Space Under Fire

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Space Under Fire

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Aug. 22, 1995, 3 A.M. Emmerich and Devlin pace outside the L.A. airport. By crunching and making up for lost days, they're still on schedule and on budget, and they've just won the right to use Independence Day as a title (Warner Bros. had owned the name), sparing them the anticipated embarrassment of being called Invasion of something. ''But there's still plenty of time for mistakes,'' says Devlin, whose black hair is flecked with considerably more gray than one month earlier. ''If the models aren't ready, if we don't like them...'' Emmerich sits in his director's chair, working on his fourth pack of cigarettes for the day. ''Roland's under a lot of stress,'' says his sister Ute. ''This is really big for him.''

The German documentary camera crew following the Sindelfingen-born Emmerich around isn't helping. Nor are the guards who, stepping up security in response to Unabomber threats, insist on escorting cast and crew members to the set.

Earplugs and aviation safety tips are handed out to everyone who will be within range of the scene in which a helicopter takes off to communicate with one more unseen spaceship. But suggestions like ''Remain at least 50 feet away'' do little to reduce panic when the helicopter suddenly swerves and dips, and the rotor blast sends hundreds of cardboard earplug containers flying through the air, as well as actors crashing onto their backsides. ''I hate helicopters. It's like Twilight Zone,'' Devlin yells, referring to the 1982 on-set crash that killed actor Vic Morrow and two children.

Pullman is still the set's cheerleader. ''You never feel like you're dwarfed by the technology,'' he says, preparing to run purposefully up a ramp to an airplane that isn't actually there.

After the last day of shooting on Nov. 3, ''I thought I'd have to go to the hospital,'' says Devlin. Emmerich spends 12 hours a day inside the editing room, hopping next door to supervise the model shoots and overseeing second-unit shots of exteriors. As of Jan. 4, with only 10 percent of the more than 500 special effects completed — something the ever-energetic Devlin says is both ''right on schedule'' and ''terrifying'' — the filmmakers decide they need an additional $750,000 to punch up the special effects.

''This is when the little mistakes show up,'' says Emmerich. A scene in which an alien breaks out of its confines in an isolated room is a disappointment; the alien doesn't look real and needs to be reshot. ''We've learned over the last couple of movies that it's not enough for the good guys to win,'' says Devlin. ''The bad guy has to suffer, and realize he's screwed, and realize he's going to die, and we don't have enough of that. We said [to Fox], 'If you wait until you screen it, it will cost about 20 times as much as it will cost now.'''

''It's always like this when you have a movie finished,'' says Emmerich. ''You realize you're a little bit short here, or need to explain something better. It's not very expensive at this point because you just have to shoot some additional elements, and it depends on how well you behaved during the rest of the show.'' Since Emmerich and Devlin are within budget, Fox hands them a check, good for more explosions and alien suffering.

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