Here’s why Will Smith’s character isn’t in the new Independence Day film

Colonel Steven Hiller met a tragic end

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After seeing the first Independence Day: Resurgence trailer, there’s only one question on fans’ minds. No, not how the forces of humanity are going to tackle an all-new alien menace. Not the technology that makes a spaceship the size of a planet. Not even how Bill Pullman grew that fetching beard.

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What they’ll really want to know is – where’s Will Smith?

After starring in the original 1996 film from Roland Emmerich, Smith declined to appear in the sequel, meaning his wise-cracking pilot Colonel Steven Hiller won’t be popping up to punch aliens right in the face for America.

It’s all very sad – and within the world of the films, it turns out there’s an even more upsetting reason for Hiller’s absence.

According to the timeline on an official Independence Day: Resurgence website, Smith’s character met a sticky end about nine years before the film takes place, while trying to pilot a new mode of alien/human hybrid technology.

The full entry reads:

“While test piloting the ESD’s first alien hybrid fighter, an unknown malfunction causes the untimely death of Col. Hiller. Hiller’s valor in the War of ’96 made him a beloved global icon whose selfless assault against the alien mothership lead directly to the enemy’s defeat. He is survived by his wife Jasmine and his son Dylan.” 

Said son Dylan is set to appear in the new film played by Jessie Usher, and he clearly has quite a dad to live up to. But is this really the last we’ve seen of Hiller senior? Would he really be killed off in some ignominious way off-screen, or will we find out his death has some deeper meaning in the finished film?

Whatever the truth is, the Fourth of July is bound to see some fireworks.

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Independence Day: Resurgence will be released in summer 2016