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02nd Jul 2017

Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones weren’t the original choice for Men In Black

Paul Moore

The beloved sci-fi comedy turns 20 today. Things could have been very different though.

During the ’90s, there was a mini-invasion of sci-fi comedies from various studios in Hollywood. Mars Attacks, Evolution, Coneheads and the superb Galaxy Quest are testament to this, but one film stands above the rest.

To quote Agent J, “You know what the difference is between you and me? I make this look good.”

Loosely based on the comic-book series, Men In Black was beloved by audiences around the world because it managed to balance laughs and action while introducing a new generation of film fans to some superb special effects and memorable creatures. Thank you very much Rick Baker.

Hell, it even had a great track from Will Smith on the soundtrack.

After it was released, MIB made $589.3 million worldwide against a $90 million budget. It even received received three Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction, Best Original Score, and Best Makeup – winning the latter award.

Aside from its technical genius, there’s a real heart to the film because the decision to cast the stereotypically grumpy and gruff Tommy Lee Jones alongside the effortlessly charming and charismatic Will Smith was inspired.

This being said, things could have been so much different.

In an interview with Huffington Post, director Barry Sonnenfeld revealed that these two men weren’t the actors that the studio wanted for the roles.

Regarding the role of Agent J, the studio and Steven Spielberg were pushing for Chris O’Donnell (Scent of a Woman, Batman and Robin)

″[Spielberg] told me I had to go to dinner with Chris O’Donnell and convince Chris to be in the movie,” Sonnenfeld said. “But I knew I wanted Will Smith, so I told Chris that I wasn’t a very good director and I didn’t think the script was very good and if he had any other options he shouldn’t do ‘Men in Black.’ He let it be known the next day that he was not interested.”

As for the part of Agent K, we could definitely see this actor delivering as good a performance as Tommy Lee Jones did.

“For the second headlining role, the executives quaterbacking the film wanted Clint Eastwood. Sonnenfeld thought Tommy Lee Jones, ‘who was very intimidating,’ would be better.  Tommy and I got along great, especially after the first movie and he saw how funny he could be by trusting me,” Sonnenfeld said.

Thank god that they opted for Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones though because their chemistry is clear for all to see.

Happy 20th birthday to Men In Black.

Let’s not talk about the sequels though! If only there was some device to erase memories from our brain?

If you need a reminder of its brilliance, this tribute should do it.