When Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin decided that they wanted to make a disaster film, they homed in on a new idea. Previously, films had been made with giant ants and swarms of bees, but aliens seemed like something that hadn’t been done. When they came to make what would become the 1996 smash hit Independence Day, they planned for the help of the military. However, that help disappeared when Emmerich and Devlin refused to change a key part of the plot.
The shoot of Independence Day was certainly spectacular, with a large chunk of the $75 million budget splashed on a record-breaking number of visual effects. Depicting the response of the Earth – and the U.S. in particular – to a massive alien invasion, the film needed to depict the U.S. military on a grand scale. So who better to supply backing and extras than the real U.S. armed forces?