This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A local celebrity landscape will appear on the silver screen this weekend with the opening of "Independence Day: Resurgence," but it's not exactly a debut.

The sequel to the 1996 hit has aliens descending once again upon major cities like Washington, D.C., and London to wreak havoc upon world landmarks; and, once again, humanity beats back the invaders from a military base supposedly located near Area 51.

Though the sequel wasn't able to secure a deal with the original film's star, director Roland Emmerich said he made a point of returning to the salt flats, which he said he fell in love with while looking for a unique location for filming the original "Independence Day."

But the return nearly two decades later wasn't what he expected.

"We were a little disappointed because it all looked very beige," he said. "A windstorm that happened directly before [the crew arrived to film] put a lot of dirt onto the salt, which normally looks very white."

Of course, this isn't Bonneville's first big cameo. The salt flats were also used by Disney for scenes from its "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, and the landscape is frequented by cameramen and photographers shooting commercials and catalogs, making the salt flats one of the most popular filming locations in Utah, said Mimi Davis-Taylor, a producer services executive with the Utah Film Commission.

Geologists from the University of Utah are currently studying the Bonneville Salt Flats to gain a better understanding of the landscape's evident decline. According to their initial results, the flats' salt crust appears to have been decreasing in area and, possibly, in thickness over the last three decades.

If the trend continues, Emmerich said, the industry might have to consider filming elsewhere.

"I always believe you have to conserve these things," he said, "and filming could start to damage the salt flats."

Twitter: @EmaPen

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