Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Roland Emmerich|
|Produced by||Dean Devlin|
|Written by||Dean Devlin|
Vivica A. Fox
|Music by||David Arnold|
|Cinematography||Karl Walter Lindenlaub|
|Editing by||David Brenner|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Release date(s)||July 2, 1996|
|Running time||145 minutes|
|Followed by||Independence Day: Resurgence|
Independence Day (also known by its promotional abbreviation ID4) is a 1996 epic science fiction action film about a hostile alien invasion of Earth, focusing on a disparate group of individuals and families as they coincidentally converge in the Nevada desert and, along with the rest of the human population, participate in a last-chance retaliation on July 4 – the same date as the Independence Day holiday in the United States. It was directed by Roland Emmerich, who co-wrote the script with producer Dean Devlin.
While promoting Stargate in Europe, Emmerich came up with the idea for the film when fielding a question about his own belief in the existence of alien life. He and Devlin decided to incorporate a large-scale attack when noticing that aliens in most invasion films travel long distances in space only to remain hidden when reaching Earth. Principal photography for the film began in July 1995 in New York City, and the film was officially completed on June 20, 1996.
The film was scheduled for release on July 3, 1996, but due to the high level of anticipation for the movie, many theaters began showing it on the evening of July 2, 1996, the same day the film begins. The movie's combined domestic and international box office gross is $816,969,268, which at one point was the second-highest worldwide gross of all-time. It holds the 25th highest worldwide gross of a movie all-time.
Plot[edit | edit source]
On July 2, 1996, an enormous alien mothership that has one fourth the mass of the Moon, enters orbit around Earth, deploying assault fortress saucers, each with a fifteen-mile radius, that take positions over some of Earth's major cities. David Levinson, an MIT-trained satellite technician, decodes a signal embedded within global satellite transmissions that he determines is the aliens' countdown timer for a coordinated attack. With the help from his ex-wife, White House Communications Director Constance Spano, David, and his father Julius, they gain access to the Oval Office and warn President Thomas J. Whitmore that the aliens are hostile. Whitmore immediately orders large-scale evacuations of New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., but it is too late; the timer reaches zero and the saucers fire destructive beams, killing millions. Whitmore, the Levinsons, and a few others narrowly escape aboard Air Force One as the capital is destroyed, along with the other locations over which the saucers are positioned.
On July 3, international leaders begin ordering individual counterattacks. Their air forces attack the saucers positioned above the ruins of the cities, but the saucers are protected by force fields. Each saucer launches a swarm of attack fighters, each with its own shield as well, which wipes out the human fighter squadrons and military bases. Captain Steven Hiller, an F/A-18 jet pilot with the USMC squadron VMFA-314 based out of Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, survives by luring his attacker to the enclosed spaces of the Grand Canyon and sacrificing his plane, forcing the alien to crash-land. He subdues the downed alien and flags down a convoy of refugees, hitching a ride with former combat pilot Russell Casse. They transport the unconscious alien to Area 51, where Whitmore's group has landed. Through Secretary of Defense Albert Nimziki, they have learned that a faction of the government has been involved in a UFO conspiracy since 1947, when one of the invaders' spacecraft crashed in Roswell. Area 51 houses the now-refurbished alien fighter, and three alien corpses recovered from the crash. As eccentric scientist Dr. Brackish Okun examines the alien captured by Steven, it regains consciousness and attacks, telepathically invading Okun's mind and killing all the other doctors. It uses Okun's vocal cords to communicate with President Whitmore, before launching a psychic attack against him. After Secret Service agents and military personnel kill the alien that leaves Dr. Okun in a coma, Whitmore reveals that he had a vision of the aliens' plans. He explains that the invaders are like locusts; their whole civilization travels from one planet to the next, stripping them of all their natural resources. The President reluctantly authorizes a nuclear attack; a B-2 Spirit fires a nuclear warhead tipped cruise missile at a saucer positioned above Houston, but the saucer remains intact. Meanwhile, Steven's fiancée Jasmine and her son survive the destruction of Los Angeles, and use an abandoned service truck to rescue other survivors, in the process finding the injured First Lady, Marilyn , whose helicopter crashed during the initial attack. Though the group is rescued by Steven and taken to Area 51, Marilyn dies of her wounds shortly after being reunited with her family.
On July 4, David devise a plan to defeating the aliens is to deactivate their shields by uploading a computer virus into the mothership using the refurbished alien fighter, which Steven volunteers to pilot. The U.S. military contacts surviving airborne squadrons around the world through Morse code to organize a united counter-offense against the aliens. With military pilots in short supply, Whitmore enlists the help of volunteers with flight experience, including Russell, and leads an attack on a saucer bearing down on Area 51. Flying into space, Steven and David upload the virus and successfully deploy a nuclear weapon on board the mothership, nullifying the aliens' communications system and reinforcements once the malware has filtered into the alien ships over Earth. With the aliens' shields deactivated, the fighter jets are able to successfully fight back against the enemy craft, but their supply of missiles is exhausted before they can destroy the saucer. As it prepares to fire on the base, Russell has one last missile to spare, but when the firing control on the missile jams, he rams his jet into the directed-energy weapon port, causing a chain reaction that destroys the entire saucer.
Human military forces around the world are informed of the alien saucers' weak point, and successfully destroy the others. As humankind is rejoicing in victory, Steven and David return to Area 51 unharmed and reunite with their families. They then accompany Whitmore and his daughter in watching the wreckage from the mothership blowing up, resembling a fireworks display as it enters Earth's atmosphere.
Cast[edit | edit source]
- Will Smith as Captain Steven Hiller: An assured United States Marine Corps F/A-18 pilot at the forefront of the human resistance counter-offensive. His ambition before the alien attack is to join NASA's astronaut training program. Devlin and Emmerich had always envisioned an African-American for the role, and specifically wanted Smith after seeing his performance in Six Degrees of Separation.
- Jeff Goldblum as David Levinson: An MIT-educated computer expert who is a chess enthusiast and environmentalist, working as a satellite technician for a cable television company in New York City when he discovers the aliens' invasion plot. He still has strong feelings for his ex-wife and later formulates a plan to defeat the invaders.
- Bill Pullman as President Thomas J. Whitmore: A former Persian Gulf War fighter pilot and current President of the United States whose approval ratings early in the film indicate the nation's dissatisfaction with his performance. To prepare for the role, Pullman read The Commanders by Bob Woodward and watched the documentary film The War Room.
- Margaret Colin as Constance Spano: The White House Communications Director and David's ex-wife. Though she still loves David, she feels that he is underachieving, and divorced him to pursue her career alongside President Whitmore.
- Robert Loggia as General William Grey: A United States Marine Corps general who is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and one of President Whitmore's most trusted advisors. Loggia modeled the character after generals of World War II, particularly George S. Patton.
- Randy Quaid as Russell Casse: A widowed, alcoholic crop duster and veteran Vietnam War pilot who claims to have been an alien abductee ten years prior to the events of the film. He struggles to care for his three children. At the end of the film, he sacrifices himself to destroy an alien destroyer, gaining the admiration of his eldest son, who previously held little respect for him.
- James Duval as Miguel Casse, Russell's eldest son. He was not very respectful of his alcoholic father (even calling him "Russell"), but after Russell sacrifices himself to save everybody, Miguel thinks better of him.
- Judd Hirsch as Julius Levinson: David Levinson's father. The character was based on one of Devlin's uncles.
- Mary McDonnell as Marilyn Whitmore: The wife of President Whitmore. She is wounded while fleeing the destruction of Los Angeles and later dies from internal bleeding.
- Vivica A. Fox as Jasmine Dubrow: A single mother, Steve's girlfriend and exotic dancer. She searches for fellow survivors in the aftermath of the Los Angeles attacks, finding the First Lady in the process.
- James Rebhorn as Albert Nimziki: The Secretary of Defense and former director of the CIA. He advocates the use of nuclear weapons in response to the alien threat. Rebhorn described the character as being much like Oliver North. The character's eventual firing lampoons Joe Nimziki, MGM's head of advertising and reportedly accounted for unpleasant experiences for Devlin and Emmerich when studio executives forced recuts of Stargate.
- Harvey Fierstein as Marty Gilbert: David's boss, who is killed during the alien attack on New York City.
- Adam Baldwin as Major Mitchell: A United States Air Force officer who is the commanding officer at Area 51.
- Brent Spiner as Dr. Brackish Okun: The unkempt and highly excitable scientist in charge of research at Area 51. He is later killed by a captured alien. Devlin, who is open to the idea of bringing Dr. Okun back in the event of a sequel, later implied the character is merely in a coma. The character's appearance and verbal style are based upon those of visual effects supervisor Jeffrey A. Okun, whom Emmerich had worked with on Stargate.
- Harry Connick, Jr. as Captain Jimmy Wilder: The best friend of Steve and fellow pilot, killed while fleeing a failed attack on an alien spacecraft. Connick took over the part for Matthew Perry, originally cast in the role.
- Kiersten Warren as Tiffany: Jasmine's exotic dancer co-worker who is killed during the alien attack on Los Angeles.
Production[edit | edit source]
The idea for the film came when Emmerich and Devlin were in Europe promoting their film Stargate. A reporter asked Emmerich why he made a movie with content like Stargate if he did not believe in aliens. Emmerich stated he was still fascinated by the idea of an alien arrival, and further explained his response by asking the reporter to imagine what it would be like to wake up one morning and discover 15-mile-wide spaceships were hovering over the largest cities in the world. Emmerich then turned to Devlin and said "I think I have an idea for our next film."
Emmerich and Devlin decided to expand on the idea by incorporating a large-scale attack, with Devlin saying he was bothered by the fact that "for the most part, in alien invasion movies, they come down to Earth and they're hidden in some back field ...[o]r they arrive in little spores and inject themselves into the back of someone's head." Emmerich agreed by asking Devlin if arriving from across the galaxy, "would you hide on a farm or would you make a big entrance?" The two wrote the script during a month-long vacation in Mexico, and just one day after they sent it out for consideration, 20th Century Fox chairman Peter Chernin greenlit the screenplay. Pre-production began just three days later in February 1995. The United States military originally intended to provide personnel, vehicles, and costumes for the film; however, they backed out when the producers refused to remove the Area 51 references from the script.
A then-record 3,001-plus special effects shots would ultimately be required for the film. The shoot utilized on-set, in-camera special effects more often than computer-generated effects in an effort to save money and get more authentic pyrotechnic results. Many of these shots were accomplished at Hughes Aircraft in Culver City, California, where the film's art department, motion control photography teams, pyrotechnics team, and model shop were headquartered. The production's model-making department built more than twice as many miniatures for the production than had ever been built for any film before by creating miniatures for buildings, city streets, aircraft, landmarks, and monuments. The crew also built miniatures for several of the spaceships featured in the movie, including a 30-foot (9.1 m) destroyer model and a version of the mother ship spanning 12 ft. City streets were recreated, then tilted upright beneath a high-speed camera mounted on a scaffolding filming downwards. An explosion would be ignited below the model, and flames would rise towards the camera, engulfing the tilted model and creating the rolling "wall of destruction" look seen in the film. A model of the White House was also created, covering 10 ft by 5 ft, and was used in forced-perspective shots before being destroyed in a similar fashion for its own destruction scene. The detonation took a week to plan and required 40 explosive charges.
The aliens in the film were designed by production designer Patrick Tatopoulos. The actual aliens of the film are diminutive and based on a design Tatopoulos drew when tasked by Emmerich to create an alien that was "both familiar and completely original". These creatures wear "bio-mechanical" suits that are based on another design Tatopoulos pitched to Emmerich. These suits were 8 ft tall, equipped with 25 tentacles, and purposely designed to show it could not sustain a person inside so it would not appear to be a "man in a suit".
Principal photography began in July 1995 in New York City. A second unit gathered plate shots and establishing shots of Manhattan, Washington D.C., an RV community in Flagstaff, Arizona, and the Very Large Array on the Plains of San Agustin, New Mexico. The main crew also filmed in nearby Cliffside Park, New Jersey before moving to the former Kaiser Steel mill in Fontana, California to film the post-attack Los Angeles sequences. The production then moved to Wendover, Utah and West Wendover, Nevada, where the deserts doubled for Imperial Valley and the Wendover Airport doubled for the El Toro and Area 51 exteriors. It was here where Pullman filmed his pre-battle speech. Immediately before filming the scene, Devlin and Pullman decided to add "Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!" to the end of the speech. At the time, the production was nicknamed "ID4" because Warner Bros. owned the rights to the title Independence Day, and Devlin had hoped if Fox executives noticed the addition in dailies, the impact of the new dialogue would help them win the rights to the title. The right to use the title was eventually won two weeks later.
The production team moved to the Bonneville Salt Flats to film three scenes, then returned to California to film in various places around Los Angeles, including Hughes Aircraft where sets for the cable company and Area 51 interiors were constructed at a former aircraft plant. Sets for the latter included corridors containing windows that were covered with blue material. The filmmakers originally intended to use the chroma key technique to make it appear as if activity was happening on the other side of the glass; but the composited images were not added to the final print because production designers decided the blue panels gave the sets a "clinical look". The attacker hangar set contained an attacker mock-up 65ft wide that took four months to build. The White House interior sets used had already been built for The American President and had previously been used for Nixon. Principal photography completed on November 3, 1995.
The movie originally depicted Russell Casse being rejected as a volunteer for the July 4 aerial counteroffensive because of his alcoholism. He then uses a stolen missile tied to his red biplane to carry out his suicide mission. According to Dean Devlin, test audiences responded well to the scene's irony and comedic value. However, the scene was re-shot to include Russell's acceptance as a volunteer, his crash course in modern fighter aircraft, and him flying an F-18 instead of the biplane. Devlin preferred the alteration because the viewer now witnesses Russell ultimately making the decision to sacrifice his life, and seeing the biplane keeping pace and flying amongst F-18s was "just not believable". The film was officially completed on June 20, 1996.
The film's plot deliberately and closely follows the plots of classic alien invasion fiction, most notably The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells and its 1953 film adaptation. Whereas the premise of the film bears little resemblance, there are many elements from War of the Worlds, including the aliens' resistance against nuclear weapons (on a related note, the same scene shows, in the wreckage, a lamp post twisted into the shape of the Heat Ray from the 1953 film), and the aliens defeat via a virus (however, Wells' aliens were killed by a biological virus). Independence Day has also been an influence on later fiction.
Release[edit | edit source]
While the film was still in post-production, 20th Century Fox began a massive marketing campaign to help promote the film, beginning with the airing of a dramatic commercial during Super Bowl XXX, for which Fox paid $1.3 million. The subsequent success of the film at the box office resulted in the trend of using Super Bowl air time to kick off the advertising campaign for potential blockbusters.
Fox's Licensing and Merchandising division also entered into co-promotional deals with Apple Inc. The co-marketing project was dubbed "The Power to Save the World" campaign, in which the company used footage of David using his PowerBook laptop in their print and television advertisements. Trendmasters entered a merchandising deal with the film's producers to create a line of tie-in toys. In exchange for product placement, Fox also entered into co-promotional deals with Molson Coors Brewing Company and Coca-Cola.
The movie was marketed with several taglines, including: "We've always believed we weren't alone. On July 4, we'll wish we were", "Earth. Take a good look. It could be your last", and "Don't make plans for August". The weekend before the film's release, the Fox Network aired a half-hour special on the movie, the first third of which was a spoof news report on the events that happen in the film. Roger Ebert attributed most of the film's early success to its teaser trailers and marketing campaigns, acknowledging them as "truly brilliant".
The film had its official premiere held at the now-defunct Mann Plaza Theater in Los Angeles on June 25, 1996. It was then screened privately at the White House for President Bill Clinton and his family before receiving a nationwide release in the United States on July 2, 1996, a day earlier than its previously scheduled opening.
Author Stephen Molstad wrote a tie-in novel to help promote the film shortly before its release. The novel goes into further detail on the characters, situations, and overall concept not explored in the film. The novel presents the finale of the film as originally scripted, with the character played by Randy Quaid stealing a missile and roping it to his crop duster biplane. Following the success of the film, a prequel novel entitled Independence Day: Silent Zone was written by Molstad in February 1998. The novel is set in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and details the early career of Dr. Brackish Okun. Molstad wrote a third novel, Independence Day: War in the Desert in July 1999. The novel is both a midquel and sequel to the film. Set in Saudi Arabia on July 3, it centers around Captain Cummins and Colonel Thompson, the two Royal Air Force officers seen receiving the Morse code message in the film.
On August 4, 1996, BBC Radio 1 broadcast the one-hour play Independence Day UK, written, produced, and directed by Dirk Maggs, a spin-off depicting the alien invasion from a British perspective. None of the original cast was present. Dean Devlin gave Maggs permission to produce an original version, on condition he did not reveal certain details of the movie's plot and the British were not depicted as saving the day. Independence Day UK was set up to be similar to the 1938 radio broadcast of The War Of The Worlds; the first 20 minutes were set as being live.
An Independence Day video game was released in February 1997 for the PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and PC, each version receiving mostly tepid reviews. The multi-view shooter game contains various missions to perform, with the ultimate goal of destroying the aliens' primary weapon. A wireless mobile version was released in 2005. A computer game entitled ID4 Online was released in 2000.
After a six-week, $30 million marketing campaign, Independence Day was released on VHS on November 22, 1996. It became available on DVD on June 27, 2000, and has been re-released on DVD under several different versions with varying supplemental material ever since, including one instance where it was packaged with a lenticular cover. Often accessible on these versions is a special edition of the film, which features eight minutes of additional footage not seen in the original theatrical release. Independence Day became available on Blu-ray discs in the United Kingdom on December 24, 2007, and in North America on March 11, 2008.
Censorship[edit | edit source]
In Lebanon, certain Jewish- and Israel-related content in the film was censored. One cut scene involved Judd Hirsch's character donning a kippah, and leading soldiers and White House officials in a Jewish prayer. Other removed footage showed Israeli and Arab troops working together in preparation for countering the alien invasion. The Lebanese Shi'a Islamist militant group Hezbollah called for Muslims to boycott the film, describing it as "propaganda for the so-called genius of the Jews and their concern for humanity." In response, Jewish actor Jeff Goldblum said: "I think Hezbollah has missed the point. The film is not about American Jews saving the world; it's about teamwork among people of different religions and nationalities to defeat a common enemy."
Reception[edit | edit source]
Box office[edit | edit source]
Independence Day was the highest-grossing film of 1996, beating Twister, Mission: Impossible and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. In the United States, Independence Day earned $104.3 million in its first full week, including $96.1 million during its five-day holiday opening, and $50.2 million during its opening weekend. All three figures broke records set by Jurassic Park three years earlier. That film's sequel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, claimed all three records when it was released the following year. Independence Day stayed in the number one spot for three weeks, and would gross $306,169,268 in the domestic market and $510,800,000 in foreign markets during its theatrical run. The combined total of $816,969,268 once trailed only the worldwide earnings of Jurassic Park as the highest of all-time. It has been surpassed by several 21st century films since, and currently holds the 24th highest worldwide gross for a movie all-time. Hoping to capitalize in the wake of the film's success, several studios released more large-scale disaster films, and the already rising interest in science fiction-related media was further increased by the film's popularity.
A month after the film's release, jewelry designers and marketing consultants reported an increased interest in dolphin-themed jewelry, since the character of Jasmine in the film wears dolphin earrings and is presented with a wedding ring featuring a gold dolphin.
Critical response[edit | edit source]
Independence Day is ranked as "fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes with a 63% positive rating, with 33 out of 54 critics giving it positive reviews. It has a metascore of 59 (based on 18 reviews) on Metacritic. Critics acknowledged the film had "cardboard" and "stereotypical" characters, and weak dialogue. The shot of the White House's destruction has been declared a milestone in visual effects and one of the most memorable scenes of the 1990s.
Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film his highest rating, declaring it the "apotheosis" of Star Wars. Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly gave it a B+ for living up to its massive hype, adding "charm is the foremost of this epic's contemporary characteristics. The script is witty, knowing, cool." Eight years later, Entertainment Weekly would rate the movie as one of the best disaster movies of all-time. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times felt that the movie did an "excellent job conveying the boggling immensity of [the] extraterrestrial vehicles [...] and panic in the streets" and the scenes of the alien attack were "disturbing, unsettling and completely convincing".
The nationalistic overtones of the film were widely criticized by foreign reviewers. Movie Review UK described the film as "A mish-mash of elements from a wide variety of alien invasion movies and gung-ho American jingoism." The speech in which Whitmore states that victory in the coming war would see the entire world henceforth describe July 4 as its independence day, was described as "the most jaw-droppingly pompous soliloquy ever delivered in a mainstream Hollywood movie" in a BBC review. In 2003, readers of the United Kingdom's most popular movie magazine Empire voted the scene that contained the speech as the "Cheesiest Movie Moment of All-Time". Conversely, Empire critic Kim Newman gave the film a five-star rating in the magazine's original review of the film.
Several prominent critics expressed disappointment with the quality of Independence Day's much-hyped special effects. Newsweek's David Ansen claimed the special effects were of no better caliber than those seen nineteen years earlier in Star Wars. Todd McCarthy of Variety felt the production's budget-conscious approach resulted in "cheesy" shots that lacked in quality relative to the effects present in films directed by James Cameron and Steven Spielberg. Roger Ebert cited a lack of imagination in the spaceship and creature designs as one of the reasons for his marginally negative review, and Gene Siskel expressed the same sentiments in their on-air review of the movie.
Despite this, the movie won the Academy Award for Visual Effects, beating Twister and Dragonheart. It was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sound but lost to The English Patient. Composer David Arnold won a Grammy Award for his work on the film. The movie also won an Amanda Award for Best Foreign Feature Film. Viewers voted for Independence Day to receive an MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss, a People's Choice Award for Favorite Dramatic Motion Picture, and a Kids' Choice Award for Favorite Movie. It received Saturn Awards for Saturn Award for Best Director, Best Science Fiction Film, and Best Special Effects. The film was awarded Best Film Editing and Best Visual Effects at the inaugural Golden Satellite Award ceremony. The film received a Golden Raspberry nomination in 1996 for Worst Written Film Grossing Over $100 million but lost to Twister.
Notes[edit | edit source]
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- Rebecca Ascher-Walsh (1996-07-12). Template:Citation/make link. Entertainment Weekly. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,293332,00.html. Retrieved 2008-07-08.
- Dean Devlin & Roland Emmerich. Template:Citation/make link. IMSDb. http://www.imsdb.com/scripts/Independence-Day.html. Retrieved 2009-01-26.
- Template:Citation/make link. classicscifi.org.uk. 25 April 1999. http://www.classicscifi.org.uk/brent/okie-con.htm. Retrieved 2009-01-30.
- Aberly and Engel 1996, p. 45.
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- The 1996 Summer Movie Preview: July Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on July 8, 2008.
- Aberly and Engel 1996, p. 93.
- Aberly and Engel 1996, p. 72.
- Aberly and Engel 1996, p. 54.
- Aberly and Engel 1996, p. 121.
- Aberly and Engel 1996, p. 78.
- Aberly and Engel 1996, p. 82.
- Aberly and Engel 1996, p. 86.
- Aberly and Engel 1996, p. 91.
- Aberly and Engel 1996, p. 62.
- Aberly and Engel 1996, p. 104.
- Aberly and Engel 1996, p. 96.
- Aberly and Engel 1996, p. 98.
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- Cite error: Invalid
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- "Awards for Independence Day." IMDb. Retrieved on September 29, 2007.
- "Academy Awards Database." awardsdatabase.oscars.org. Retrieved on July 8, 2008.
- Burlingame, Jon (2002-12-16). "David Arnold’s Scores Boost Bond Films". BMI. Retrieved on 2008-09-05.
- "1997 MTV Movie Awards." mtv.com. Retrieved on July 8, 2008.
- People's Choice Awards Past Winners. People's Choice. Retrieved on July 8, 2008.
- Past Saturn Awards. saturnawards.org. Retrieved on July 8, 2008.
References[edit | edit source]
- Aberly, Rachel and Volker Engel. The Making of Independence Day. New York: HarperPaperbacks, 1996. ISBN 0-06-105359-7.