According to producer/co-writer Dean Devlin, the US military had agreed to support the film by allowing the crew to film at military bases, consulting the actors who have military roles, etc. However, after learning of the Area 51 references in the script, they withdrew their support.
The scene in which Will Smith drags the unconscious alien across the desert was filmed on the salt flats near Great Salt Lake in Utah. Smith's line, "And what the hell is that *smell*?" was unscripted. Great Salt Lake is home to tiny crustaceans called brine shrimp. When they die, the bodies sink to the bottom of the lake (which isn't very deep) and decompose. When the wind kicks up just right, the bottom mud is disturbed and the smell of millions of decaying brine shrimp can be very very bad. Apparently, nobody warned Will.
The President's speech was filmed on 6 August 1995 in front of an old airplane hangar. The hangar once housed the Enola Gay, which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima exactly 50 years earlier on 6 August 1945.
Director Roland Emmerich was notified one day that Robert Loggia was very upset and refusing to leave his trailer. Days earlier, producer Dean Devlin accidentally suggested to Loggia that he watch Airplane! (1980) for inspiration when he actually intended to suggest Airport (1970). Not familiar with either film, Loggia rented Airplane! and after watching it thought that he had unknowingly been participating in the production of a "spoof" movie.
In the briefing room scene at Area 51 behind Hiller and Grey there is a night vision pan of the base. What you are seeing are actual shots of the real Area 51 taken by a conspiracy theorist from a place called "Freedom Ridge". The ridge was commandeered by the U.S. government in the late 90's and is no longer accessible to the public.
According to the liner notes from the recent La La Land Records limited release of the complete score by David Arnold, the drum rhythm heard during the invasion scenes near the beginning of the film are Morse Code letters D-I-E.
Roland Emmerich admitted that during the movie's premiere at the White House, he gave his seat next to President Bill Clinton to Bill Pullman, fearing Clinton's reaction to the on-screen destruction of the White House.
Holds the record for most miniature model work to appear in one film. Model shop supervisor Michael Joyce estimated that more miniatures were used for this film than in any other two films combined. Due to the advances in digital technology since this film's release, most experts believe this record may stand forever.
The main helicopter used during the "Welcome Wagon" operation was a Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane which was outfitted with an array of flashing lights. In the DVD commentary, producer Dean Devlin said that when they first test-flew the helicopter with the lights on, over 150 calls were received in Orange County from callers who spotted the helicopter and, unsure of what it was, reported it as a "UFO sighting".
The film was banned in Lebanon under pressure from Hezbollah, because it included scenes where Israeli and Iraqi soldiers joined forces, in the montage where militaries around the world signed onto the U.S.'s plan to counter-attack the alien forces. In 1996 (and to the present day), Lebanon officially boycotts any form of entertainment that features Israelis.
The White House which exploded was built at 1/12 scale, just to be blown up (although it was also used in one other shot, when David and Julius stop the car in front of the White House). Nine cameras filmed the explosion at various speeds, one of which was 12 times faster than normal, then played back at normal speed to make the explosion seem larger and slower on film.
On the Special Edition DVD, delete scenes are replaced that explain apparent inconsistencies in the Theatrical Version: - Upon arriving at Area 51, Russell Casse searches frantically for a doctor for his son Troy. He states that he has "a problem with his adrenal cortex". Since we've seen Troy vomiting and feverish earlier, he could be suffering from either Addison's Disease or Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, both which affect the Adrenal Cortex and have vomiting as a symptom. - Miguel refers to Russell by his first name for most of the movie. A deleted scene reveals that this is because, as Miguel tells Russell, "You're not my father. You're just the guy that married my mother." This also explains why Miguel looks very little like Russell. - When David is driving to Washington DC to alert Constance, he tells his father, "She always keeps her cell phone listed for emergencies." When he calls her, she answers the phone and says, "David! How did you get this number?" A deleted scene explains how he tracked her secret cell phone number down by searching for various aliases she's used in the past - in this case, it was her married name. - When Jasmine is first seen dancing, it soon cuts to her saying, "I came to get my check and I got talked into working." If one wonders where her son is while she's working unexpectedly (no time to call a sitter), a deleted scene shows him and Boomer the dog in the manager's office waiting for her. This is part of the reason she quits - her boss yells at her for "bringing that kid in here."
Production designer Patrick Tatopoulos presented director Roland Emmerich with two concepts for the aliens. Emmerich liked both designs so much, he came up with the idea to use one design as the actual alien and the other to be a bio-mechanical suit the aliens could wear. Both of Tatopoulos's concepts appear in the film.
The final sentence of the President's speech was not in the original script and was added at the last minute for dramatic effect in an effort to convince 20th Century Fox not to avoid a legal battle to earn the right to name the film "Independence Day."
In the scene where Cpt. Hiller (Will Smith) is talking to Gen. Grey (Robert Loggia) about retuning to El Toro, the giant screen behind them is displaying some sort of night vision display and the bottom of the screen is endlessly rotating through various numbers and stats. At one point, instead of numbers, the screen reads "And now I see with eye serene the very pulse of the machine - Wordsworth", an excerpt of a William Wordsworth poem entitled "She Was a Phantom of Delight."
The "futuristic" looking computer in the control center at Area 51 are components of an IBM AN/FSQ-7 Combat Direction Central, built in 1954 to protect the US from Soviet bomber attack. It was the largest and heaviest computer system ever built, the full system weighing 6000 tons and taking up an entire floor of a bomb-proof blockhouse. Components of decommissioned systems were sold for scrap and bought by film and television production companies who wanted futuristic looking computers, despite the fact they were built in the 1950s. The components used in this film were previously used in The Time Tunnel (1966) and The Towering Inferno (1974) amongst many others.
Spanish television advertisements for this movie, showing the large ships hovering over New York, were mistaken by some Spaniards for real disaster news footage much as Orson Welles' War of the Worlds radio play sparked alien-war panic.
The man in the Los Angeles office building that is destroyed in the initial attack is played by Volker Engel, the movie's visual effects supervisor. The building also contains his initials on the exterior.
Will Smith's squadron were stationed at El Toro air base. This is the same name as the air base from which the Flying Wing Bomber flew out of to drop the A-bomb on the Martians in the movie The War of the Worlds (1953). El Toro Marine Corps Air Station was a real air base in Orange County, California, from 1943 until its decommissioning in 1999.
Because the crew and audiences liked the character of Dr. Okun so much, producer Dean Devlin and actor Brent Spiner have since gone on record to say that his character is really in a coma when he appears to be dead. This leaves open the possibility of Dr. Okun returning for a sequel.
The Macintosh laptop that David uses is shown as a Powerbook XXXX, a prototype model with no designation. Despite this, clips from the film, showing the laptop with its prominent Apple logo, were used a series of Powerbook ads at the time. The ads' slogan was "What kind of laptop would *you* choose to save the world?"
Struggling to write the score, David Arnold secluded himself in a Los Angeles hotel room for almost four months to avoid the escalating hype for the film. But from his window he saw helicopters carrying banners with taglines to the film as part of a marketing campaign, which only stressed him out even more.
In the special edition Vivica A. Fox's character quits her job as a stripper. When she leaves, she says to her boss, "Nice working for you, Mario" in a sarcastic tone. This is a jab at producer Mario Kassar, who forced Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin to cut some scenes from their last film, Stargate (1994).
Shown on a computer monitor in the SETI office is a diagram of "Deep Space Satellite Devlin" (named after producer/co-writer Dean Devlin). The satellite is a miniature version of the Death Star with solar arrays attached.
The character of President Whitmore was originally intended to be a Richard Nixon-like figure. The role was originally written for Kevin Spacey, co-writer Dean Devlin's friend from high school. An executive at Fox refused to cast Spacey, insisting he didn't have the potential to be a big star. The part was re-written and Bill Pullman was then cast in the role.
The phrases said by the pilots when firing their missiles is NATO brevity code for the types of missiles being launched. "Fox One" means a semi-active radar-guided missile (AIM-7 Sparrow), "Fox Two" is an infrared-guided (heat-seeking) missile (AIM-9 Sidewinder), and "Fox Three" is is an active radar-guided missile (AIM-120 AMRAAM).
The huge hype that the film began generating in early 1996 caused Warner Bros. to postpone the release of Mars Attacks! (1996) from summer to Christmas, and Steven Spielberg (temporarily) cancelled his plans to direct War of the Worlds (2005).
The abbreviation "ID4" was invented due to legal problems with the title "Independence Day". Before 20th Century Fox reached a deal with Warner Bros. for the rights to the title, they suggested the film be called "Invasion" or "Sky on Fire" among many other titles.
Traditionally, Roland Emmerich's regular film crew gives several cast members nicknames by the end of filming. Will Smith was given the nickname "Mr. Charisma". Jeff Goldblum was nicknamed "Nice" because of his tendency to say "Nice! Nice!" when agreeing with Roland Emmerich's direction. Robert Loggia was nicknamed "The Turtle" because despite his hard exterior, he was soft on the inside. And Julie Moran received the nickname "Evil" because her name appears in the credits at the same time the music turns ominous.
An entire scene in which Jeff Goldblum explains the nature of the alien signal had to be cut to avoid possible controversy that would have arisen from a shot in which Harvey Fierstein planted an unscripted kiss on an unsuspecting Goldblum.
When David is searching the telephone directory, some street names include: Last Exit, Sub Wy, Drive Wy, Sky Walk, Hard Dr, Chuckjones Dr, Theeme Pk, C. Old Maurice, Window Jump, Onthe Rd, Guesswho Blvd, Yumyum Rd and for Connie- Heresheis Av.
The producers wanted to find real-life material that reflected how a small but elite air force could face off against overwhelming power (like the alien armada) and they contacted the Israeli Air Force to request footage. The IAF agreed after clearing post-combat videos of any classified materials, and the footage helped Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin script and film the climactic battle.
Along with Anatomy of a Murder (1959), Crimson Tide (1995), and The Dark Knight (2008), this is one of only four films whose purely orchestral soundtracks won the Grammy Award for Best Score despite not being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score.
The smoky effects of the alien spacecraft as it moves into position above New York City (starts about 22 minutes 44 seconds into the movie) was created by a double exposure on the film. The effect comes from recording water in a tank turning murky after a clod of dirt was dropped into it.
To achieve the effect of flames traveling down the street, the crew had a miniature tilted at 90 degrees and placed the explosives at the bottom, with a camera mounted on the top filming at high speed. When the film was then played at normal speed, it gave the illusion that the flames were traveling laterally at average speed.
Producer Dean Devlin, who served as the second unit director and directed the close-up shots of actors in F-18 cockpits, let Harry Connick Jr. improvise several takes while doing impressions of various celebrities. His impression of Rev. Jesse Jackson is included in the film.
Within the first few minutes of the very first day of principal photography, a pigeon pooped on producer Dean Devlin's head. Locals were quick to inform Devlin that in New York City, this is considered a sign of good luck.
The character of Dr. Okun, portrayed by Brent Spiner, is based on Jeffrey A. Okun, digital effects supervisor on Roland Emmerich's and Dean Devlin's earlier sci-fi hit, Stargate (1994). It is an almost perfect representation of Okun, right down to the hair and mannerisms.
To achieve the look of Houston as seen from the air at night, the crew simply poked holes in a sheet of black construction paper, placed the paper in front of a bright light in a smoke-filled room, and photographed it using special lighting to accomplish the effect.
To give the aliens a slimy appearance, K-Y Jelly was used. It had to be applied to the alien prop several times during outdoor scenes because the intense heat in the Utah desert caused the jelly to evaporate in just a few minutes.
Using a model previously used for the film Speed (1994), the crew filmed a scene where a bus crashes through a billboard for the movie Stargate (1994), also directed by Roland Emmerich. They also filmed a scene where a theater whose marquee reads "Coming Soon: Independence Day" is destroyed. However, neither scene appears in the final cut.
Between principal photography and the re-shoot of Russell's scenes in his F18, the cockpit mock-up was used in The Rock (1996) and had been repainted. Therefore Russell's F18 is darker than the other planes.
David's character suffers from air sickness; in previous film roles, Jeff Goldblum has played characters with various sicknesses, e.g. sea sickness in The Right Stuff (1983), motion sickness in The Fly (1986), and even in Jurassic Park (1993) he's seen clutching his stomach in some scenes, etc.
When Ally Walker suddenly became unavailable at the last minute, there was a rush to find a new actress to portray Connie. When then-37-year-old Margaret Colin jokingly told an inexperienced casting assistant that she was only 22, the man assumed she was too young and called the producers to tell them she was unavailable. When the confusion was cleared up, Colin landed the role and began filming scenes in Utah less than 24 hours after she was cast.
After the climatic battle, one of the F/A-18s that returns to the base can be seen with the tail code of 'VM'. This is the designation for Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 (VMFA-314) Black Knights, the same squadron that Will Smith flies with in the film and that gets massacred by the city destroyer that took out LA.
The novelization of the film establishes President Whitmore as a young senator from Chicago prior to becoming president. He even gloats to a Secret Service agent about a Chicago White Sox victory over the Kansas City Royals. Life imitated art 12 years later when a White Sox fan and senator from Chicago named Barack Obama became president.
20th Century Fox set up a 1-900 number for people to call and record their very own audio review of the film. Clips of these recordings were used in a series of post-release television ads for the film.
According to a back-story established by the cast and crew, Dr. Okun was recruited by the military out of Berkeley in the 1960s, and due to the top-secret nature of his work, has been isolated at Area 51 since. Although never revealed in the film, his first name was established as Brackish, a word meaning "unappealing" or "repulsive".
Diana Bellamy, Judith Hoag, and Jessica Tuck were all cast in large roles that were ultimately deemed extraneous and not included in the final script. Richard Riehle and Sam Anderson were set to portray David's boss Marty and the Secretary of Defense, respectively, but both roles were re-cast. As compensation, Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich promised them all roles in The Visitor (1997).
In any Roland Emmerich movie in which news broadcasts are depicted, his foreign news station of choice is SkyNews. Here, it appears in Russian. Sky News is owned by the News Corporation (now 21st Century Fox, Inc.), the same company that owns 20th Century Fox, which released this movie.
The number 44 is seen on the headrest in Russell's F18 cockpit, several TVs are tuned to channel 44. When the ship above Area 51 is destroyed, just as it's falling to Earth, 44 can be seen in the flames on the side of the ship.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
A version with Russell Casse flying his bi-plane in with a missile strapped to its wing was scrapped because it implied that Russell flew into the battle planning to commit suicide since he could not launch the missile from his plane. The director wanted him to make the decision to sacrifice himself *after* he was in the air helping the cause.
The plot device by which the aliens were defeated is lifted from the original storyline of H.G. Wells's novel War Of The Worlds. In WOTW they were beaten by bacteria and viruses; in this film they were beaten because of a computer virus.
When David comes up with his idea on how to fight the aliens, he stands up and motions with his hands as if putting something on his head. This move was improvised by Jeff Goldblum, and it was intended to be David putting his 'thinking cap' back on.
President Whitmore attacking the aliens would have been the first US commander-in-chief to lead troops into combat since James Madison took command of a rearguard artillery battery to cover the retreat of the US Army during the British attack on Washington, DC, in 1814.
The scene where Major Mitchell approaches a wounded alien and shoots him in the head at point black range was not in the script and added at the last minute. This was done after one of the few complaints test audiences had was that the aliens weren't suffering enough.
Originally Russell Casse (Randy Quaid) flew his crop duster in the final battle, because the military had rejected him as a pilot. He appeared with a missile attached to the crop duster, then flew the crop duster into the alien ship. But when it was screened to test audiences, they felt it was too comedic, so they re-filmed the scene.
The scene where the White House is blown up was used in the "Finale Scene" of the great movie ride at the Disney/MGM studios (now Disney's Hollywood Studios) at Walt Disney World in FL. After the 9/11 attacks, the scene was removed and replaced with a scene from Armageddon (1998) after guest complaints.