Men in Black is one of the biggest film franchises in the world, with the four films grossing billions over the years. Men in Black grossed more than $250,600,000 at the box office per Box Office Mojo, with the sequel grossing an additional $190,400,000. The threepeat came in just under that $179,000,000, and 2019’s Men in Black: International added another $80,000,000 to that impressive total.
The franchise also solidified Will Smith’s impressive career as a major movie star. The original film earned him several awards for his portrayal of Agent J, aka James Darrell Edwards, including a Blockbuster Entertainment Award and a Kid’s Choice Award via IMDb, before leading to the actor taking on a number of other big roles on the big one Screen like The Pursuit of Happiness, I Am Legend, and I, Robot. But it turns out it almost wasn’t. In fact, Men in Black director Barry Sonnenfeld saw potential in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star that not everyone had, and he had to pull a few strings to ensure he landed the now-iconic role.
The Men in Black director lied for Will Smith
Barry Sonnenfeld revealed the Men in Black producers had a different idea of who should play Tommy Lee Jones’ Agent J and Agent K; Chris O’Donnell and Clint Eastwood. Smith had starred in Independence Day and was actually Sonnenfeld’s wife’s choice for Agent J, so he hatched a plan to make sure Smith had a better chance. “I met with Chris and he had concerns about the script and had another film offer. So I said to him, ‘Yeah, we might never fix this script, and I don’t think I know how to direct this movie.’ So he passed the film on the next day,” he told Insider. “I find [O’Donnell’s] a good actor, but I’ve really thought about Will since my wife proposed,” he added.
But Smith still needed some convincing anyway. In a 2021 YouTube video, Smith explained he had reservations and initially turned down Men in Black because he’d just filmed Independence Day and didn’t want to appear in another film about aliens. Until someone very special convinced him otherwise. “[Producer] Steven Spielberg called me…” Will explained. “He said, ‘Why are you rejecting the film?’ I said, ‘You know, I just don’t want to be the alien guy.’ He said, “Um, do me a favor. Don’t use your brain for this. Use my brain.’ He was so serious I was like, ‘Okay. You did ‘Jaws’.”
And the rest is history!