Roland Emmerich Waited to Make ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ Until VFX Could Match His Vision

Twenty years have passed since Roland Emmerich’s “Independence Day” blasted into the zeitgeist with the image of the White House being obliterated by an alien spaceship. June 24 will mark the release of the sequel, “Resurgence” — a first for the director — and a reunion with frequent collaborator Dean Devlin, who co-wrote and produced the original.

The duo previously tried to develop a follow-up to the 1996 action pic several times, and even wrote a script back in 2002. “We were paid for it, and then we gave the check back because we thought it was just not good enough,” Emmerich admits.

The project lay dormant until after Emmerich made “2012” and felt confident that the digital effects could match his imagination. He brought in two younger writers, Nicolas Wright and James A. Woods, to help transition between the returning characters and newcomers.

“It was interesting to explore a generation that grew up in the shadow of what we call ‘the Great War,’ that these were people who lost their families; who never knew a time when there wasn’t an alien threat possible,” Devlin says of the younger cast — including Liam Hemsworth, Maika Monroe and Jessie Usher.

“Resurgence” takes place 20 years after the first film, which saw half the Earth’s population wiped out. Jeff Goldblum’s David Levinson, who helped save the day in the original, is now the director of the Earth Space Defense program, tasked with preventing another alien attack. “I work with the best and the smartest people to figure out who they were; if they’re coming back; what they’re up to; why really they were here and who we are in the whole tapestry of the universe,” he says of David’s new role.

Meanwhile, Earth’s leader during the War of 1996, former President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) is a shell of his former self, suffering from “Alien Residual Condition” after his close encounters in the first film.

Pullman had some trepidation about returning to the role that gave him one of cinema’s most iconic presidential speeches. “I’m the kind of person who’s loyal, and the first movie was such a good experience that I was a little worried that I’d have to accept something that didn’t really excite me just out of loyalty,” he says. “But it genuinely felt like a part that was different than the first one given the set of circumstances … he starts [‘Resurgence’] as somewhat of a recluse.”

While both actors appreciated the plot, the real selling point was the chance to reunite with Emmerich.

“I love Roland so much and I love working with him,” Goldblum says. “He’s an eighth degree black belt master in storytelling. He’s terrifically prepared and wildly conscientious. … He loves actors and then he likes to collaborate with them and create an atmosphere of trust and playfulness and improvisation.”

Pullman agrees, “He has such amazing adrenaline that goes through his system. It’s almost like a waterfall. You stand next to it, you get charged up.”

Collaborators Sing Helmer’s Praises

One word that frequently pops up when discussing Roland Emmerich is “fun.” When discussing the director’s attitude on set, his colleagues are quick to praise his enthusiasm, attention to detail, and collaborative nature.

Jeff Goldblum – “He’s terrifically prepared and wildly conscientious. He’s a force of nature. He’s an amazing, freakishly powerful, creative force, but then he’s fun,” says Goldblum. “He loves actors and then he likes to collaborate with them and create an atmosphere of trust and playfulness and improvisation.”

Dean Devlin – Producer Devlin, Emmerich’s creative partner on “Stargate” and “Independence Day,” notes that Emmerich’s positivity has stayed consistent throughout their 27-year working relationship. “This is a business that becomes more of a business all the time, and many people believe that unpleasant experiences make for good movies, and Roland’s not one of those guys,” he says. “Working with Roland is fun, because his passion becomes infectious, and then everybody has it, and it’s a really unique experience.”

Bill Pullman – In keeping with “Independence Day’s” theme, Pullman jokes that Emmerich is “a little bit of alien hybridization” too. “Maybe it’s his Germanic side, which is about his precision and his visual aesthetic, married to him always being kind of a teenage boy,” he laughs. “I love it most on set when he’s describing what you’re seeing — he always says, ‘and then this comes, and it’s really cool.’ Just the way he says ‘cool,’ it means a lot more than anybody else saying it.”

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