A quarter-century ago, Will Smith’s Capt. Steven Hiller was “a little anxious to get up there and whoop ET’s ass” and save Earth from alien invaders in Independence Day. In 2021, the actor paid it forward in a less-dramatic but equally cool way: He paid a reported $100,000 to save New Orleans’ Fourth of July fireworks display.
The city’s annual municipal display had been in jeopardy because of a lack of funds, and — after having to cancel amid the pandemic in 2020 — the outlook was bleak that it would return this year.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell called out Smith’s gesture in a tweet today, saying: “A fireworks display produced by ‘Go 4th on the River’ will take place in New Orleans along the Mississippi Riverfront at 9pm Sunday, July 4, 2021. The gift of city fireworks was made possible by actor and producer Will Smith, along with his company Westbrook.
A fireworks display produced by "Go 4th on the River" will take place in New Orleans along the Mississippi Riverfront at 9pm Sunday, July 4, 2021🎆🎉
The gift of city fireworks was made possible by actor and producer Will Smith, along with his company Westbrook👏⚜️ pic.twitter.com/oWI8b8YOap
— Mayor LaToya Cantrell (@mayorcantrell) July 2, 2021
Smith is in New Orleans to film Emancipation, a runaway-slave thriller directed by Antoine Fuqua that Apple pre-bought in a record deal worth about $120 million after a bidding battle at the virtual Cannes market last year. The pic originally was going to shoot in Georgia, but Smith and Fuqua moved it to NOLA in protest of Georgia’s passage of a law that many believe is aimed at voter suppression.
“We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access,” Smith and Fuqua said in a joint statement in April.