Following the massive success of 1996’s Independence Day, Will Smith was ready to turn down the role of Agent J in 1997’s Men in Black—one of his most iconic roles. However, the film’s executive producer Steven Spielberg decided to convince Smith in the most unusual manner by sending a helicopter to pick up Smith and bring him in for a meeting.
“Steven Spielberg sent a helicopter for me. To talk to me. I was in New York. It landed at his house. And, like, he had me at hello.”Will Smith
According to Insider, Will Smith recently revealed that he had to be persuaded by Steven Spielberg to take the role of Agent J in Men in Black, something that Smith was, at the time, reluctant to do. The revelation came while speaking with Kevin Hart on Hart to Heart, with the actor stating that he didn’t want to make two films centered on aliens back-to-back.
That was completely reasonable, given that the previous success granted him a pick of movies he’d do next, with countless offers hitting his agent’s desk.
Will Smith stated that his former manager and longtime business partner Jamie Lassiter, was also acting as the “arbiter of taste” and that he personally had a say in choosing several roles that are now considered some of Smith’s best.
Lassiter urged Smith to take the role of Agent J; however, the actor wanted none of it, and potentially turning down a project backed up by Steven Spielberg reached the ears of the producer himself, who decided to try and persuade Smith to take the role that would become one of his most iconic portrayals.
Men in Black became yet another massive success for Smith, earning nearly $590 million at the worldwide box office.
According to Smith, Spielberg ever sent a helicopter to pick him up, and bring him in, only so that the producer could call the actor out in person for not accepting the role in his film—and being called out by Spielberg over some lemonade with carbonated water was all the convincing Will Smith needed to star in Men in Black.
The film became yet another massive success for Smith, earning nearly $590 million at the worldwide box office. Furthermore, it gave the actor his second franchise and solidified him as a movie star of the late 1990s.
The History of Men In Black
For those unaware of the history of Will Smith’s Men in Black, the franchise is based on a comic series by Marvel Comics’ subsidiary, Aircel/Malibu Comics. Though it wasn’t a sci-fi comedy, it was adapted into a 1997’s film, whose commercial and critical success warranted another three sequels and various spin-offs, including a number of tie-in one-shot comics by Marvel Comics themselves.
The franchise isn’t limited to movies and comics alone; several different game developers released Men in Black games, the earliest of which was released in 1997 and the latest in 2012.
It’s also worth noting that the latest Men in Black film, MiB: International, didn’t feature Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, with filmmakers opting to cast Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson instead. It was also the first film in the series not to open above $30 million, and its underwhelming opening was blamed on the dated franchise, poor critical reviews, and audience anticipation for other high-profile releases, such as Spider-Man: Far From Home.