While on the promotional campaign for their movie Stargate, writer/producer Dean Devlin and writer/director Roland Emmerich were asked a question by a journalist.
If he did not believe in aliens, then why make a movie like Stargate? Emmerich responded that he still found the idea of an alien arrival very exciting, asking the reporter to imagine what it would be like if they woke up one morning and found 15-mile wide spaceships hovering in the sky.
Emmerich then turned to Devlin and said "I think we have an idea for our next film", and thus Independence Day was born.
Devlin and Emmerich met when the former starred in the latter's little seen German sci-fi Moon 44, but soon grew to be close friends, eventually taking Hollywood be storm by co-writing (with Emmerich directing) the Van Damme actioner Universal Solider.
Taking a month off after the press tour for Universal Soldier, the two headed down to Mexico to write the script for their alien invasion movie, both wanting the exact opposite of the 'small, unnoticed' entrances usually given in alien invasion movies. 'If you arrive from across the universe, would you hide on a farm or would you make a big entrance?', Emmerich asked Devlin, and that was the basis for the movie: Go big or go home.
Upon finishing the screenplay, they sent the script in to 20th Century Fox for consideration, and the project was given the green light within 24 hours, and just three days later, the movie was already in pre-production.
Filming began in July 1995, under the working title ID4, as Warner Bros. owned the rights to the title Independence Day from another project. Filming took place across Manhattan, Arizona and Nevada. It was in the latter that Bill Pullman filmed the iconic "Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!", which was a last minute addition by Devlin and Emmerich in the hopes that Fox would pay to clear the new title rights from Warners, a tactic that eventually paid off.
The interiors of the White House were the same as those used for both The American President and Nixon, while most of the film's then-record 3,000-plus special effects shots were accomplished at Hughes Aircraft in Culver City, California, the space required mainly due to the sheer number of miniatures and pyrotechnics required.
Initially, the U.S. military were going to be heavily involved, allowing the use of their vehicles, personnel and uniforms for the movie, but eventually backed out due to the scenes involving Area 51.
While the movie was still in post-production, a 30-second trailer was screened during Super Bowl XXX on January 28th 1996, for which Fox paid $1.3 million. It is seen as being the trailer that eventually caused the current spate of outbidding and box-office clambering caused by Super Bowl trailer spots.
The film received it's premiere on June 25th 1996, and also screened privately in the White House to President Clinton and his family prior to the wide release. During test-screenings, the character of Russell Casse - played by Randy Quaid - was originally to take out the spaceship in his dust-cropping bi-plane with a stolen bomb attached. However, after test screenings, these scenes were eventually reshot to eventually write-out Casse's alcoholism and give his character a more redemptive, sacrificial arc than originally intended. Devlin agreed that the new ending worked better as the sight of Casse's bi-plane keeping up to speed with the fighter jets was "just not believable".
Upon release, the $75 million production broke pretty much every box-office record, with a $50.2 million opening weekend in the US, and $104.3 million there in it's first week. Worldwide, it would eventually make $817.4 million worldwide, at the time making it the 2nd biggest box office takings of all time behind only Jurassic Park, but in the 20 years since, it has slipped to 51st in that league.
It would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, nominated for Best Sound Mixing, despite initial critical reviews being fairly erratic, ranging from Empire's 5-star review to The Washington Post's 1-star.
The film would be held responsible for Hollywood's reignition with the disaster epic, from Dante's Peak to Armageddon, and Devlin and Emmerich would return many times to the genre themselves. They worked together on 1998 flop Godzilla, before Emmerich went solo on the likes of The Day After Tomorrow and 2012, while Devlin will make his feature directorial debut with 2017's Geostorm, featuring Gerard Butler trying to stop weather-controlling satellites from ending humanity as we know it.
However, despite having a 15 year break from each other, Emmerich and Devlin have reunited for Independence Day: Resurgence, due in Irish cinemas on June 24th, with the tagline "We had 20 years to get ready. So did they". The sequel has been in the works since 2004, with Devlin stating that the events of 9/11 were a massive influence on the movie. Will Smith was originally set to appear in the movie (which was initially to be shot back-to-back with a second sequel), but Fox refused to pay his $50 million fee.
Emmerich told Empire that another sequel would be inbound depending on the success of Resurgence, and they wouldn't have to wait as long this time for it to arrive.