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After 25 years, Bill Pullman is reprising one of movie history’s famous speeches. On Wednesday, Budweiser unveiled “Go Fourth, America,” a spot starring Pullman as President Thomas Whitmore from Independence Day, the 1996 classic also starring Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum. Instead of rallying troops to fight off alien invaders, Pullman’s president calls on the world to support vaccination efforts to defeat COVID-19.
For Pullman, resisting the speech was not an easy decision.
“So many times over the years, people say, ‘Do you want to do the speech? We’ve got a funny version of it. You could deliver it,'” says Pullman, who has generally avoided such overtures for fear of “violating” or “deluding” the original speech, written by Independence Day screenwriter Dean Devlin.
Pullman initially hesitated when approached by Budweiser for this version, and the actor had some notes, wanting to tweak the pitch.
“It [originally] was kind of oriented toward, ‘We got through COVID, let’s party,’ and I thought, ‘You know, that is still kind of not right,” recalls the actor, who pushed to make the message more globally oriented to acknowledge the fight is not done.
The Budweiser team liked Pullman’s thoughts and also pledged to donate to vaccine charity Direct Relief. Pullman is donating to Go Give One campaign, which supports access to vaccines for lower-income countries.
“It was all in the last minute. I just didn’t think they would ever do it,” says Pullman, who credits Budweiser for supporting vaccine access efforts. “They really embraced it.”
This is actually the second time Pullman has reprised the Independence Day speech. The first was for the Super Bowl in 2016, which came ahead of the sequel, Independence Day Resurgence. Studio 20th Century Fox asked Pullman to record a spot for the Carolina Panthers. He declined at first, but ultimately agreed after director Roland Emmerich and Devlin gave their blessing and the studio agreed to donate $100,000 to charities of Pullman’s choice.
Pullman shot the new Bud spot earlier this month in Nova Scotia using some of the crew from his USA series The Sinner. Among them was Hong Kong-born DP Radium Cheung, who told Pullman that when he emigrated to the U.S., he wanted to see Independence Day with friends but couldn’t afford the ticket, so he pretended to be sick.
Says Pullman: “It was just so rewarding to have this full-circle moment.”
A version of this story first appeared in the June 30 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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