"Men In Black" blasted its way into movie theaters in 1997, spawning a pair of sequels, cementing Will Smith
's blockbuster appeal, confirming Tommy Lee Jones
' comedy chops — and making viewers think twice about the possibility that aliens walk among us!
Hollywood veteran John Landis was offered the opportunity to direct, but he turned down the project, worried it would be a rehash of “The Blues Brothers” — but with aliens. It’s a decision he says he regrets.
Photo credit: Getty Images
Director Barry Sonnenfeld
initially balked at having to work with Tommy Lee Jones
. “I saw Tommy do an interview a few years ago. He was so mean I remember thinking, ‘Thank God I never have to work with this jerk,’” Sonnenfeld recalls. “But I loved every minute of it. He can be difficult if you don’t have clear opinions. We got along extraordinarily well.”
After reading the script, Will Smith wasn’t keen to sign on to the project, but his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith
, convinced him to take the role of Agent J — which was originally turned down by “Friends” star David Schwimmer
Smith admitted that prior to shooting the film, the last time he’d worn a suit and tie was when he graduated from eighth grade. The two lead actors wore Ray-Ban’s Predator II sunglasses, and sales tripled after the movie’s success.
The building that houses the MIB headquarters in the film is actually the ventilation tower of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, which connects to Manhattan.
The womanizing pug-like alien named Frank was portrayed by a dog named Mushu, who was treated like an A-list actor! “Cristie [the trainer] orders his meals from room service: steak, chicken. He drinks only bottled water when he’s on the road!” said Mushu’s owner, Cheryl Shawver. The popular pug got more screen time in the 2002 sequel, but passed away before production began for “Men in Black 3.”
Photo credit: Getty Images
, who played the bug-like alien Edgar, watched documentaries about insects to create his character’s stilted walk, but he didn’t stop here. “I was walking by a sporting goods store one day, and I saw braces that the basketball players wear,” he says. "I bought two of them. I slightly bent my leg and locked off the braces so I couldn’t move either way. I tried to walk, and it created this restrained, physical odd thing.”
The American Humane Society was on hand to ensure no animals were harmed during filming. Smith stomped on mustard packets to simulate the guts of squashed roaches, while handlers ensured the safety of the actual bugs. And the roach “actors” had to be counted at the end of the day to ensure none had gone missing.
Sonnenfeld, who directed all three MIB movies, claims he’d love to do more. “I wish there were a fourth film,” he admits. “I don’t think Will Smith nor I would be involved. But I love the franchise, because I developed it and created it.”