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An Oral History of Vincent D’Onofrio’s Perfect Men in Black ‘Sugar Water’ Scene

Approximately once a week, I think about a single scene from 1997’s Men in Black. Early in the film, we’re introduced to Vincent D’Onofrio as Edgar, an upstate New York farmer living in an Upside-Down version of the American Gothic house, who berates his long-suffering wife for screwing up dinner. He immediately gets his comeuppance when an alien cockroach crashes into his yard, yanks him into a hole, sucks out his entrails, pulls on his skin like a suit, and wears him around New York City.

D’Onofrio’s performance throughout the film is a work of unsound comedic genius, but what immediately follows Edgar’s death scene is particularly hilarious and haunting. Not for a minute do you forget that D’Onofrio is playing a gigantic intergalactic bug stuffed into the skin of a farmer. He lurches stiffly out of a flaming crater, bursting out of his overalls, his face stretched at unnatural angles, skin bunching beneath his chin, tongue lolling in his mouth. He yanks at his hairline, stretching his mug into an unnatural mask of wrinkles and teeth. Inside the kitchen, he grunts furiously as he pounds an entire glass of sugar water, his wife (Siobhan Fallon Hogan) looking on in disbelief. D’Onofrio is absolutely repulsive in every sense. I love it!

On the eve of the franchise’s latest entry —Men in Black: International— I finally had a good enough excuse to reach out to both D’Onofrio and Men in Black’s director, Barry Sonnenfeld, to get the story behind the scene. I wanted to know: How did they cast D’Onofrio, who at the time had yet to appear in either The Cell or Law & Order: Criminal Intent? How did they make Edgar’s face, and his entire being, so perfectly disgusting? Who came up with his walk and that voice? And, most important, do they believe in aliens, as our friends at the Times do? The actor and director graciously agreed to speak, so here is an abridged oral history of “sugar water.”

How and why did you both get involved in Men in Black in the first place?
Barry Sonnenfeld: I’d been trying to get Get Shorty made for several years, then got the script for Men in Black and read it with my wife. It’s funny, I turned to her and said, “Tommy Lee Jones,” and she turned to me and said, “Will Smith.” It was all based on her really liking The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. But that’s not what the producers wanted. Steven Spielberg and [producers] Walter [F. Parkes] and Laurie [MacDonald] wanted, for some reason, Chris O’Donnell and Clint Eastwood. Both are great, but I left the project because the producers and I disagreed about the direction Men in Black should go. Eventually, I did Get Shorty and came back to Men in Black and convinced them to do some of the things I was looking to do.

Vincent D’Onofrio:A friend of mine, a producer, got in touch with me, and she said, “Barry Sonnenfeld is interested in you to read this script called Men in Black. The only thing is, he’s afraid you’re going to talk to him about acting. I told him I’d feel you out about it.” And I said, “I’m not gonna talk to him about acting at all.” I read the script, and I didn’t know what on earth to think of the part of Edgar. The script has nothing to do with my performance. An alien comes, he’s a giant cockroach at the end, and there’s no other description, no nothing. I found that super-intriguing. I thought, If Barry doesn’t want to talk to me about it, I probably have a lot of creative space.

What did you disagree with the producers about, Barry?
Sonnenfeld: It originally didn’t take place in New York — it was in Vegas, D.C., and Lawrence, Kansas. But it was my theory that, if there are aliens, they’d be most at home in New York because they’d fit in without a disguise. If you see a guy talking to himself in Times Square in 90-degree weather in four down jackets, he’s not crazy — it’s just that 90 degrees on his planet is really cold. The original scripts had more to do with bugs and pheromones and bugs smelling fear, stuff like that. It was too hard to execute, and it was anti-action. I believe in short movies and not a lot of visual effects. I wanted everything to be as real as it could be. We eventually came to an agreement.

I loved the story because the basic concept is we don’t have a clue. And that’s the way I feel about everything.

What was the casting process like for Edgar?
Sonnenfeld: D’Onofrio’s name came up early with the casting director, and I thought he was great. I had a meeting with him and asked him a lot of questions about Full Metal Jacket, which he’d done with Stanley Kubrick. It was so fun to hear how Kubrick worked: He made Vincent come to London and drive out to his estate once a week for months and just gain weight. He’d look at Vincent and say, “You need to weigh more. Come back in a week.” Finally, Vincent said, “Okay, now can I ask you some character questions?” And Kubrick said, “That’s your job, not mine.” I thought, Wow, if Vincent can work with Kubrick with no direction, I’ll be in a good place when I give him no direction.

D’Onofrio:The casting process was interesting. I drove to the Hamptons to meet Barry, and we just sat in the living room, spent the afternoon together, then I drove back. We never talked about the movie or anything. Then they offered me the part, I accepted, and I flew to L.A. to meet Rick Baker [who headed up the special effects and alien makeup]. Once I started the process with Rick, I really started to expand on the way I wanted to approach it, and I looked at the [concept] paintings Rick showed me — really, really early stuff people have never seen. I went to work and tried to figure out how to do the character.

What was the initial direction for the character?
Sonnenfeld:There’s very little discussion about character; it’s all about pace and attitude. He’s a bug inside a human body, but he’s way more intelligent than a human. It was all about how much he hated his wife to begin with and how much he hates his wife when he’s a bug, because she’s a human. There’s a great moment in that scene when he tries to come back into his house but he doesn’t know which side the door is hinged on, and he even gets frustrated by that. It was all about frustration — and a need for sugar.

I told him, “Always be frustrated.” He’s frustrated in the body, dealing with idiot humans. Vincent just needed to be frustrated inside his skin but never let the frustration get so big that the audience or other humans would say, “This guy is kinda weird.”

D’Onofrio:Nobody except for Rick saw the actual character or heard the character’s voice until the first day of shooting. Not even Barry. Before the first take, he met me halfway between the set and the trailer, and I showed him the walk and he fine-tuned it a little bit. He said, “Will you be able to run like that?” That was really smart of him because I was able to tailor the run and walk so that I could, in fact, move better.

We went to the set and did a take, and he cleared the set after that. He said, “So this is what you’re gonna do? That’s the voice?” And I was like, “Yeah! That’s what I got.” And he said something like, “It’s gonna be great, or it’s gonna be a complete and utter failure.” I trusted Barry, and he trusted me. It was a little scary, but we did another take, and then we did another take, and I got more and more comfortable.

Photo: Sony Pictures

The stiff walk, the way Edgar speaks, his facial expressions — where did those come from?
Sonnenfeld:That really is all Vincent — I’m so close to Kubrick as a director that I can say to Vincent, “Figure it out.” I’m kidding. But it was Vincent creating that character, in terms of his mannerisms. And then you had Rick Baker creating the fantastic prosthetics for him. His stiffness and the way he walks are because he’s a much bigger creature crammed into, as Tommy Lee says, “an Eggar suit.” That’s how Vincent came up with that great stiff walk. I’d just make sure we dialed in the amount of rage, the amount of frustration, making sure he remained flat and didn’t become a loud, big superhero-movie villain. I wanted it much subtler than that.

By the end of the Men in Black shoot, I realized Vincent was playing John Huston, specifically from Chinatown. When he’s talking to David Cross in the morgue and he says, “I left something here. A pet cat.” You can hear him doing Huston.

D’Onofrio:I was combining two voices: George C. Scott’s and John Huston’s. The first scene we shot was the one where I come in and kill the alien at lunch — where I say, “Pond scum” — and it really launched me into that voice. [Imitates Huston]: “Pond scum!” I’m sure you’ve seen Dr. Strangelove. George C. Scott has this particular raspy voice — he had it his whole career, even when he was younger. It got more and more pronounced and scratchy as he got older. He had this cadence he spoke with, which was kind of staccato. He’d put very weird pauses in and then fly out with a bit of dialogue. I was also really interested in Huston’s pronunciation of things. It was pedestrian in an elegant way. “Pooond scum.” He sounds out every letter. But I didn’t want it to be that slow, so I combined George C. Scott’s raspiness and cadence with John Huston’s enunciation.

Early on, I was looking at bug documentaries and it was such a fucking boring task. I hated it so much. I was sitting there with my roommate at the time, Steve, and at one point the camera zooms in on a beetle crossing a porch and I had to turn it off. Instead, I started to work backward, thinking about the end of the movie. If that thing was really supposed to be folded up inside me, it’d be a pretty difficult to get around. So I had my legs locked off, which was my own concoction. I went out and bought two basketball knee braces and locked off my knees and ankles so they couldn’t move up or down or to the side. The first week or so of shooting, that was under my costume. I had to force myself to move and make portions of my body react to each other involuntarily, so you knew something else was happening inside my body.

What other sort of direction did you give Vincent after seeing his initial performance, if any?
Sonnenfeld:My whole way of directing actors tends to be “Flatter, faster!” I never want to see the acting. When actors talk fast, it doesn’t give them time to act, which is a good thing. What I love about Vincent and Siobhan, who plays his wife, is — talk about flat acting — never have two actors been any flatter. Siobhan has this very monotone voice, and all Vincent is saying is, “Give me sugar in water.” Even when he says, “You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers,” he doesn’t blowhard it. When the alien voice responds to him, I’m pretty sure that’s Vincent’s voice. The joy of watching Vincent is how dry he is.

I didn’t want a big performance. I didn’t want a horror-movie performance. I feel comedy works best when the audience finds where the joke is, as opposed to the director or actors telling them where the joke is. I never want the actor to be funny in a comedy; I want the audience to find him funny. He was so funny because he wasn’t trying to be.

D’Onofrio:I think Barry was pretty nervous! [Laughs.] I absolutely adore Barry. Every time we see each other, we give each other a big hug. But I knew everybody was very nervous about what I was doing with Edgar. They had all this money behind this movie, and I could have fucked it up. But I didn’t want to. He wanted it to be flatter so it didn’t distract from the story, which was smart. But once we knew the performance was working, by the end we had so much fun with it. By the time we shot the sugar-water scene, Barry was very comfortable with my character.

How did you go about creating Edgar’s absolutely disgusting face?
Sonnenfeld: Rick did an amazing job of making various levels of deconstruction. Over the course of the movie, Vincent’s skin gets drier and crappier and looser, as the collagen from the human skin dries out. By the end, one of his teeth is barely dangling in his mouth. Rick did three or four different iterations, depending on where in the movie we were. Vincent totally embraced all the prosthetics and was a joy to work with. Really easy and funny.

D’Onofrio:I was so into what Rick was doing. He’s such an artist. His original designs are very close to what we ended up doing for Edgar. He’d actually take a part of my cheek and glue it to another area of my face so it pulled my entire face up — it was a trip. They’d put prosthetics on top of that. I remember Rick saying to me that because I’d lost all that weight after the Kubrick shoot, it was easier to [manipulate my face]. I was like, “Oh, that’s cool! Glad I could help!” We’d just listen to music, and I’d let Rick paint [my face]. We got into a groove together; we’d just create. It was uncomfortable, of course, but it was great to see it all come together.

What about the insane hair and overalls?
D’Onofrio: There were many different versions of my hair. The only time my real hair was used was in the first scene, before the alien takes Edgar over. From then on, it’s partially my hair, partially wigs attached to things. It evolved along with the makeup to convey the actual body dying and rotting while the bug is walking around in it. The costume was great — I saw it and was like, “Perfect! Looks like somebody who lives in upstate New York.” There’s a few versions of that costume, and they’re all owned by different people. I think Peter Jackson has one.

Who came up with the way Edgar’s wife says “Eggar”?
Sonnenfeld: Siobhan did. That was all her. Siobhan is great. I love that she calls him “Eggar,” not “Ed-gar.” She did that in her audition, and we were on the floor laughing. She brought her baby with her, too. She was just fantastic.

What a lot of people don’t notice is when Tommy Lee and Will come to her house the next day to interview her, she offers them lemonade. Tommy doesn’t take it, but if you watch Will, he takes a sip, then spits it back into his glass. The reason being there’s no fucking sugar in the lemonade because “Eggar” drank all the sugar. It’s subtle but hilarious. That was Will’s idea.

Was that actual sugar water?
Sonnenfeld:We did about seven or eight different takes from several angles of the scene, and in each one he downed an entire glass of sugar water. In a wide shot, you see him drink the entire glass full of sugar water. There’s no cutaway; he’s not faking it. By the end of that night, he had such a sugar rush because he’d drunk 11 or 12 glasses of water filled with sugar. He was a real trooper.

D’Onofrio:Barry thought that was amazing. I think I impressed him somehow. In Barry’s mind, that’s very impressive. The last time I saw Barry, he brought this up. At the screening of the last season of A Series of Unfortunate Events, we spent some time together that night, and he brought up the sugar water. I also think he just appreciates people who don’t complain.

Photo: Sony Pictures

How did you feel after drinking all that sugar water?
D’Onofrio:Like I had to pee.

At one point, the alien throws Edgar’s skin, separate from his body, up out of the hole by itself — how’d you accomplish that, effects-wise?
Sonnenfeld:We were about an hour and a half north of L.A., though it was supposed to be upstate New York. We found a place that looked like an upstate New York farm, a crappy farm with one cow. We dug that big hole. We had Vincent standing on the lip, and we shot a wide shot of him — I can’t remember if it was him or a stunt double, because we had Vincent’s faces made by Rick Baker — and had a crane lift him up in the air and pull him into the hole, which eventually became a CGI creature arm that comes out and grabs him by his head and pulls him into the hole.

Rick had made an entire Vincent D’Onofrio skin: his face, his body, his clothing. So we had someone in the hole throw that skin up onto the lip. We had to make it clear that it was Vincent’s face but it no longer had any bone structure. You don’t want to cut away. Cutting is the enemy of comedy. You want people to think it’s all happening in one shot; then you believe it. That’s why I didn’t cut to an insert of sugar being poured into the glass, either.

Vincent, was it you or a body double?
D’Onofrio:It was me for a few seconds, then a double, and I think at one point it was also a fake, a dummy.

How did you find the balance in creating a character — and a movie — that’s absolutely gross and terrifying but also funny?
D’Onofrio: That’s the task at hand! But I was inspired by the script. Reading it, you knew it wasn’t just a space movie. It wasn’t Spaceballs, it’s not blood and guts — it was something completely different. When I accepted the part, I knew Will Smith would be in it, Tommy Lee Jones would be in it; that caliber of actor coming in means you know it’s gonna be taken off the page and be even better than it is on the page. And that gave me the inspiration to make this dark, crazy thing that people had never seen before. You want people to be smiling while on the edge of their seat and thinking, What the hell is going on? Even though every performance you see is just a variation on a variation on a variation. But you try to execute it in a unique way. I know this is actor-speak, but it’s the only way I talk — I can’t help it!

Sonnenfeld:The concept of an action-adventure comedy is an oxymoron. Almost without fail, the comedy kills the reality of the action, or the action has to stop for some sort of funny line. And it doesn’t make sense. If the action is too scary or too gross or graphic, it kills the comedy. It’s a very hard line. I remember seeing Will Smith in Hancock. I loved the first two-thirds of it. I was so jealous I didn’t get to direct it. It was funny, charming. Then in the third act, the tone changes, and it becomes a darker thriller. I think the audience wants one tone. Another example of that is Bad Boys II — inside the three hours, or what felt like three hours, there are decapitations and car crashes that go on forever. But inside of those three hours, there’s an extraordinarily funny 90-minute comedy. If I’d gotten a chance to recut Michael Bay’s movie, it would have been a hilarious movie.

Tommy and Will have such good chemistry. Are there any fun stories you haven’t shared about them from the set?
Sonnenfeld:Will has really nasty farts. There’s a scene where he and Tommy Lee are driving through the Midtown Tunnel, and the car goes upside down and they’re driving on the ceiling. So we had a rig to put Will and Tommy into the car body, and then we had to seal that and turn the rig upside down on a green-screen stage in Manhattan. By the time you’d seal it, turn it upside down, and make sure it was safe, it was about 10 minutes worth of work. We finally got it upside down; we’re ready to shoot. We hear Will say, “Oh, Jesus! I’m so sorry, Tommy. Guys, get us out of here! Get us out!” And we panicked and started to turn it around, and you hear Tommy say, “No, Will, it’s okay.” And Will was like, “No it’s not! Get us out!”

He’d farted so bad in this enclosed space. Tommy is a manly man. If you talk to him about intellectual things, he says, “I’m just a rancher.” So he played it cool. But man, as soon as we opened it up, Tommy was outta there. But they loved each other. Tommy didn’t get the comedy at first; he was kind of angry that I only wanted Will to be funny. I kept explaining to him that you need a straight man, and both are equally funny. But once he saw the movie, he was so pleased by how funny he was.

What’s the question that, years later, you’re most often asked about this film?
D’Onofrio:“What the fuck were you thinking?” But usually they don’t ask me anything. They just go on about the movie. But when other artists see it, the first question is: “How did you guys come up with that character?”

Sonnenfeld:“Why did it take so long to do a second one and a third one?” I don’t know the answer. But I don’t think anyone saw this movie coming. It was so under the radar. We weren’t supposed to be the big summer movie. Unlike modern visual effects and superhero movies, it’s a very small movie. It really is a buddy movie. Even the spaceship crashing at the end, that’s all done with miniatures, not CGI. I think so many modern movies are like watching a video game. We also always observed depth of field. For example, let’s say there’s a scene with Hulk on the Golden Gate Bridge, and both he and San Francisco are in focus: That just can’t happen in nature; my brain doesn’t believe it. Lenses don’t do that. Audience brains know when it’s real and when it’s fake. Our movie is a lot of smoke and mirrors and very little action. It’s really about Will and Tommy.

Barry, you’ve said you didn’t want to work on the fourth film because “the producers and I don’t get along.” Can you elaborate?
Sonnenfeld:Truthfully, after the other three, neither Will nor Tommy nor I wanted to do any more. I wasn’t brought on, except for the first one, early enough to be involved in the development. I think the second one could’ve been better if I had been. There were a lot of disagreements, and considering that tonally and stylistically I think I had a lot to do with the success of the movies — don’t wink at the audience, don’t tell anyone it’s a comedy — I was disappointed that I wasn’t involved in the making of the others. Walter [F. Parkes] and Laurie [MacDonald] and I just didn’t get along. I like them very much as people, and if we’d never worked together I think we’d be friends. But we all have strong egos. There was no chance after the third movie that Will, Tommy, or I would ever do another of those again. I had a really good time making the first one, but the second and third were real struggles — I couldn’t get the scripts I wanted. But I wish them the best of luck.

Vincent, I love your Twitter. What inspires you to spend so much time on there talking to fans?
D’Onofrio:Movie sets, waiting around — there’s just nothing to do. You play a little ukulele, you try to be nice and socialize, and you still end up in your trailer or dressing room for most of the day. The only social media I use personally is Twitter because I like the connection, even when it’s god-awful and I quit for a few months. I like the version of honesty in it. I use it to express myself. I love to write stream of consciousness, and it’s really good for that.

Do you guys believe in aliens?
Sonnenfeld: Yeah, I thought I was making a documentary with Men in Black. I don’t know what they look like, but I believe in aliens and ghosts. You know who the aliens are. Why else would my dog, at 11 at night, go from sound asleep to sitting up and staring at the ceiling? I’ll say to my wife, “What’s that about?” I live in a rural part of Telluride, Colorado, surrounded by 67 acres. It makes no sense for me to live there, considering how afraid I am. But that dog, he’ll stop and stare, and I’ll go, “Oh, great. That’s it.” When my wife goes out of town and I’m alone with that dog? If anything happens, the building creaks, the wind picks up — why did the wind pick up?! What’s that about?

D’Onofrio:No, I don’t believe in aliens. I’d like to. And I hope to someday. That would be awesome. Right now, I don’t.

Do you think this movie is more relevant now that theNew York Times is covering UFOs?
D’Onofrio: Yeah, I do. I have to say, that news footage from those pilots is really fucking interesting. I think the whole thing is freaky. But it’s just the nowadays version of what has happened in the past. I don’t know enough about what they’re showing us or how often things get picked up like that. All I know is that when you see it, it looks impossible. And yet you know it’s real. I really want to believe in aliens. We’ll see.

Sonnenfeld:Here’s what scares the crap out of me. There’s only one reason they’re letting out all these stories: We’re about to learn some really, really big stuff. And they’re just easing us into it. Why else would they do it this way? It’s like the booster shot before the big shot. They’re just getting us ready. I think it’ll be really bad.


An Oral History of Vincent D’Onofrio in Men in BlackSours:

Barry Sonnenfeld is recent Hollywood history in human form. An hour on the phone with him is worth three decades of anecdotes about bad casting decisions, tiffs with bullheaded studio executives, celebrity egos and success that’s never guaranteed from one project to the next.

Now an Emmy-winning director who has worked squarely inside the system, Sonnenfeld, 64, began as a cinematographer. Wanting to be a still photographer like Robert Frank and Garry Winogrand, Sonnenfeld pivoted to filmmaking after meeting Joel Coen at a party in the early 1980s. He then shot the Coen brothers’ first three movies (including “Blood Simple” and “Raising Arizona”), as well as “Throw Momma from the Train,” “Big,” “When Harry Met Sally...” and “Misery.”

Sonnenfeld’s directorial debut, 1991′s “The Addams Family,” was a stylistically assured inauguration that gave him blockbuster bona fides, even though he’s seen his share of misfires along the way (“For Love or Money,” “Big Trouble,” “Nine Lives”).

His crown jewel, “Men in Black,” celebrates its 20th anniversary on July 2, and his Netflix series, “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” could rack up Emmy nominations this month. In honor of both, we chatted with Sonnenfeld about his career, yielding juicy tales from the Hollywood front lines. Our favorites: manipulating Chris O’Donnell into turning down “Men in Black” and fielding Kevin Kline’s “Wild Wild West” grievances.

Here are Sonnenfeld’s spiciest tidbits.

Andreas Rentz via Getty Images

Cher was considered for Morticia Addams.

After Sonnenfeld showed a knack for working with first-time filmmakers, power producer Scott Rudin recruited him to helm “The Addams Family.” Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam had turned Rudin down, but Sonnenfeld was game, even though he swears he didn’t aspire to become a director.

Sonnenfeld envisioned the movie less as a reboot of the 1960s sitcom and more as an offshoot of the “macabre” Charles Addams drawings that appeared in The New Yorker. “My original material was not the TV show at all, which I thought winked at itself and didn’t take itself seriously,” he said. Thus began Sonnenfeld’s penchant for oddball characters trying to thrive in environments where they are misunderstood.

Executives overseeing the project at the now-defunct Orion Pictures wanted Cher, who won her Oscar for “Moonstruck” a few years prior, to play family matriarch Morticia. Sonnenfeld and Rudin did not ― they wanted someone who wasn’t such a personality. And then along came Anjelica Huston, who also sported jet-black hair and won an Oscar in the mid-’80s, for “Prizzi’s Honor.”

“What was great about Raúl Juliá and Anjelica Huston and Christina Ricci is they’re not trying to be funny; they’re trying to be real to who those characters are, which allows the audience to find the comedy instead of us telling you where to find it,” Sonnenfeld said.

Clint Eastwood and Chris O’Donnell were in the running for “Men in Black.”

Facing creative disputes with Walter Parkes, the president of Steven Spielberg’s production company, Sonnenfeld said he dropped out of “Men in Black” to direct “Get Shorty” and later re-joined the project. After tweaking “Bill and Ted” writer Ed Solomon’s script ― a more dutiful adaptation of the “Men in Black” comic-book series ― Sonnenfeld had to persuade Spielberg against his one request: casting Chris O’Donnell to play Agent J. (At the time, O’Donnell was a top-tier hunk thanks to “Scent of a Woman,” “The Three Musketeers” and “Batman Forever.”)

″[Spielberg] told me I had to go to dinner with Chris and convince Chris to be in the movie,” Sonnenfeld recalled. “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.”

Back to the Will Smith push. Sonnenfeld, who lived year-round in East Hampton, where Spielberg spends his summers, arranged for a helicopter to take Smith from a wedding in Philadelphia to New York. “Will and Steven hit it off, so that’s how I got Will Smith to be in the show,” Sonnenfeld said.

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. “He didn’t like my direction while we were working because he thought I was trying to make him not be funny.”

Sonnenfeld compared Smith and Jones’ interplay to that of Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, or George Burns and Gracie Allen, or Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. “You want the funny guy and the flat guy,” he said. “Cary Grant is the most brilliant comedy actor there is because he’s never trying to be funny.”

Kevin Kline was the wrong choice for “Wild Wild West.”

Sonnenfeld ignored his Grant-Hepburn instinct on “Wild Wild West,” the 1999 steampunk spectacle that updated the 1960s series of the same name. Recasting Smith after their lucrative “Men in Black” collaboration, Sonnenfeld went to Kevin Kline for the role of Artemus Gordon. (George Clooney was cast first, but he dropped out.) The problem? Kline “didn’t want to be the straight man” opposite Smith’s zany showmanship.

“Will should have been the funny one, and Artemis Gordon should have been the serious one who’s sort of reacting,” Sonnenfeld said. “We had to reverse that. [...] I shouldn’t have cast Kevin in that role.”

That wasn’t his only problem, though. Sonnenfeld blanched at the “scale and scope and tone” of the movie, an expensive exercise in bombast. Sonnenfeld especially regrets the sequence in which Smith, playing Captain James T. West, pops up in drag to seduce Kenneth Branagh’s overblown Confederate villain. Sonnenfeld said that regretful scene, and Branagh’s colossal mechanical spider, stemmed from “fundamental” disagreements with producer John Peters. “Tonally, that show was a bit a mess,” he said.

“Wild Wild West” became an expensive gamble. Its $170 million budget was especially costly at the time. (For comparison’s sake, “Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace” and “The Matrix” ― two of 1999′s highest grossers ― cost a reported $115 million and $63 million, respectively.) To profit comfortably, a movie needs to earn about twice its budget at the box office. “Wild Wild West,” already a critical failure, became a commercial disappointment, too, stalling at $222 million worldwide.

“I had said if I ever was in the film business it would be directing movies like ‘Local Hero’ or ‘Get Shorty,’” Sonnenfeld said (he did direct the latter, in 1995). “That was much more my aesthetic, or the Coen brothers stuff. And I found myself directing these large blockbusters, and that can be problematic. If they work, you’re everyone’s hero, and if they don’t work, you’re an expensive director. I think that was not helpful for my career.”

Sonnenfeld made two fruitful “Men in Black” follow-ups, but “doors closed after ’Wild Wild West’” and he has yet to helm a big-screen blockbuster of the same caliber that isn’t a sequel.

E. Charbonneau via Getty Images

Robin Williams had a comedic brain like no other.

Sonnenfeld’s career persisted despite his “Wild Wild West” setback. He produced and directed the pilot of the celebrated but short-lived Fox sitcom “The Tick.” He then made the Tim Allen comedy “Big Trouble,” which bombed when Disney postponed its release one week after 9/11 due to its plot about a nuclear device being smuggled onto a plane. “Trouble” opened in April 2002, and Sonnenfeld recalls seeing television segments asking “Is America ready for a comedy about terrorism?” The movie made a paltry $8.5 million worldwide on a $40 million budget.

In 2006, Sonnenfeld found a modest hit in “RV,” a broad comedy about a dysfunctional family road-tripping to the Rockies. Working with Robin Williams was a mixed blessing. Sonnenfeld is a “control freak” who carefully designs his camera shots and sticks to the script, while Williams is “like a jazz musician of comedy.”

“You could give him two words or a stick or a leaf from the ground, and he could do 20 minutes of pure comedy riffing,” Sonnenfeld said. “He was such a good impersonator that you couldn’t just say, ‘Give me Donald Trump.’ You’d have to say, ‘Ethel Merman imitating Donald Trump.’ And then if you said, ‘Now do Donald Trump imitating Ethel Merman,’ it would be slightly different. His comedic aesthetic is different than mine. He’s all about jazz — he’s all about the freedom of trying things and riffing and never doing the same thing twice and ad-libbing. [...] The two of us had different ways of approaching the same thing. But he was a lovely guy and he was really funny, and his brain was almost unlike anyone’s I’ve ever met in terms of how fast he was in finding 20 minutes of comedy with nothing. He was amazing.”

“Pushing Daisies” was “too cute.”

Because of the 2007–08 Writers Guild of America strike that halted production on many television shows, we’ll never know if “Pushing Daisies” could have been a bigger hit. Mixing the aesthetics of Tim Burton and the rapid-fire charm of “Gilmore Girls,” the wacky detective dramedy about a pie-maker (Lee Pace) whose touch could bring people to life was a critical sensation. Despite multiple Emmy nominations, including a win for Sonnenfeld’s pilot, the gap imposed by the writers’ strike between Seasons 1 and 2 led to a ratings dip.

“We were delayed almost a year, so we were never on long enough and consistently enough to build a word-of-mouth,” Sonnenfeld said. “And then the second issue is, I blame our scripts, in that I think they were slightly too cute. I wish they’d had a little bit more plot. I remember saying to Bryan Fuller, who was the showrunner and the creator and a good friend of mine who I adore, ‘Hey, Bryan, shouldn’t we have better plots so we can lean forward in trying to figure out who did the murder, for instance?’ He was afraid if we had a little bit more of a procedural that we would lose the quirkiness.”

Sonnenfeld sees “Pushing Daisies” as something that would thrive in the Netflix era, gathering momentum by dropping 10-episode batches. “We would probably be in our 11th season now, but that’s just not he way it worked out,” he said.

“Daisies” has become something of a cult favorite thanks to DVD sales and streaming services, but Sonnenfeld said there’s been no talk of a reboot or revival.

Sonnenfeld had a distinct vision for “A Series of Unfortunate Events.”

After “The Addams Family” and “Pushing Daisies,” Sonnenfeld’s aesthetics were perfect for the Netflix series based on Daniel Handler’s “Lemony Snicket” series. Beyond the desaturated palette and busy landscape inspired by Terry Gilliam’s sci-fi satire “Brazil,” he had one aim: making the central kids, Violet and Klaus Baudelaire, more “heroic.”

“In the books, they’re stoics ― they’re slightly more victims,” Sonnenfeld said. “And in the show, they have to take a little bit more control of where they are. I did not want to fall into the trap of having the kids be too passive or the plots of the episodes not be strong enough to carry two hours per book. We worked hard, being faithful but adding other characters and other complications.”

Sonnenfeld, who dropped out of the 2004 “Series of Unfortunate Events” movie due to budget constraints, also wanted to give Lemony Snicket a more active presence. “The very first thing I ever said, at the meeting to get the job, was that I thought Lemony Snicket should be an on-camera narrator and be there on the set, not just off somewhere typing.”

Hit Backspace for a regular dose of pop culture nostalgia.

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Released in 1997, 'Men in Black' paired up mega-star Will Smith with legendary actor Tommy Lee Jones as two agents who work for a secret organization that keeps tabs on alien life forms. Featuring outstanding practical effects, the hilarious sci-fi comedy (which was also based on a comic book) was a massive hit, and went on to spawn two sequels. 17 years later, we revisit the cast of this beloved modern classic and see what they're up to now. 

Will Smith, Agent J

Then: Riding high on the success of 'Bad Boys' and 'Independence Day,' Will Smith was cast as Agent J, a cop who's recruited to join the secret Men in Black organization, which supervises alien activity on Earth. Chris O'Donnell turned down the role because he felt it was too familiar to his sidekick part in 'Batman and Robin,' and 'Friends' star David Schwimmer also declined.

Now: Smith is kind of a huge deal, appearing in films like 'Wild Wild West,' 'The Pursuit of Happyness,' 'I Am Legend,' and 'Hancock.' He reprised the role of Agent J for two more 'Men in Black' films, and recently starred in the movie 'After Earth' with his son, Jaden. He's also made cameo appearances in the recent films 'Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues' and 'Winter's Tale,' and can be seen next in 'Focus.'

Tommy Lee Jones, Agent K

Then: Tommy Lee Jones played Agent K, a veteran of the Men in Black who is paired up with Agent J as his new partner, helping him learn the ropes of alien wrangling. Clint Eastwood was originally offered the role and turned it down, and Jones only accepted after producer Steven Spielberg promised the script would improve after rewrites. Jones was a fan of the comics on which the film was based, and didn't feel the first script he read was in keeping with the tone of the books.

Now: Jones went on to appear in films like 'Double Jeopardy,' 'Rules of Engagement,' 'No Country for Old Men,' 'In the Valley of Elah,' and 'Captain America.' He reprised the role of Agent K for both 'Men in Black' sequels, though his role in the third film was smaller. He's recently appeared in 'Lincoln' and 'The Family,' and can be seen next in 'The Homesman.'

Linda Fiorentino, Laurel

Then: Linda Fiorentino, best known for steamy roles in 'The Last Seduction' and 'Jade,' played Laurel, a medical examiner who often has run-ins with the Men in Black, but always has her memory wiped by one of their handy gadgets.

Now: Fiorentino also starred in 'Dogma,' 'What Planet Are You From?,' 'Where the Money Is,' and 'Liberty Stands Still.' She took a break after 2002, and didn't appear in a film again until 2009's 'Once More With Feeling.' The actress has curiously not appeared in a film since then.

Vincent D'Onofrio, Edgar the Bug

Then: 'Full Metal Jacket' and 'JFK' star Vincent D'Onofrio played Edgar the Bug, a giant alien bug that comes to earth, kills a farmer, and wears his skin as a disguise in order to steal a tiny galaxy and destroy it. The role was also offered to John Turturro and Bruce Campbell.

Now: D'Onofrio's lengthy resume also includes appearances in 'The Cell,' 'The Salton Sea,' 'The Break-Up,' and 'Cadillac Records.' From 2001 to 2011, he played Detective Robert Goren on 'Law and Order: Criminal Intent,' and more recently he's appeared in the films 'Sinister,' 'Charlie Countryman,' and 'Escape Plan.' You can catch him next in 'The Judge.'

Rip Torn, Agent Zed

Then: 'Larry Sanders Show' star Rip Torn played Agent Zed, the head of the Men in Black organization.

Now: Torn went on to star in 'Wonderboys,' 'Welcome to Mooseport,' 'Dodgeball,' and 'Marie Antoinette.' He had a recurring role on '30 Rock' as Don Geiss, head of NBC, and it was rumored his character was killed off following Torn's arrest in 2010. Torn also voiced Hephaestus in the video game God of War III, and has recently appeared in the films 'Bridge of Names' and 'Johnny Kidd.'

Tony Shalhoub, Jack Jeebs

Then: Tony Shalhoub, known for his role on the sitcom 'Wings,' played Jack Jeebs, an alien who disguises himself as a pawn shop owner and secretly sells alien weapons. That same year, Shalhoub also appeared in the films 'Gattaca' and 'A Life Less Ordinary.'

Now: Shalhoub went on to appear in 'Galaxy Quest' and 'Thirteen Ghosts' before he landed the role of Detective Adrian Monk on the hit series 'Monk,' which ran from 2002 to 2009. He's also starred in the 'Spy Kids' films and lent his voice to the 'Cars' movies. Recently he's appeared in 'Movie 43' and 'Pain and Gain,' and had a role in the HBO movie 'Hemingway and Gellhorn.'

David Cross, Newton the Morgue Attendant

Then: Comedian and 'Mr. Show' star David Cross played the wacky morgue attendant named Newton, a role which director Barry Sonnenfeld considered playing himself, but found that Cross had better comedic timing.

Now: Cross' diverse acting resume includes roles in the films 'Ghost World,' 'Scary Movie 2,' 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,' 'I'm Not There,' and the 'Alvin and the Chipmunks' and 'Kung Fu Panda' films. He's recently starred in the indies 'It's a Disaster' and 'Kill Your Darlings,' and his directorial debut 'Hits' (in which he also stars), recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

Men In Black Ending

Men In Black – the sci-fi comedy that offered a generation of 13-year-olds their first meaningful style lesson (sunglasses are COOL) – marks its 20th anniversary this year.

To celebrate this depressing landmark, director Barry Sonnenfeld has made something of a shock announcement: Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones were not the preferred original choice for Agent J and Agent K.

In an interview with Huffington Post, Sonnonfeld said that the studio and Steven Spielberg wanted Chris O'Donnell (Scent of a Woman, Batman and Robin) to play perhaps Smith's most iconic role, while Clint Eastwood (!) was initially penciled in to play his mentor.

O'Donnell and Eastwood. Just take a moment to consider how unfunny that would have been.

"[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 other lead role, apparently executive backing the film wanted Eastwood but again, O'Donnell pushed to pick his own man – the 'very intimidating' Lee Jones – and the rest, as they say, is cool 90s movie history.

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In black cast men original

Men in Black (1997 film)

1997 film by Barry Sonnenfeld

This article is about the 1997 science fiction film. For the film franchise, see Men in Black (franchise).

"MIB: Men in Black" redirects here. For other uses, see MIB (disambiguation) and Men in Black (disambiguation).

Men in Black (stylized as MIB: Men in Black) is a 1997 American science fictionactioncomedy film directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, produced by Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald and written by Ed Solomon. Loosely based on the Men in Blackcomic book series created by Lowell Cunningham and Sandy Carruthers, the film stars Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith as two agents of a secret organization called the Men in Black, who supervise extraterrestrial lifeforms who live on Earth and hide their existence from ordinary humans. The film featured the creature effects and makeup of Rick Baker and visual effects by Industrial Light & Magic.

The film was released in the United States on July 2, 1997, by Columbia Pictures, and grossed over $589.3 million worldwide against a $90 million budget, becoming the year's third highest-grossing film. It received positive reviews, with critics praising its script, set pieces, and the performances of Jones and Smith. The film received three Academy Award nominations—Best Art Direction, Best Original Score, and Best Makeup—winning the latter award.

The film spawned two sequels, Men in Black II (2002) and Men in Black 3 (2012); a spin-off film, Men in Black: International (2019); and a 1997–2001 animated series.


After a government agency makes first contact with aliens in 1961, alien refugees live in secret on Earth by disguising themselves as humans. Men in Black (MIB) is a secret agency that polices these aliens, protects Earth from extraterrestrial threats, and uses memory-erasing neuralyzers to keep alien activity a secret. MIB agents have their former identities erased while retired agents are neuralyzed. After an operation to arrest an alien criminal near the Mexican border by Agents K and D, the latter decides that he is too old for his job, prompting the former to neuralyze him so he can retire.

Meanwhile, NYPD undercover officer James Darrell Edwards III pursues a fast and agile alien criminal in human disguise into the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Impressed, K interviews James about his encounter, then neuralyzes him and leaves him a business card with an address. Edwards goes to the address and undergoes a series of tests, for which he finds unorthodox solutions, including a rational hesitation in a targeting test. While the other candidates, who are military-grade, are neuralyzed, K offers Edwards a position with the MIB. Edwards accepts and his identity and civilian life are erased as he becomes Agent J.

In upstate New York, an alien illegally crash-lands on Earth, kills a farmer named Edgar, and uses his skin as a disguise. Tasked with finding a device called "The Galaxy", the Edgar alien tracks down two aliens (disguised as humans) who are supposed to have it in their possession. He kills them and takes a container from them but finds only diamonds inside. After learning about the incident, K investigates the crash landing and concludes that Edgar's skin was taken by a "bug", a species of aggressive cockroach-like aliens. He and J head to a morgue to examine the bodies the bug killed. Inside one body (which turns out to be a piloted robot) they discover a dying Arquillian alien, who says that "to prevent war, the galaxy is on Orion's belt". The alien, who used the name Rosenberg, was a member of the Arquillian royal family; K fears his death may spark a war.

MIB informant Frank the Pug explains that the missing galaxy is a massive energy source in the form of an actual galaxy housed in a small jewel. J deduces that the galaxy is hanging on the collar of Rosenberg's cat, Orion, which refuses to leave the body at the morgue. J and K arrive just as the bug takes the galaxy and kidnaps the coroner, Laurel Weaver. Meanwhile, an Arquillian battleship delivers an ultimatum to the MIB: return the galaxy within a "galactic standard week", in an hour of Earth time, or they will destroy Earth.

The bug arrives at the observation towers of the 1964 New York World's FairNew York State Pavilion at Flushing Meadows, which disguise two real flying saucers. Once there, Laurel escapes the bug's clutches. It activates one of the saucers and tries to leave Earth, but K and J shoot it down and the ship crashes into the Unisphere. The bug sheds Edgar's skin and swallows J and K's guns. K provokes it until he too is swallowed. The bug tries to escape on the other ship, but J stalls it by crushing cockroaches, which makes it angry. K blows the bug apart from the inside, having found his gun inside its stomach. J and K recover the galaxy, only for the still living upper half of the bug to pounce on them from behind, but Laurel kills it with J's gun.

At the MIB headquarters, K tells J that he has not been training him as a partner, but a replacement. K bids J farewell before J neuralyzes him at his request; K returns to his civilian life, and Laurel becomes J's new partner, L. During the final shot it is revealed that the entire Milky Way is housed inside of a marble-like jewel.


  • Tommy Lee Jones as Kevin Brown / Agent K: J's grizzled and humorless mentor. Clint Eastwood turned down the part, while Jones only accepted the role after Steven Spielberg promised the script would improve, based on his respect for Spielberg's track record. He had been disappointed with the first draft, which he reportedly said "stank", feeling it did not capture the tone of the comic.[2]
  • Will Smith as James Darrell Edwards III / Agent J: A former NYPD detective, newly recruited to the MIB. Smith was cast because Barry Sonnenfeld's wife was a fan of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Sonnenfeld also liked his performance in Six Degrees of Separation.[2]Chris O'Donnell turned down the role because he found the role of a new recruit too similar to Dick Grayson, whom he played in Batman Forever and Batman & Robin.[3]David Schwimmer also turned down the part.[2] Like Jones, Smith said he accepted the role after meeting with Spielberg and cited his success as a producer.
  • Linda Fiorentino as Dr. Laurel Weaver / Agent L: A deputy medical examiner, and later J's partner.
  • Vincent D'Onofrio as the Bug: A giant alien insect that eats a farmer named Edgar and uses his skin and clothes as a disguise. He comes to earth to kidnap the Galaxy and use it to destroy the Arquillians. John Turturro and Bruce Campbell were both offered the role, but they turned it down, due to scheduling conflicts.[2]
    • D'Onofrio also portrays Edgar.
  • Rip Torn as Chief Zed: The head of the MIB.
  • Tony Shalhoub as Jack Jeebs: An alien arms dealer who runs a pawn shop as a front.
  • Siobhan Fallon Hogan as Beatrice: Edgar's abused wife.
  • Mike Nussbaum as Gentle Rosenberg: An Arquillian jeweler who is the guardian of "the Galaxy".
  • Jon Gries as Van Driver
  • Sergio Calderón as Jose
  • John Alexander as Mikey: An alien who poses as a Mexican being snuck across the border.
  • Patrick Breen as Mr. Redgick
  • Becky Ann Baker as Mrs. Redgick
  • Carel Struycken as Arquillian
  • Fredric Lehne as Agent Janus
  • Kent Faulcon as Jake Jensen
  • Richard Hamilton as Agent D: K's former partner who retires after deciding he is too old for the job.
  • David Cross as Newton, Morgue Attendant
  • Sean Whalen as Passport Officer
  • Ray Park as the Cephalopoid (alien that can climb walls, run super fast, and has second eyelids that are possibly gills to breath in Earth atmosphere.)


  • Tim Blaney as Frank the Pug: A smart-talking pug-like alien.
  • Mark Setrakian as Rosenberg Alien
  • Brad Abrell, Thom Fountain, Carl J. Johnson and Drew Massey as the Worm Guys: A quartet of worm-like aliens that work for Men in Black.



The film is loosely based on Lowell Cunningham and Sandy Carruthers's comic book The Men in Black. Producers Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald optioned the rights to The Men in Black in 1992, and hired Ed Solomon to write a very faithful script. Parkes and MacDonald wanted Barry Sonnenfeld as director because he had helmed the darkly humorous The Addams Family and its sequel Addams Family Values. However, Sonnenfeld was attached to Get Shorty (1995), so they instead approached Les Mayfield to direct, as they had heard about the positive reception to his remake of Miracle on 34th Street; they actually saw the film later and decided he was inappropriate.[citation needed] As a result, Men in Black was delayed so as to allow Sonnenfeld to make it his next project after Get Shorty.[2]

Much of the initial script drafts were set underground, with locations ranging from Kansas to Washington, D.C. and Nevada. Sonnenfeld decided to change the location to New York City, because the director felt New Yorkers would be tolerant of aliens who behaved oddly while disguised. He also felt much of the city's structures resembled flying saucers and rocket ships.[2] One of the locations Sonnenfeld thought perfect for the movie was a giant ventilation structure for the Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel, which became the outside of the MIB headquarters.[4]


Principal photography began in March 1996. Many last-minute changes ensued during production. First, the scene where James Edwards chasing a disguised alien was to be filmed at Lincoln Center, but the New York Philharmonic decided to charge the filmmakers for using their buildings, prompting Sonnenfeld to film the scene at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum instead. Then, five months into the shoot, Sonnenfeld decided that the original ending, with a humorous existential debate between Agent J and the Bug, was unexciting and lacking the action that the rest of the film had.[4] Five potential replacements were discussed. One of these had Laurel Weaver being neuralyzed and K remaining an agent.[2] Eventually it boiled down to the Bug eating K and fighting J, replacing the animatronic Bug Rick Baker's crew had developed with a computer-generated Bug with an appearance closer to a cockroach. The whole action sequence cost an extra $4.5 million to the filmmakers.[4]

Further changes were made during post-production to simplify the plotline involving the possession of the tiny galaxy. The Arquillians would hand over the galaxy to the Baltians, ending a long war. The Bugs need to feed on the casualties and steal the galaxy in order to continue the war. Through changing of subtitles, the images on M.I.B.'s main computer and Frank the Pug's dialogue, the Baltians were eliminated from the plot. Earth goes from being potentially destroyed in the crossfire between the two races into being possibly destroyed by the Arquillians themselves to prevent the Bugs from getting the galaxy.[2] These changes to the plot were carried out when only two weeks remained in the film's post-production, but the film's novelization still contains the Baltians.[5]

Design and visual effects[edit]

Production designer Bo Welch designed the MIB headquarters with a 1960s tone in mind, because that was when their organization is formed. He cited influences from Finnish architect Eero Saarinen, who designed a terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport. As the arrival point of aliens on Earth, Welch felt the headquarters had to resemble an airport.[2]

Rick Baker was approached to provide the prostethic and animatronic aliens, many of whom would have more otherworldly designs instead of looking humanoid. For example, the reveal of Gentle Rosenberg's Arquillian nature went from a man with a light under his neck's skin to a small alien hidden inside a human head. Baker would describe Men in Black as the most complex production in his career, "requiring more sketches than all my previous movies together".[4] Baker had to have approval from both Sonnenfeld and Spielberg: "It was like, 'Steven likes the head on this one and Barry really likes the body on this one, so why don't you do a mix and match?' And I'd say, because it wouldn't make any sense." Sonnenfeld also changed a lot of the film's aesthetic during pre-production: "I started out saying aliens shouldn't be what humans perceive them to be. Why do they need eyes? So Rick did these great designs, and I'd say, 'That's great — but how do we know where he's looking?' I ended up where everyone else did, only I took three months."[6] The maquettes built by Baker's team would later be digitized by Industrial Light & Magic, who was responsible for the visual effects and computer-generated imagery, for more mobile digital versions of the aliens.[4]


Main article: Men in Black: The Album

Two different soundtracks for the film were released in the U.S.: a score soundtrack featuring music composed by Danny Elfman and an album of songs used in and inspired by the film, featuring Will Smith's original song "Men in Black" based on the film's plot. In the UK, only the album was released.[citation needed]

Elfman's music was called "rousing" by the Los Angeles Times.[7]Variety called the film a technical marvel, giving special credit to "Elfman's always lively score."[8] Elfman was nominated for Best Original Musical or Comedy Score at the 70th Academy Awards for his score.[9]

Elvis Presley's cover of "Promised Land" is featured in the scene where the MIB's car runs on the ceiling of Queens–Midtown Tunnel.[10]



In advance of the film's theatrical release, its marketing campaign included more than 30 licensees.[11]Galoob was the first to license, in which they released various action figures of the film's characters and aliens.[12]Ray-Ban also partnered the film with a $5–10 million television campaign.[13] Other promotional items included Hamilton Watches[14] and Procter & Gamble's Head & Shoulders with the tagline "Keeping the Men in Black in black".[15]

An official comic adaptation was released by Marvel Comics. The film also received a third-person shooterMen in Black game developed by Gigawatt Studios and published by Gremlin Interactive, which was released to lackluster reviews in October 1997 for the PC and the following year for the PlayStation. Also, a very rare promotional PlayStation video game system was released in 1997 with the Men in Black logo on the CD lid. Three months after the film's release, an animated series based on Men in Black, produced by Columbia TriStar Television alongside Adelaide Productions and Amblin Television, began airing on The WB's Kids' WB programming block, and also inspired several games. A Men in Black role-playing game was also released in 1997 by West End Games.

Home media[edit]

Men in Black was first released on videocassette in standard and widescreen formats on November 25, 1997. Its home video release was attached to a rebate offer on a pair of Ray-Ban Predator-model sunglasses.[16] The film was re-released in a collector's series on videocassette and DVD on September 5, 2000, with the DVD containing several bonus features including an interactive editing workshop for three different scenes from the film, extended storyboards, conceptual art, and a visual commentary track with Tommy Lee Jones and director Barry Sonnenfeld; an alternate two-disc version was also released that had a fullscreen version on the first disc. The Deluxe Edition was also released on DVD in 2002.[17] A Blu-ray edition was released on June 17, 2008.[18] The entire Men in Black trilogy was released on 4KUltra HD Blu-ray on December 5, 2017, in conjunction with the film's 20th anniversary.[19]


Box office[edit]

Men in Black grossed $250.6 million in the United States and Canada, and $338.7 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $589.3 million.[1] The film grossed a record $10.7 million in its opening weekend in Germany, beating the record held by Independence Day.[20]

Despite its grosses, writer Ed Solomon has said that Sony claims the film has never turned a profit, which is attributed to Hollywood accounting.[21]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, Men in Black holds an approval rating of 92% based on 89 reviews, and an average score of 7.50/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Thanks to a smart script, spectacular set pieces, and charismatic performances from its leads, Men in Black is an entirely satisfying summer blockbuster hit."[22] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 71 out of 100, based on 22 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[23] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[24]

Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four, praising the film as "a smart, funny and hip adventure film in a summer of car wrecks and explosions."[25]Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars out of four, giving particular praise to the film's self-reflective humor and Rick Baker's alien creature designs.[26]Janet Maslin, reviewing for The New York Times, wrote the film "is actually a shade more deadpan and peculiar than such across-the-board marketing makes it sound. It's also extraordinarily ambitious, with all-star design and special-effects talent and a genuinely artful visual style. As with his Addams Family films and Get Shorty, which were more overtly funny than the sneakily subtle Men in Black, Mr. Sonnenfeld takes offbeat genre material and makes it boldly mainstream."[27]

Writing for Variety, Todd McCarthy acknowledged the film was "witty and sometimes surreal sci-fi comedy" in which he praised the visual effects, Baker's creature designs and Elfman's musical score. However, he felt the film "doesn't manage to sustain this level of inventiveness, delight and surprise throughout the remaining two-thirds of the picture."[28]Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly graded the film a C+, writing "Men in Black celebrates the triumph of attitude over everything else – plausibility, passion, any sense that what we're watching actually matters. The aliens, for all their slimy visual zest, aren't particularly scary or funny (they aren't allowed to become characters), and so the joke of watching Smith and Jones crack wise in their faces quickly wears thin."[29] John Hartl of The Seattle Times, claimed the film "is moderately amusing, well-constructed and mercifully short, but it fails to deliver on the zaniness of its first half." While he was complimentary of the film's first half, he concluded "somewhere around the midpoint they run out of energy and invention. Even the aliens, once they stop their shape-shifting ways and settle down to appear as themselves, begin to look familiar."[30]


Men in Black won the Academy Award for Best Makeup, and was also nominated for Best Original Score and Best Art Direction. It was also nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy.[31]

On Empire magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Movies of All Time, "Men in Black" placed 409th.[33] Following the film's release, Ray-Ban stated sales of their Predator 2 sunglasses (worn by the organization to deflect neuralyzers) tripled to $5 million.[34]

American Film Institute Lists

Sequels and spin-off[edit]

Main articles: Men in Black II, Men in Black 3, and Men in Black: International

See also[edit]


  1. ^ abc"Men in Black (1997)". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on May 13, 2021. Retrieved December 30, 2020.
  2. ^ abcdefghiDavid Hughes (2003). Comic Book Movies. London: Virgin Books. pp. 123–129. ISBN .
  3. ^"Summer Movie Preview". Entertainment Weekly. May 16, 1997. Archived from the original on October 14, 2007. Retrieved September 17, 2007.
  4. ^ abcde"Metamorphosis of 'Men in Black'", Men in Black Blu-ray
  5. ^Donnelly, Billy (May 25, 2012). "Things Get A Bit Heated Between The Infamous Billy The Kidd And Director Barry Sonnenfeld When They Talk MEN IN BLACK 3". Ain't It Cool News. Archived from the original on May 27, 2012. Retrieved May 25, 2012.
  6. ^Steve Daly (July 18, 1997). "Men in Black: How'd they do that?". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on October 14, 2007. Retrieved September 17, 2007.
  7. ^Turan, Kenneth (July 1, 1997). "The Outer Limits of Fun". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on September 26, 2019. Retrieved September 24, 2019.
  8. ^McCarthy, Todd (June 29, 1997). "Reviews: Men in Black". Variety. Archived from the original on October 2, 2019. Retrieved September 25, 2019.
  9. ^"THE 70TH ACADEMY AWARDS 1998". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. n.d. Archived from the original on September 26, 2019. Retrieved September 25, 2019.
  10. ^Barry Sonnenfeld, Tommy Lee Jones. Visual Commentary. Men in Black.
  11. ^Kirchdoerffer, Ed (June 1, 1997). "Special Report: Licensing International '97: Men in Black dressed FOR success". Kidscreen. Archived from the original on June 4, 2019. Retrieved June 3, 2019.
  12. ^Taubeneck, Anna (May 11, 1997). "The Toys Of Summer". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on October 25, 2015. Retrieved June 3, 2019.
  13. ^Jensen, Jim (April 14, 1997). "High Hopes For 'Men in Black,' And Ray-Bans: Tie-In Marketers Key to Summer Films". AdAge. Archived from the original on June 4, 2019. Retrieved June 3, 2019.
  14. ^"What watch does Will Smith wear? - Almost On Time". March 15, 2021. Retrieved April 26, 2021.
  15. ^Dignam, Conor (August 14, 1997). "ANALYSIS: Why marketers missed out on Men in Black ties". Campaign. Archived from the original on June 4, 2019. Retrieved June 3, 2019.
  16. ^Arnold, Thomas (October 9, 1997). "The Art of The Tie-In". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on June 4, 2019. Retrieved June 3, 2019.
  17. ^"Columbia TriStar Home Video: Men In Black Special Editions" (Press release). Internet Wire. July 26, 2000. Archived from the original on June 4, 2019. Retrieved June 3, 2019.
  18. ^"Men in Black DVD Release Date". DVDs Release Dates. Archived from the original on May 20, 2018. Retrieved May 19, 2018.
  19. ^"Men in Black Trilogy 20th Anniversary 4K Blu-ray Collection". September 26, 2017. Archived from the original on October 2, 2019. Retrieved June 3, 2019.
  20. ^"'Pie' flies high in Germany". Variety. October 15, 2001. p. 9.
  21. ^Butler, Tom (December 31, 2020). "1997 hit 'Men in Black' is still yet to make a profit says screenwriter". Yahoo!. Archived from the original on August 4, 2020. Retrieved May 21, 2020.
  22. ^"Men in Black". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on January 17, 2010. Retrieved May 22, 2020.
  23. ^"Men in Black Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on April 28, 2017. Retrieved March 10, 2017.
  24. ^"Men in Black". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on August 9, 2019. Retrieved June 12, 2019.
  25. ^Siskel, Gene (July 4, 1997). "'Men In' Black' A Clever Romp". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on June 4, 2019. Retrieved June 3, 2019.
  26. ^Ebert, Roger (July 1, 1997). "Men in Black Movie Review & Film Summary (1997)". Ebert Digital LLC. Archived from the original on June 4, 2019. Retrieved June 3, 2019.
  27. ^Maslin, Janet (July 1, 1997). "Oh, Aliens: Business As Usual". The New York Times. Archived from the original on June 4, 2019. Retrieved June 3, 2019.
  28. ^McCarthy, Todd (June 29, 1997). "Men in Black". Variety. Archived from the original on June 8, 2019. Retrieved June 3, 2019.
  29. ^Gleiberman, Owen (July 11, 1997). "Men in Black". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on June 4, 2019. Retrieved June 3, 2019.
  30. ^Hartl, John (July 1, 1997). "'Men in Black': Sci-Fi Zaniness That Finally Crash-Lands". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on April 1, 2019. Retrieved June 3, 2019.
  31. ^"Men in Black (1997) – Awards and Nominations". Yahoo!. Archived from the original on January 18, 2008. Retrieved September 17, 2007.
  32. ^"Past Saturn Award Recipients". Archived from the original on August 3, 2020. Retrieved January 16, 2020.
  33. ^"Empire's 500 Greatest Movies of All Time". Empire Magazine. Archived from the original on July 2, 2019. Retrieved August 31, 2019.
  34. ^Jane Tallim (2002). "And Now a Word From Our Sponsor... Spend Another Day". Media Awareness Network. Archived from the original on August 19, 2008. Retrieved October 14, 2008.

External links[edit]

Men In Black (1997-2002) Cast: Then and Now ►2018

Men in Black (film series)

This article is about the film series. For the franchise as a whole, see Men in Black (franchise).

Film series

Men in Black (also known as MIB) is a series of American science fictionaction comedy films directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, and based on the Malibu / Marvel comic book series The Men in Black by Lowell Cunningham, which was itself based on the conspiracy theory. The first film, Men in Black, was released in 1997, the second film, Men in Black II, in 2002, the third film, Men in Black 3, in 2012, and the fourth film, Men in Black: International, in 2019. Amblin Entertainment and MacDonald/Parkes Productions produced all four films and distributed through Columbia Pictures.


Men in Black (1997)[edit]

Main article: Men in Black (1997 film)

Men in Black is the first film in the series. Men in Black follows the exploits of Agent J and Agent K, members of a top-secret organization established to monitor and police alien activity on Earth. After Agent K hand-picks James D. Edwards from the NYPD and recruits him for MiB, the two Men in Black find themselves in the middle of the deadly plot by an intergalactic terrorist who has arrived on Earth to steal a power source of unimaginable power. In order to prevent worlds from colliding, the MiB must track down the terrorist and prevent the destruction of Earth. It's just another typical day for the Men in Black. The film was released on July 2, 1997, to positive reviews and grossed over $589 million worldwide

Men in Black II (2002)[edit]

Main article: Men in Black II

Men in Black II is the second film in the series, set five years after the first. For Agent J, it is another day at the office, monitoring, licensing and policing all alien activity on Earth. Agent K retired from MiB after the events of the first film and has returned to his former life. One day, J receives a report of an unauthorized landing of an alien spacecraft near New York. It is an old enemy of MiB, a Kylothian named Serleena, who is searching for a powerful artifact called The Light of Zartha. J investigates and realizes that it requires knowledge of events that only K possesses. After other recruited MiB agents fail to meet J's standards as a partner, J decides to bring back K and restore K's memory as an MiB agent to try and stop Serleena. The film was released on July 3, 2002, to mixed reviews and grossed over $441 million worldwide.

Men in Black 3 (2012)[edit]

Main article: Men in Black 3

Men in Black 3 is the third film in the series and was released on May 25, 2012, to positive reviews and grossed over $624 million worldwide. When a notorious alien criminal Boris the Animal escapes LunarMax Security Prison to seek revenge on K for capturing him in 1969, he is able to use secret time-travel technology to go back in time and undo the events of his defeat, resulting in a new timeline where K is killed during his fight with Boris and Earth is now vulnerable to an invasion from his species. With J the only one who remembers the original history, he must go back in time to join forces with the younger K and ensure that events play out as they should.

Men in Black: International (2019)[edit]

Main article: Men in Black: International

In September 2017, it was reported that the studio was fast-tracking a spin-off film with younger actors, and a plot handling the invasion of aliens on a global scale. Screenwriting duo Art Marcum and Matt Holloway will write the screenplay, with F. Gary Gray in negotiations to direct.[1] In March 2018, it was announced Steven Spielberg would act as an executive producer for the project, while Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson would co-star.[2] In May 2018, Liam Neeson joined the cast, while Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald will act as producers on the project.[3] The film was released on June 14, 2019.[4][5] In December 2018, the film's official title was revealed to be Men in Black: International.[6] However unlike its predecessors Men in Black: International received mostly negative reviews and was a box office disappointment, grossing only $253 million worldwide, making it the lowest grossing film in the series.

Cast and crew[edit]

Principal cast[edit]

Additional crew[edit]



Men in Black (1997)[edit]

The film is loosely based upon the comic book The Men in Black by Lowell Cunningham. Producers Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald optioned the rights to The Men in Black in 1992 and hired Ed Solomon to write a very faithful script. Parkes and MacDonald wanted Barry Sonnenfeld as director because he had helmed the darkly humorous The Addams Family and its sequel Addams Family Values. Sonnenfeld was attached to Get Shorty (1995), so they approached Les Mayfield to direct, as they had heard about the positive reception to his remake of Miracle on 34th Street. They actually saw the film later and decided he was inappropriate. Men in Black was delayed so as to allow Sonnenfeld to make it his next project after Get Shorty.[22]

Much of the initial script drafts were set underground, with locations ranging from Kansas to Washington DC and Nevada. Sonnenfeld decided to change the location to New York City, because the director felt New Yorkers would be tolerant of aliens who behaved oddly while disguised. He also felt much of the city's structures resembled flying saucers and rocket ships. Production designer Bo Welch designed the MIB headquarters with a 1960s tone in mind, because that was when their organization is formed. He cited influences from Finnish architect Eero Saarinen, who designed a terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Being the arrival point of aliens on Earth, Welch felt MIB HQ had to resemble an airport.[22]

ILM provided most of the special effects. Rick Baker led the special effects of the film, which was the most complex in his career to date. He had to have approval from both director Barry Sonnenfeld and executive producer Steven Spielberg: "It was like, 'Steven likes the head on this one and Barry really likes the body on this one, so why don't you do a mix and match?' And I'd say, because it wouldn't make any sense." Sonnenfeld also changed a lot of the film's aesthetic during pre-production: "I started out saying aliens shouldn't be what humans perceive them to be. Why do they need eyes? So Rick did these great designs, and I'd say, 'That's great — but how do we know where he's looking?' I ended up where everyone else did, only I took three months."[23]

Filming began in March 1995. Five months into the shoot, the crew realized their ending was unexciting. It was originally meant to be a humorous existential debate between Agent J and the Bug, and five potential replacements were discussed. One of these had Laurel Weaver being neuralyzed and K remaining an agent. The change to a fight sequence annoyed Rick Baker, as their animatronic Bug had to be replaced with computer-generated imagery. Further changes were made during post-production to simplify the plotline involving the possession of the tiny galaxy. The Arquillians would hand over the galaxy to the Baltians, ending a long war. The bugs need to feed on the casualties of the war and steal it to continue the war. Through changing of subtitles, the images on MIB's main computer and Frank the Pug's dialogue, the Baltians were eliminated from the plot. Earth goes from being potentially destroyed in the crossfire between the two races into being possibly destroyed by the Arquillians to prevent the bugs getting the galaxy.[22]

Men in Black II (2002)[edit]

Despite some initial involvement from David Koepp (who left to work on Spider-Man),[24] the script for Men in Black II was written by Robert Gordon and later revised by Barry Fanaro (who added pop culture references, something which Gordon had deliberately avoided).[25] Sonnenfeld took issue with the producers' focus on the love story between Will Smith's and Rosario Dawson's characters, saying that "I learned on Wild Wild West that audiences didn't want to see Will as the straight man. And until Tommy comes back into the movie, by definition Will's the straight man."[24] Fanaro condensed the first part of the film and brought Agent K in earlier.[24] The climax of the second film was originally to have taken place at New York City's World Trade Center. This had to be changed following the destruction of the buildings in the September 11 attacks.[26] The day after the attacks of September 11, a spokesperson for the studio said that the ending would be refilmed.[27]

Supervising sound editor Skip Lievsay used a Synclavier to recreate and improve the original recording of the neuralyzer sound effect from the first film (which was the sound of a strobe flash as it recycles) by removing some distortion.[28] For some of the scenes with the Serleena creature, the sound crew "took tree branches, put them inside a rubber membrane and pushed that around and added some water."[28] For the special effects scene where the subway train is attacked by Jeff the Worm, a specially designed vise was used to crush a subway car and make it look as if it had been bitten in half.[25]

Men in Black 3 (2012)[edit]

The premise of the third film was first proposed to Sonnenfeld by Smith during the filming of Men in Black II in 2002, with Smith suggesting that his character, Agent J, travel back in time to save his partner, Agent K, while at the same time exploring Agent K's backstory. Sonnenfeld said the idea "turned out to be a very long process of development, mainly because of the knotting [sic] issues of time travel...."[29] The film was first announced on April 1, 2009, by Sony Pictures Entertainment president Rory Bruer during a Sony ShoWest presentation.[30] By October 2009, Etan Cohen had been hired to write the screenplay.[31] As of March 2010, Will Smith remained undecided whether to join this film or another, The City That Sailed.[32] Sonnenfeld in May 2010 confirmed the return of the protagonists played by Tommy Lee Jones and Smith. Both had expressed interest in 2008 in reprising their roles.[33][34] Other staff includes Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald as producers, with Steven Spielberg as executive producer; all were producers of the two previous films.[35]

In June, writer David Koepp was hired to rewrite the Cohen script.[36] On June 11, 2010, the fan site posted what it described as a "clip [that] debuted at an exclusive Sony 3D TV launch event at Sony Pictures Studios",[37] showing Smith dressed as Agent J wearing 3-D glasses and stating, "I know what you're thinking — 'M.I.B.', 3-D, we're going to be blowing stuff up and all that. But that's not really what we're doing right now. We're here for one purpose, and for one purpose only: Just to let you know that I'm about to make 3-D look good."[38] A teaser poster for the film was also released on September 21, 2010.[39] A third writer, Jeff Nathanson, was hired in November 2010 to rewrite the time-travel segment of the script in which the story takes place in 1969.[40] Nathanson and Koepp, along with producer Spielberg, had previously worked together on the 2008 film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Men in Black: International (2019)[edit]

In February 2018, it was reported that Chris Hemsworth would star in the film, which would be directed by F. Gary Gray.[41] The following month, Tessa Thompson joined the cast.[42] In May 2018, it was reported that Liam Neeson was in talks to star in the film as the head of the UK branch of the agency.[43] The film's script was written by Art Marcum and Matt Holloway and would be produced by Laurie MacDonald and Walter Parkes.[44] In June 2018, Kumail Nanjiani, Rafe Spall, and Les Twins were added to the cast of the film.[45][46]Danny Elfman, who scored the first three Men in Black films, returned to compose the score for the film alongside Chris Bacon.[47]

Principal photography on the film began on July 9, 2018, at Leavesden Studios and on location in London, and continued in Morocco, Italy, and New York City.[48]Emma Thompson was announced as reprising her role as Agent O in the film later that month.[49] In August 2018, Rebecca Ferguson joined the cast of the film.[50] On October 17, Hemsworth confirmed that filming had wrapped.[51] Visual effects for the film were provided by Double Negative and supervised by Alessandro Ongaro with the help of Rodeo FX, Sony Pictures Imageworks and Method Studios.[52]


Critical response[edit]

Men in Black won the Academy Award for Best Makeup, and was also nominated for Best Original Score and Best Art Direction. It was also nominated for the Golden Globe of Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy.[53] The film received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics, having a 92% rating on the Rotten Tomatoes film critic website.[54] Following the film's release, Ray-Ban stated sales of their Predator 2 sunglasses (worn by the organization to deflect neuralyzers) tripled to $5 million.[55][better source needed]

The second film received mixed reviews from critics, gaining a 39% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, as opposed to the 92% rating given for its predecessor, based on 197 reviews and a Metacritic score of 49.[56][57]A. O. Scott of The New York Times said that, "Within the trivial, ingratiating scope of its ambition, though, the sequel is pleasant enough," and, noting the huge array of aliens designed by Rick Baker, said that the film "really belongs to Mr. Baker."[58] A review in The Hindu called the film "worth viewing once."[59] Another review from Digital Media FX magazine praised the spaceships as looking very realistic, but criticized many of the simpler visual effects such as the moving backgrounds composited behind the car windows using blue-screen (which it called a throwback to the special effects of earlier decades).[60] In August 2002, Entertainment Weekly placed the Worm Guys among their list of the best CG characters, and said that the enlarged roles of both Frank the Pug and the Worm Guys in Men in Black II was beneficial for the "tiring franchise".[61] The film earned a Razzie Award nomination for Lara Flynn Boyle as Worst Supporting Actress.[62]

Men in Black 3 received mostly positive reviews from film critics. The film holds a 69% approval rating on the Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 6.06/10, based on an aggregation of 244 reviews.[63] It has a score of 58% on Metacritic based on 38 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[64]Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, in particular praising Josh Brolin's role as the young Agent K, which he cites as an excellent example of good casting. Ebert also praised the "ingenious plot, bizarre monsters, audacious cliff-hanging" and the "virtuoso final sequence".[65]Richard Roeper gave it 3.5 out of 5 stars while saying, "It's that rare threequel that doesn't suck. Great special effects, surprising amount of heart."[66]A. O. Scott of The New York Times also gave it 3.5 out of 5 stars and commented, "Men in Black 3 arrives in the multiplexes of the world with no particular agenda. Which may be part of the reason that it turns out to be so much fun."[67] Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly noted, "Sonnenfeld and Cohen move their baby along with an integrity and gait that ought to serve as a blueprint for other filmmakers faced with the particular challenges of reviving big-ticket and time-dated hunks of pop culture."[68] Rafer Guzman of Newsday wrote, "The franchise is no longer the zenith of blockbusterism, and the gooey effects from Hollywood veteran Rick Baker look overly familiar, but Men in Black 3 remains an amiable comedy with some fondly familiar faces."[69]

Box office performance[edit]

Film Release date Box office gross Box office ranking Budget Reference
North America Other
Worldwide All time
North America
All time
Men in BlackJuly 2, 1997 $250,690,539 $338,000,000 $588,690,539 126 158 $90 million [70]
Men in Black IIJuly 3, 2002 $190,418,803 $251,400,000 $441,818,803 225 252 $140 million [71]
Men in Black 3May 25, 2012 $179,020,854 $445,005,922 $624,026,776 260 143 $215 million [72][73]
Men in Black: InternationalJune 14, 2019 $80,001,807 $173,888,894 $253,890,701 985 583 $110 million [74]
Total $700,132,003$1,208,294,816$1,909,126,819$555 million [75]

Critical and public response[edit]

Cancelled projects[edit]

Cancelled fourth film in the original series[edit]

Main article: List of unproduced films based on Marvel Imprints § Men in Black 4

Both Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones have said that they would "consider" appearing in a Men in Black 4.[80] Jones said it would be "easy to pick up where we left off. We know what we are doing, we know how to do it. It's just a hell of a lot of fun."[81] In July 2012, Columbia chief executive Doug Belgrad said: "We're very pleased with the financial performance of Men in Black 3, and we believe it is an ongoing franchise. We're going to do [another one], but we don't have clarity yet on how it should be done."[82] Barry Sonnenfeld said: "Will's kind of really smart, but as I said, kind of really annoying, too much energy. When he would get too rambunctious, I would tell him save that for Men in Black 4, Will is out and [his son] Jaden Smith is in … if we continue on this path, it won't be released until 2032 but it will be damn good." Will Smith said that: "Jaden is already 13 years old, so he's at that mythological boys age, you know – it's time for his bro-mitzvah. So he's right at that place ... He's ready to test me so he can't come anywhere near my movies right now!"[83] In early 2013 , Oren Uziel was writing a Men in Black 4 screenplay for Sony Pictures.[84] As of 2021, no further developments regarding the sequel have been announced.

MIB 23[edit]

Main article: List of unproduced films based on Marvel Imprints § MIB 23

On December 10, 2014, it was revealed that Sony was planning a crossover between Men in Black and Jump Street. The news was leaked after Sony's system was hacked[85] and then confirmed by the directors of the Jump Street films, Chris Miller and Phil Lord during an interview about it.[86][87]James Bobin was announced as director in 2016.[87][88][89][90][91] In January 2019, it was reported that the project was no longer in development.[92]


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Men in Black

Men in Black is a 1997 science fiction/action/comedy film directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. The film stars Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K, Will Smith as Agent J, and Vincent D'Onofrio as Edgar/"Bug". It was based on the Marvel Comic Series, The Men in Black by Lowell Cunningham. It was released on July 2, 1997 and gained $587 million worldwide, with a budget of $90 million. It was the third highest grossing film of 1997 behind Titanic and The Lost World: Jurassic Park. The film was spun off into an animated series, Men in Black: The Series, two sequels, Men in Black II, released in 2002, and Men in Black III , released in 2012 and a spin-off Men in Black: International.


The film opens in the middle of the Arizona desert, with a guy named "Nick the Dick" illegally bringing foreigners into the United States. He is stopped at a Border Patrol checkpoint, where he tries to claim that he was fishing, but the officers insist on looking at his catch. They find the immigrants and instruct them to form a line. When Nick is about to be arrested, a black car driven by Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) with Agent D (Richard Hamilton) as a passenger pulls up, and they get out of the car claiming to be from the INS, division six. They search the foreigners and they find one that does not understand a word of Spanish. They send the rest of them back into Nick's truck and they take the one who doesn't understand Spanish further out to the desert, where Agent K cuts into the foreigner with a knife, revealing that it is a space alien; Mikey. They arrest Mikey, not knowing when he was let out of jail, when one of the agents, Janus, notices this. Mikey notices Janus, pushes Dee down, and starts running toward him. Kay tells Dee to shoot, but Dee is unable to, so Kay shoots, disintegrating it just in the nick of time. Janus's colleagues show up and draw their guns on Kay, who insists that the situation is under control. A containment crew shows up and on Kay's orders scorches the nearby landscape while Kay shows the INS agents a device called a Neuralyzer. When Janus asks Kay who he really is, Kay says he is just a figment of their imagination, and zaps the Neuralyzer, which emits a small camera flash. Kay then takes off his protective sunglasses and tells the agents that they're lucky to be alive after such a big blast, using the cover story of an underground gas main going up after Janus discharged his gun. Dee apologizes for not shooting at Mikey, and since he is getting too old, is neuralyzed by K.

The scene cuts to a New York City street, where a young NYPD officer named James Darrell Edwards III (later Agent J, played by Will Smith) chases after a man who he does not know is a Cephalapoid. Edwards almost catches the man, but he gets away by drawing a weapon that evaporates. He runs once again and Edwards finally catches him on the roof of a building. The man claims "he's coming" and that the world will end. He blinks gills under his eyes, and then he willingly falls to his death.

The seen cuts to a farm, where a grumpy farmer named Edgar (Vincent D'Onofrio) yells at his wife about his dinner being poorly made instead of having a steak, saying that she is useless, and the only thing that pulls its weight is his truck. On cue, a spaceship promptly crashes into the truck, destroying it and creating a crater. Edgar goes outside to investigate as his wife, Beatrice asks Edgar what on Earth is it before Edgar rudely tells Beatrice to get back inside, and he is killed by the alien. The alien steals his skin and uses it as a disguise, and then goes back into the house. He asks for sugar water, and then freaks Beatrice out so he can get away. He goes outside and picks his spaceship up, since he must take it with him to return home.

Meanwhile, Edwards gives his incident report to his boss, and when he leaves, Kay steps in and asks Edwards about the weapon that evaporated. He asks if Edwards would recognize the weapon if seen again. He takes Edwards to Jack Jeebs' pawn shop, and after a little persuasion, which involves Kay blowing off Jeebs' head (Jeebs then regrows a new head), Jeebs shows them the guns and Edwards picks out the one he saw. Kay yells at Jeebs, thinking that the weapon was used for an assassination attempt, and that the alien who bought it was unlicensed. Kay neuralyzes Edwards and then decides that he should join the company he really works for, the Men in Black. He gives Edwards the card.

Along with some other government agents, Edwards gets his training. First is a written exam, where Edwards, unable to write in the chair, drags a table over. Next is a target range, where the recruits grab pistols and shoot at cardboard cut-outs of extraterrestrials. All of the recruits fire at every target that passes by, except for Edwards, who waits, and then fires a single round. The MIB chief Zed (Rip Torn) asks Edwards why he thought his target, a cardboard cutout of a small girl, "Little Tiffany", deserved to die. Edwards explains that one target hanging from a lamppost is just working out, another target who was snarling has a tissue in his hand (indicating that he was sneezing), and the target Edwards shot was an eight-year old girl reading quantum physics books. Zed and Kay debate the results, and decide that Edwards is the right candidate. Kay pulls Edwards aside while Zed neuralyzes the rejected recruits (under the pretense of an eye examination). K introduces Edwards to the Worms, who are in the coffee room, and then tells him that humans are not alone on the planet, and that aliens live among humans in secret.

At another rural farm, the Bug (in Edgar's skin) kills an exterminator by forcing his own gas pipe down his mouth, and steals his truck to house his ship in.

Kay gives Edwards until sunrise to think about joining the MIB, and Edwards accepts. The next day, Edwards returns to MIB headquarters after deciding to join the MIB. All of Edwards' identifying marks are erased as well as getting the last suit he'll ever wear, and he is renamed J, the newest MIB recruit. Edgar, in the meantime, follows an alien named Gentle Rosenburg in the exterminator's truck. J is given his first assignment with K to follow Reggie Redgick, an extraterrestrial in New Jersey despite the fact that he is restricted to the New York City area. Redgick is in a rush to get off the planet with his wife, even though they have a newborn baby. K finds this unusual, and decides to check out the news to see if anything has happened. He sees an article written by Edgar's wife, "alien stole my husband's skin," and goes to investigate with J.

Meanwhile, Edgar follows Rosenburg to meet with another alien of the same race, who informs him that a bug landed on the planet and that he must get away. Edgar kills both aliens, and takes a possesion of theirs, believing it to be the Galaxy, which is a source of power the size of a marble.

K and J pose as FBI agents and question the wife. They learn about the sugar water, and once they have all the information they need, she is neuralyzed and K tells the wife that there was no alien and Edgar ran off as a story to replace the erased memory. J convinces K to ad lib the memory she gets, and J extends it. K analyzes the dirt that the alien may have left a spectral trail on, and discovers that they are after a Bug. He tells J that they will watch the morgues with the bug in town. A mortician, Laurel Weaver (Linda Fiorentino), examines the bodies and finds them unusual. J and K pose as doctors, they examine the bodies, and they discover that Rosenburg isn't really dead yet. His last words are "to prevent war, the Galaxy is on Orion's Belt." K neuralyzes Weaver, and they head back to headquarters.

Edgar is banging the possesion, but it spills jewels form Rosenburg's jewelry store, and it is not the Galaxy that he is looking for. He resumes his search, while J and K look at Orion's belt, but Zed thinks that they heard wrong. They then discover that a bunch of aliens have left the planet, and they notice an Arquilian (Rosenburg's race) battleship above the earth conveying a message. K and J go down to Rosenburg's jewelry store to find more clues, and Zed tells K to give J a weapon. K gives J the "Noisy Cricket", and because of its size, J doesn't think it will protect him. Edgar gets to Rosenburg's before J & K do, however, and he breaks in to look for the Galaxy. He sees a picture of Rosenburg's cat, who was by his side at the time of his death. Edgar sees a marble on the cat's collar, which he thinks is the Galaxy. He notices the exterminator's truck being towed, and goes out to investigate. K & J arrive with their weapons, notice the havoc that has been wreaked upon the store, and J finds it unusual that anyone has broken in without taking any jewels. They suspect that the bug is behind it. They hear a shot, and they see Edgar walking with a gun in his hand. Edgar gets in the tow truck, drives away, and J fires the noisy cricket, which is, to his surprise, extremely powerful. He fires the gun two more times, when K tells him not to shoot in front of witnesses, but K tells J to not worry about the bug, because they already got his ship. K asks Zed for a Containment Crew, and he is told that the Arquillians want the Galaxy.

Edgar, in the meantime, asks a man "Where do you keep your dead?" and eventually gets "city morgue" out of him. Edgar steals some postcards, then proceeds for the morgue. K and J talk to an alien dog named Frank and they are told that the Galaxy is on Earth, and that it's tiny. J and K are confused, but when they see Frank bark at a cat they know where to find the Galaxy. Edgar goes into the morgue and threatens Weaver for the cat (its name was Orion). J enters the morgue, and then discovers that Weaver is being held hostage by Edgar, and that Edgar beat the MIB to the punch. He escapes with Weaver and tells her to take him to the World's Fair, where there are working flying saucers. K tells J not to worry about him, since they have his ship he can't get off the planet. The Arquillians fire a warning shot and say that they will go to war in an hour. J thinks that the bug is going to leave the planet via the flying saucers at the World's Fair, since all the other transports off the planet have left.

Edgar arrives at the fair before Jay and Kay, who are driving through the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and manage to zip past the traffic by pressing a red button that allows the car to not only activate the auxiliary mode, but to drive on the roof of the tunnel, and he eats the Galaxy that he got off Orion's collar. Edgar drags Weaver with him while getting into a saucer, and J & K arrive just in time to save her. They shoot down the flying saucer Edgar takes off in, and he gets out. The bug takes Edgar's skin off, revealing his true form. He eats their guns. K attempts the bug to eat him to get the guns back, and tells J to not let him get on the second ship and create a distraction for the bug. J begins fighting with the bug by stepping on cockroaches, and K shoots his way out of the bug's digestive system after he has found his gun, splitting the alien in half. They get the Galaxy back and deliver it to the Arquillians. While J and K are recovering from their battle, the top half of him is still alive, but Weaver shoots the alien by using J's gun which was dragged out of it's stomach and tells J and K how interesting their jobs are. As MIB cleans up the situation, K tells J to neuralyze him, since he wasn't training a partner, but rather a replacement. J accepts and K is neuralyzed, and Weaver joins the MIB as Agent L.



The following appear on the computer screen as aliens:

Differences from The Men in Black

This film is notable for the differences from the original Comic Book Series. First, in the comics, the MiB monitored all paranormal activity (from ghosts to demons to monsters to aliens) However, in the movie, and everything beyond it, the MiB focus only on aliens. Second, in the comics, the MiB were more mysterious, and ruthless. Their goals were to manipulate and shape the world to their image. In the movie, the MiB are much less cold-hearted; With their goals being to maintain order, rather than directing it. Third, Agent J's race was changed to African-American (he was Caucasian with blonde hair in the comics).


The film received overwhelmingly positive reviews. Scoring 7.3 on IMDB[1]


  1. ↑Men in Black. IMDB (September 15, 2016). Retrieved on September 15, 2016.

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