Ethan Hawke Turned Down Lead Role in' Independence Day' : I Threw Script 'Onto the Texas Highway'

Ethan Hawke passed on one of the biggest blockbusters of all time in dramatic fashion

TimesTalks with Ethan Hawke, New York, USA - 23 Aug 2018
Photo: Griffin Lipson/BFA/REX/Shutterstock

Ethan Hawke passed on one of the biggest blockbusters of all time in dramatic fashion.

The actor stopped by Conan where he jokingly told the story of passing up on Will Smith’s role on 1996’s Independence Day because he thought the script was bad — and how it turned out to be one of his biggest mistakes.

“I’m driving cross-country with a friend of mine. I got the script to Independence Day, and there’s like dollar bills attached to it,” Hawke, 47, said, setting the scene. “And I’m reading it to my buddy in the car like, ‘Isn’t this a bad line? ‘E.T. phone home,’ that’s stupid.’ And I’m going through it to the point where I literally throw it out onto the Texas highway.”

But Hawke quickly realized his mistake when he caught the movie during opening day with a group of friends and his girlfriend at the time.

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“Everyone wants to go see Independence Day and I’m like, ‘Alright, this’ll be amusing to see how bad it is,’ ” he told host Conan O’Brien. “I walk into the theater, it’s obviously sold out. Will Smith says, ‘E.T. phone home,’ and the place roars. I mean they basically give a standing ovation in the movie. And I’m sitting there going, ‘Oh my god.’ I really didn’t get the joke!”

The movie, which also starred Bill Pullman and Jeff Goldblum, made over $300 million in the United States and over $800 million worldwide.

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