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Independence Day’s best character has a genuinely dark backstory

One of the most underrated characters from alien movie Independence Day actually has a very sad origin story, according to the Independence Day novels.


One of the best — albeit saddest — moments of Independence Day is when Russell Casse sacrifices himself in Area 51 in order to destroy the aliens’ ship, and pretty much all humanity in the process. It really puts a fine point on one of the best science fiction movies ever. But this Independence Day scene packs an extra emotional punch once you learn more about the character’s past.

When we meet Russell (Randy Quaid) in the alien movie, he’s an outlandish, alcoholic Vietnam War veteran whose insistence that he was abducted by aliens has fallen on deaf ears for a decade. Despite his oddities and strained relationship with his family, he’s determined to bring the aliens down, volunteering to join President Whitmore’s taskforce to launch a counterattack against the creatures.

In many ways, Independence Day was the best movie of 1996. Not only was it the highest-grossing movie for that year, but it’s also developed a fervent following in the years since its release. So, it’s unsurprising that fans are still uncovering more about these characters all these years later.

Because Independence Day is considered one of the best ’90s movies out there, it wasn’t long until a number of companion novels designed to expand the series’ lore were released — the first three were written by Steven Molstad, while the fourth and fifth were penned by Greg Keyes and Alex Irvine, respectively.

It’s in these novelizations that we learn more about Russell’s past — and to be honest, it’s all a little bit heartbreaking. The books confirm the long-speculated claim that he was actually abducted, explaining how the former fighter pilot became a mechanic and crop duster after Vietnam, and that it was in the hangar, working a plane late one night, that he was abducted.

His wife, Maria, was one of the only people that believed he was abducted. She remained supportive as he spent all his time and money trying to prove he was right.

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But while this was going on, Maria had a diagnosis of MS, which she kept a secret from her husband because she didn’t want to burden him. Because he had spent all their money on trying to prove he was abducted, Maria eventually succumbed to the illness and died in hospital.

Maria’s death, along with her son Miguel blaming him for what happened, caused Casse to turn to alcohol in a bid to numb his guilt, setting the scene for the tragic figure we eventually meet in 1996.

See, we told you it was sad! Perhaps we’ll get a new movie exploring Russell’s past one day? For more intergalactic adventures, here’s how to watch all the Star Wars movies in order, and all the Star Trek movies in order. Or, if short from entertainment is more your thing, check out our guide to the best sci-fi series.