With more than $3 billion in global box office and the smouldering ruins of a hundred cinematic cities behind him, Independence Day: Resurgence's Roland Emmerich has established himself as a bona fide king of the summer blockbuster. For the next week, we're enormously proud that he's also agreed to become king of this parish as he takes over as guest editor of Empire Online. Expect behind-the-scenes galleries, nostalgia, his favourite sci-fis and disaster movies, and at least one adorable dog. It's all unfolding across the website, podcast, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (hashtag: #EmmerichEmpire). "As a long-time friend of Empire and regular visitor to the website, I'm hugely excited about taking over the reins as editor,” enthuses the man we're now just calling 'boss'. “If I ever get bored of filmmaking, it could be a second career!"
To kick things off, we've put your questions to the man himself...
In the early Noughties you and Dean Devlin wrote a script for an Independence Day sequel, but ended up returning the money to the studio. Could you elaborate on that version of the story? Can't wait for Resurgence!
– Darren Robins
It was after 9/11 and Dean and I wanted to make the movie about peace, and it just didn't work. There's still an element of that in the new one, but that version was only about that. We shoot aliens down accidentally and then at the end of the movie they land on the White House lawn and say "we come in peace" and that was it. It was just too weak an idea and we didn't really want to do it. It didn't have an Independence Day feel. Only the alien ship was destroyed!
Can we hope for a director’s cameo in Independence Day: Resurgence, like Dean Devlin’s in the first film?
– Dean Short
Nooo! I'd never want to do a director's cameo. I have no urge whatsoever.
– Ti Singh
Boomer, sadly, died. We have Ginger now, who's smaller. He's a mutt.
A career question: what’s been your favourite individual set piece to film?
– Rhys Bowen Jones
The scene with Mark Rylance in Anonymous, his prologue on stage. That's the most magical thing I've ever shot. Half an hour before he went on stage, Mark asked me why a German actor was doing his part in German. I told him that the whole audience was German and didn't speak very good English – remember, this was on a set that was decked out exactly like the Rose Theatre – and he looked at me in shock and said, "Ooookay...". But he relayed it with his whole body and got the laughs at exactly the right moments. I love that Mark has had all this success in movies since then. He was always overlooked as a great actor.
My favourite action scene is the final fight between Mel and Jason Isaacs in The Patriot.
How did you come across Liam Hemsworth and why did you chose him for the role?
– Yas Rahimian
I was very fortunate, I met pretty much every young actor of his age – everyone wanted to be in this film – and I just liked him the best. He was the closest to how I envisaged Jake Morrison to be. I'd seen him in The Hunger Games and some other stuff.
Roland Emmerich heads into Area 52: an Empire Online features meeting.
Given that the original Independence Day was initially drawn up as a sequel to Stargate, are there any elements in Resurgence that still hold part of that Stargate link?
– Herbie Zalatasarii
That's one of the myths out there. There's no overlap between those two worlds.
Will there be an Independence Day 3?
– William Wilcock
If it's successful enough, yes, because it's set up for a sequel. In 20 years? No, I wouldn't want to make it with a Zimmer frame!
Who would win in a fight: Independence Day's alien or the xenomorph from Alien?
– Vena Dacent
Ridley's alien would win. That was the most vicious alien I've ever seen. You can kill ours from behind! You can't kill the Alien from behind. They don't bleed acid, there's only slime coming out and it's harmless slime.
Emmerich at The May Fair hotel with the Empire Online team.
Did the US Air Force have any part in helping with the film? I only ask because in the first film they chose not to get involved because you included Area 51 in the plot.
– Dean Short
They wanted us to change some stuff in the script, but we didn't want to because it was essential to the story. They wanted to change the ways our pilots talked to each other, but when you do it like they want, it doesn't feel real. It was silly stuff.
How many practical effects have you used in the sequel compared to the original? Blowing up the White House has become such an iconic image. Are you following that up with practical effects in the sequel?
– Dean Short
The only practical effect in this one is the alien tentacle around the neck, because it's very hard to do it digitally. It was always magical working with models, but it's actually too expensive now.
Why did you wait 20 years to revisit ID4?
– Joseph R. Paulick
I'd never planned to make a sequel – I always felt that Independence Day was a standalone film. But over the years I realised how iconic the film had become for people and I was repeatedly asked by [20th Century] Fox to do it. What really did it was just how amazing film technology is these days and how restricted I felt in '95/'96 when I did the original one. But it's not a traditional sequel.
'Making this movie was fun,' says Emmerich of his sci-fi sequel. 'It was like a class reunion.'
Do you think being a German native has given you an different eye and view on American filmmaking, and a more international feel to your films than if you’d been born in the USA?
– Thomas Martin, France
Maybe! I have an American passport and a German passport, and I probably have a better sense of what's going on internationally than an American director. I constantly travel – I love to travel – and I'm constantly interested in everything, which perhaps gives you a little bit of an advantage. What do I watch on planes? I've usually seen most of the films so I read a lot.
Bearing in mind the success of the TV show, are there any aspects of Stargate SG-1 that you'd consider adopting for your Stargate sequel?
Elements of it will flow into the reboot, definitely. The amount of characters, for instance. It's not a two-hander like the first one with James Spader and Kurt Russell, this time it's a bigger group. Yes, there's still the James Spader character and the Kurt Russell character, but other people are equally important. James and Kurt won't come back – maybe as cameos – it'll be a younger cast.
Do you have a favourite TV show?
– Jeff Roddick, Ohio
What was it like working Jeff Goldblum, Brent Spiner and the other original cast members again?
– Daniel Peckett
It was fun. It was a little bit like a class reunion, and I was amazing by how fast they got back into their characters. Especially Brent Spiner, who is totally different from his character in real life, but he immediately got it. The first scene we did was when he wakes up from a coma – I like to shoot in sequence – but he added a lot of things to it. He added the whole "I can't see, I can't see!" thing, and then the doctor gives him his glasses.
What was your favourite moment on the set of Independence Day: Resurgence?
– Martin Richmond
Probably the moment when Brent Spiner wakes up. I laughed my arse off.
Independence Day: Resurgence is out in the UK on June 23. Pick up the current issue of Empire – onsale from all good newsagents – for much, much more on the movie or pick up a digital subscription now.
Head back tomorrow when Roland Emmerich picks his ten favourite disaster movie sequences.
Photo credit: Gianandrea Traina