I’ll admit, I was one of those people mildly excited for Independence Day: Resurgence. Not only did the film return both Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman  —  as well as the up-and-coming Maika Monroe  —  it was also a welcome trip down memory lane to the original Independence Day, one of the first really big blockbuster movies I remember seeing in theaters. I know I’m not the only one whose interest in the film was pure nostalgia; as it turns out, this link to the past is exactly why Will Smith chose not to come back for a second film.

Back in July, we covered director Roland Emmerich’s claims that Smith turned down Independence Day: Resurgence because he was tired of sequels and science fiction movies. It turns out the first part was the most important. Will Smith recently sat down with Entertainment Weekly (via Heroic Hollywood) and framed his decision around a desire to tackle new projects like Suicide Squad and avoid getting stuck in blockbusters of yesteryear.

I had the two screenplays in front of me for the Independence Day 2 and for Suicide Squad. I had to choose between the two of those. Even the choice of going to Suicide Squad  —  nothing about the qualities of the movie  —  but the choice of trying to go forward versus clinging and clawing backwards. I do want to aggressively go forward and do new things and create and hopefully be able to stumble upon a new heyday.

I actually find the last part of Smith’s statement to be the most revealing. Unless you’re signing onto a Star Wars or Marvel movie, there’s a certain amount of risk inherent in any project, but choosing something new can help set you up for the next stage in your career. All Will Smith could do in Independence Day: Resurgence is remind us of the movies he made in his peak; at least with Suicide Squad, the actor has a chance to re-introduce himself to a new generation of film fans. It was the choice between reminding everyone of when Smith used to be an action star or actually proving that he still is one.

You can makes jokes about Suicide Squad being a bad movie  —  we’ve done it too as you can see below  —  but by any critical or commercial measure, Smith made the right choice for his career. Let’s hope that the actor’s decision to return to the Bad Boys franchise is not a similar mistake; Hollywood is always better for having Smith as a star, and we still have plenty of time to celebrate the Willennium in style.

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