Where have you gone President Thomas J. Whitmore? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
Bill Pullman dropped this tidbit over the weekend -
Cinemablend - "We shot that at night, of course, because it’s dark and not on a soundstage or anything. It was really late, and it got moved into the schedule early, because Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich were in contention right then with Fox about the title. I think it was gonna be Doomsday. It’s what Fox wanted, and it was a title that was typical of the time [for a] disaster movie. They really wanted Independence Day, so we had to make the speech really good. And then they cut it together, and a couple of nights later, Dean came to my trailer, and he said, ‘Do you wanna see it’? … So he popped in the VHS, he showed me the cut of the speech, and I went ‘Holy Mother, they have got to name this movie Independence Day’. And they did."
It’s hard to grasp, isn’t it? What’s even harder still is to imagine Bill Pullman’s speech winding up to something like “Today, we’re cancelling Doomsday,” or whatever the alternate version may have been. Even with cutting edge effects that folks were saying made Star Wars look like a B-movie, and a cast so stacked it further cemented Pullman’s status as a staple of many movie libraries ‘90s kids would frequently return to, Independence Day being titled what it was really nailed it home.
Some discussion of what the title means in a wider context, as well as the more intimate purposes of the film, helped make a case that in this particular scenario, the right title won out. Bill Pullman himself even agreed, which only highlights his expertise at titling films all the more sharply. He may not have been able to save Paranoia from becoming Brain Dead, but with a rousing speech for the ages, Bill Pullman helped Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich prevent Independence Day’s title from going quietly into the night.
To think that if the scene itself hadn’t been pulled off with the expert level of showmanship and bravado we saw, we might have been talking about the cult classic Doomsday, rather than the A-list success that was this particular film:
Can you imagine if we were stuck calling this cinematic masterpiece "Doomsday"?
Is it even close to the hit it became with a title like that?
Does it draw the numbers it did box office wise?
This was prehistoric marketing days remember. No social media or internet. You heard about movies from trailers at the beginning of other movies, on tv commercials, in magazine ads, or by word of mouth.
I'll never forget being down the Cape on a family vacation from hell and the parents being so fed up with taking all the kids to the beach every day they convinced one of my aunts to take us to the movies so they could have some peace and quiet for a few hours. Had never heard of Independence Day. I think the only movie I'd seen in theatres that wasn't a Disney movie up until that point was Ninja Turtles 2. (Which was a life-changing moment). I remember leaving the theatre thinking Independence Day was the greatest thing I had or would ever see. Will Smith was the biggest badass. Randy Quaid was a martyr who sacrificed his life for the survival of the human race. He should have been canonized. Vivica A Fox, Jeff Goldblum's wife, and Randy Quaid's daughter were babes.
I left that theatre on such a high as did anybody else who had seen the movie.
When it comes to pep talks and motivational speeches there's Vince Lombardi, JFK, Tony Robbins, etc. Then there's Bill Pullman/President Whitmore.
Take yourself back to a simpler time, when our country's only worries were Saddam Hussain, figuring out a NAFTA deal, and finding the Unabomber, and tell me this speech doesn't get your adrenaline flowing.