Roland Emmerich is best known for destroying things magnificently in his movies but, in order to lend context to so much cinematic disaster, he also has to put in a lot of work building things, too. To illustrate this, Emmerich recently stopped by Vanity Fair to talk about how scenes from Moonfall, Stargate, and, most importantly, Independence Day were put together.
Using Vanity Fair’s trademark “draw on some screens with a cool marker” scene breakdown technology, Emmerich takes a look at that part in Independence Day where Will Smith outflies an alien spaceship before approaching a wrecked UFO to punch its pilot in its creepy alien face and deliver the immortal line, “Welcome to Earth.”
Because Emmerich was working on the movie before everything could be easily accomplished with CGI, Smith’s jet and the alien’s craft props were posed in front of models standing in for the Grand Canyon and manipulated by puffs of air. The crew also made a little Will Smith doll for the part where he ejects and floats down to the ground in a parachute and composited foreground and background shots to show the wrecked alien ship.
The tentacles that fling up out of the craft were added with blue screen and the wriggling, soon-to-be-decked alien head was created on an entirely different set since it’s a close-up. The entire scene, in short, used a lot of clever thinking of the kind that sometimes ended up requiring very simple approaches to complicated-looking shots.
Sadly, Emmerich stops his dissection of the scene before getting into what all cinephiles really want to know: How many takes everyone needed to get Smith’s delivery of “welcome to Earth” so perfect.
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