
Check out the trailer for Independence Day: Resurgence below!