It’s shockingly now 20 years since the human race (see: America) saved the world from that pesky alien scum on the 4th of July. Yet Hollywood – the fools – have let the aliens come back, with the new blockbuster sequel Independence Day: Resurgence set to hit our screens later this month. With that in mind, we look back at the actors who played our Earth-saving heroes under Roland Emmerich’s directorship, and look at what they have all been up to in the intervening two decades.
Will Smith (Captain Steven Hiller)
To provide some context to those who believe Will Smith has always been cool, you have to go back to 1995 and 1996 to witness how it all began. Fresh from six years of outstanding success in Bel Air, Will Smith was now ready to make it big in movies. Having become Hollywood’s No. 1 actor with Bad Boys in 1995, he landed the cigar-smoking badass pilot role of Captain Steven Hiller.
From here, Smith has never looked back; evident in the fact that the actor turned down the chance to return to the sequel. From Oscar nominations to leading every single film he’s been in since Independence Day, the actor’s portfolio is stacked with box office, if not critical, hits. His appearance in the upcoming Suicide Squad marks one of his more interesting turns in recent years, following a string of safe and very ‘Will Smith-y’ roles.
Jeff Goldblum (David Levinson)
Much like Will Smith in the mid-1990s, Jeff Goldblum was a hot property come the release of Independence Day. Fresh from his portrayal of sex god Dr. Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park, Goldblum was exactly what Hollywood needed. At a time when brains were sexy, Goldblum had this niche market all sewn up.
For many within the Internet age, it may appear that Goldblum has been perennially successful yet his CV fails to echo that. Being typecast into his own weird niche meant Goldblum spent the next 10 years in flops such as Chain of Fools, Spinning Boris, and Auggie Rose. Luckily, he has enjoyed a small quirky renaissance appearing in all those good shows you’ve heard about: The League, Portlandia, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. This in turn appears to have reawakened Hollywood to his talents, with roles now confirmed in a new Wes Anderson flick (after a beautifully moustachioed turn in Grand Budapest Hotel), and Thor: Ragnorak. You might say life finds a way.
Bill Pullman (President Thomas J. Whitmore)
The career of Bill Pullman is a puzzling one. A curio. His CV lists a litany of films that very few will immediately recall. Scrolling through IMDb, the brain flickers recognition of the names – Lake Placid, Titan A.E., Igby Goes Down. Yet Pullman has been far from inactive having appeared in a TV series or movie every year since the release of the first Independence Day.
All that being said, Pullman became immortalised when he provided one of the greatest rallying cries in cinematic history. In the press tour for the latest movie, Pullman’s claimed his speech saved the film from the terrible title of Doomsday. He goes on to say: “Dean [Devlin] and Roland [Emmerich] always wanted to call it Independence Day and the cincture would be the speech, because once Fox saw that speech they would realise that this is what’s going to make people excited to see the movie.” Thank you, Mr President.
Judd Hirsch (Julius Levinson)
It’s fair to say that in Independence Day, Judd Hirsch plays the most Jewish stereotype known to man. It’s a joyous, hoarse, jokey portrayal, and it’s not surprising that the role ends up being endearing rather than irritating in the hands of such a pro. Hirsch’s roles prior to Independence Day included fantastic Emmy-award winning work in Taxi, as well as a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for a wondrous turn in Ordinary People.
Wonderfully, his post-ID career has been suitably strong. Recurring appearances in TV shows such as Damages and Numb3rs has seen the work continue to flow in, with nice guest spots on Warehouse 13, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Law & Order: SVU, and The Whole Truth. While Hirsch’s film roles have been thin on the ground, we’re just glad to see Mr Levinson back for the sequel.
Robert Loggia (General William Grey)
From begging Scarface for his life and playing the piano with Tom Hanks in Big, Robert Loggia’s career was littered with memorable moments. Independence Day was just another flick for a man who achieved 230 acting roles by the end of his career. After 1996, Loggia’s rough New York charm saw him star in episodes of Malcolm in the Middle and The Sopranos. Mainly Loggia was an actor who had already achieved his best work, and appeared in films for his own enjoyment, and to keep the pennies deservedly rolling in. Sadly Loggia passed away in December 2015, succumbing to Alzheimer’s at the age of 85.
Vivica A. Fox (Jasmine Dubrow)
Much like many other actors on this list, Independence Day did not rocket Fox to the top of Hollywood’s Most Wanted. The majority of her roles since have been in straight-to-DVD numbers, as you might expect – but Fox’s consistency has to be admired. That’s not to undermine her achievements, as Fox can boast some of the more impressive titles on this list having featured in both Kill Bill movies, Curb Your Enthusiasm and now Empire.
Brent Spiner (Dr. Brakish Okun)
Dr. Brakish Okun must take the silver medal when it comes to the most memorable characters Brent Spiner has played. His eccentric turn as the alien-loving, needs-to-go-outside doctor provided some much-needed life to ID‘s rather sad third act. Yet it is the gold medalist, the character Lt. Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation that Spiner has been known for, and has largely stuck to. Roles have been limited post-1996, aside from Star Trek reboots and voice acting roles. Here’s hoping the return of the aliens in 2016 lead to a return in roles for Brent Spiner.
James Duval (Miguel)
Whilst ID is obviously perfect, the story involving Russell Casse (Randy Quaid) and his adopted family is a tad weak. James Duval – only 24 at the time but with the face of a schoolboy – did the best he could with what he was given. In one sense, that’s a fair statement about his following career as well, yet there are a few surprising spikes along the way, including a stint as time-travelling rabbit Frank in Donnie Darko. Never one to rest, Duval has at least 18 projects set for release in 2016.
Mae Whitman (Patricia Whitmore)
It’s doubtful that ID can claim much credit for the success Mae Whitman has experienced in her short but bright career. Nevertheless it proved a springboard for the talented actress who has shone in roles in Scott Pilgrim, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and The Duff. On top of that, she voiced Katara in the excellent animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender as well as playing… her? in Arrested Development. Sadly she refused to read for the part in the sequel, but luckily we have the extraordinarily talented Maika Monroe in her stead.
Randy Quaid (Russell Casse)
Oh Randy, where to begin? The case of the Golden Globe, BAFTA and Academy Award-nominated actor is a sad one. His career on our screens has long since ended, with tabloid escapades and bizarre online videos now becoming the pillars of his legacy. In the past decade alone, Quaid has attempted to sue Brokeback Mountain for its low quality and has missed hotel bills, faced allegations of illegal occupancy, exiled himself to Canada and developed a conspiracy theory surrounding ‘star whackers‘. It’s a sad state of affairs, with Quaid and his wife Evi now residing in private in Montreal.