The blasting of the White House. That’s one. Here’s the other:
Independence Day is a huge reason Will Smith is a star. Know who was expected to blow up big because of that film? BILL PULLMAN. “He’s the President!” people were saying. “He’ll make a big impression! He’s doing something you haven’t seen him do before!” To the extent he’s channeling a Navy-flier Republican version of Bill Clinton, maybe, yeah. (Yes, I figure President Whitmore’s a Republican. Gut feeling. Fairly moderate Republican, I’d guess.) But Pullman was expected to go on to more big films, and he…didn’t. You know what Will Smith’s gone on to, though. Beyond BOX OFFICE DOMINANCE.
(Digressing into trivia: it wasn’t originally Will Smith who Kevin Smith referenced in Jersey Girl. The first draft script began in the ’80s and had the main character Ollie insulting Bruce Willis right before Die Hard came out. Willis as an action hero was a JOKE to lots of people then. The studio redid its ad campaign at the last minute to emphasize the setting and the action (“An experience that will blow you through the back wall of the theater”) so that the flick wouldn’t get laughed off the screen. THEN we all saw Die Hard and saw it was good. Smith referenced that in the script, but this fell through because Kevin Smith couldn’t even reach Willis, let alone get a “yes” or “no” from him. Will Smith was the second-best fit for the story and was available and willing, so Smith rewrote the script to start in the ’90s, have Ollie insult Will Smith right before ID4 came out, and have Ollie meet Will Smith years later.)
Will Smith wasn’t expected to carry the film. You don’t need that with a big-ensemble action film like ID4; the action and the effects do that (and the action and effects are still damn solid). But Smith stepped up his game -- it’s actually a really decent action-drama performance -- and he shined in the flick. Quite a few people knew he had chops thanks to Six Degrees of Separation (1993), and he could already handle action as seen the year before in Bad Boys, but here is where Will Smith became a Star. And bless him for it. He had a charisma that needed to be on big screens. That alien? He punches it with his charisma.
Celebrate that again, tonight. Independence Day, at McMenamin’s Bagdad, with Cort and Fatboy introducing as they always do, since it's their event. $3 to enter, which you can do at 10:00 with the film (plus a trailer reel) at 11:00. 21 and older, please, but you can be mentally 10 going “Explosions! Cool!”
P.S. Want an Independence Day commentary? Cort, Fatboy, David Walker, The Famous Scott Dally, and Mike Russell provide...