Area 51 was a highly classified United States Air Force facility located in Nevada. The Groom Lake facility was established in the wake of the Roswell incident of 1947 in which it stored and studied a crashed extraterrestrial spacecraft and its deceased occupants. Following the War of 1996, Area 51 was renamed as the Center of Alien Technology and becoming one of the largest military installations on Earth, and headquarters for the Earth Space Defense.
- "I don't understand, where does all this come from? How do you get funding for something like this?"
"You don't actually think they spend $20,000 on a hammer, $30,000 on a toilet seat, do you?"
- ―President Whitmore and Julius Levinson
Area 51 was established as a storage facility containing an alien spaceship and the bodies of its passengers from the Roswell incident of 1947. The facility contains a deep-level hangar, where the spaceship is studied and repaired, and a vault containing the preserved bodies of the vessel's passengers dubbed as "The Freak Show" by the base's staff members.
The U.S. government denied the existence of Area 51 and its possessions, and publicly dismissed it as a sensational conspiracy theory. Only a select few in the government were aware of its existence. The President and other higher ranking government officials were kept ignorant of the facility's existence, as former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Albert Nimziki stated this for the sake of "plausible deniability." Funding for Area 51 was dependent on a black budget that was secretly funneled from the American congress, as part of the national budget for developing new weapons for the military in which spy planes and stealth technology were developed from extraterrestrial technology.
Immanuel Wells was director of research at Area 51 from 1947 to 1968. In 1968, Wells was removed from his position and from Project Smudge due to his erratic behavior and calls to make information surrounding the alien visitations public in order to prepare for a potential invasion. Brackish Okun became director of research in 1974 after working at Area 51 for two years.
War of 1996
As of 1996, Area 51's administrator was USAF Major Mitchell and its research division was headed by Dr. Brackish Okun. During the alien invasion of 1996, President Thomas Whitmore and his surviving staff were informed of Area 51's existence by Albert Nimziki and landed there, where it temporarily became the functioning headquarters of the U.S. government. By this time, the Harvester vessel was fully repaired and operational, and ultimately used by David Levinson and Steven Hiller to infiltrate the alien mothership and thus disabling the force fields of the City Destroyers. Area 51 soon came under attack by a City Destroyer, forcing Whitmore to lead a counterattack on the Destroyer and leading to its destruction with the sacrifice of volunteered jet fighter pilot, Russell Casse.
Earth Space Defense
Five years after the War of 1996, Area 51 was place under the Earth Space Defense and renamed as the Center for Alien Technology. Area 51 greatly expanded its facilities which included housing for thousands of employees mining from the wreck of the City Destroyer that attacked the base, new testing areas for its equipment, and fielded with new defense emplacements. Unexpectedly, a town was formed by displaced entrepreneurs outside of Area 51 and even has its own mayor and alderman. The townspeople have not chosen a name for their town and are referred to as "the town of 51".
Area 51 also contained a prison for the Harvester survivors of the war. Due to the aliens' fragile form, they cannot be let out of their exoskeletons or they will perish. The Harvesters remained unresponsive for two decades until the War of 2016. The Marilyn Whitmore Hospital was also part of the facility complex.
War of 2016
Area 51 became the site of a second battle against the Harvesters. The ESD salvaged an alien container containing the Sphere and brought it to Area 51. The presence of the Sphere attracted the attention of the Harvester Queen in which the ESD used this to their advantage to lure the Queen into a trap.
Independence Day: Resurgence
Behind the Scenes
- Area 51 is a real life United States Air Force base with the correct names Homey Airport and Groom Lake. The code name Area 51 was assigned by the CIA in now declassified documents. Because of its intense secrecy surrounding the base it has since become the frequent subject of conspiracy theories and a central component to unidentified flying object (UFO) folklore. Due to the importance of Area 51 in Independence Day, the U.S. military backed out in the movie's production after the producers refused to remove the script's Area 51 references. Allegedly, ID4 location manager Kenneth Fix asked the U.S. government if the production could film at the real Area 51. The government's response was uncharacteristically flippant: "If you can find it, you can film there." On 25 June 2013, the CIA publicly acknowledged the existence of the base for the first time, declassifying documents detailing the history and purpose of Area 51.
- Wendover Airport doubled for the Area 51 and El Toro exteriors. The base has played host to numerous films and military projects, and once house the B-29 bomber Enola Gay.
- The interior sets for Area 51 were built in one of the cavernous warehouse spaces at the former Hughes Aircraft manufacturing plant in Playa Vista, California. The sets were largely contiguous, with the huge hangar and alien ship at one end and the alien "freak show" and medical lab at the other. In The Art and Making of Independence Day: Resurgence, Oliver Scholl recalled:
- "What was really great was to be on a stage at Howard Hughes facilities. In one continuous walkthrough, you could walk down the ramp that goes into Area 51, walk through the whole length of the lab, walk up into the observation room where David is having his drink and they're having their discussion looking into the attacker bay, and then have the door come down and walk out and stand there with the attacker and everything. That was one continuous piece. You could do the one thing in one take... As a designer when you open the set and hand it over to the shooting company, you never know what you're going to get afterwards. With Roland, what I've found is the stuff usually looks better and bigger than what you handed over. He's got an eye for tweaking it the right way and making it larger than life. That's what I love about him."
- ―Oliver Scholl
- The "freak show" term refers to the sideshows that was a staple of carnivals and traveling circuses and made popular by showmen such as P.T. Barnum. These displays and performances of human oddities often included collections of deformed and strange creatures preserved in jars of formaldehyde - similar to the bodies of the "freak show" aliens that were displayed in the film.
- Ed Marsh snuck a few lines of William Wordsworth's 1798 poem "She Was a Phantom of Delight" into the projected SECTOR 3 military video graphic during Whitmore's briefing with General Grey: "And now I see with eye serene / The very pulse of the machine."
- The giant Area 51 hangar set is another one of Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin's motifs also seen in their previous movie Stargate, which features a large, underground bunker with scientists and/or military personnel bustling around a piece of alien technology they are trying to get it operational.