Director Barry Sonnenfeld has admitted to deliberately downplaying it men in black to actor Chris O’Donnell so he could cast Will Smith in the lead role instead.
The 1997 sci-fi film starred Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as Agents J and K, two government employees tasked with regulating aliens on Earth.
In a new interview with insiderSonnenfeld explained that the producers originally wanted Chris O’Donnell and Clint Eastwood to star.
However, the director said he had another idea. “I had suggested Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith,” Sonnenfeld said. “Will was actually my wife’s idea.”
According to Sonnenfeld, producers were quick to accept Jones, but at the time Smith was a little more difficult to sign as he was better known for his work on television (The Fresh Prince of Bel Air) and music instead of in movies.
Meanwhile, O’Donnell was a rising star thanks to roles in School Ties, The Three Musketeers, and fragrance of a woman.
Sonnenfeld further described a meeting with O’Donnell where he stopped the actor from taking on the role.
“I met with Chris and he had concerns about the script and had another offer for a film,” recalls the director. “So I said to him, ‘Yeah, we might never fix this script, and I don’t think I know how to direct this movie.’ So he passed the film on the next day.”
Afterward, Sonnenfeld was able to arrange for Smith to meet with the film’s producers, Walter F. Parks, Lauri MacDonald, and Steven Spielberg.
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“And that’s how Will got the part,” he recalled.
Looking back now, Sonnenfeld said: “I think [O’Donnell’s] a good actor, but I’ve really been thinking about Will ever since my wife proposed.”
Smith became a world star because of his work in the 1996s independence Day and men in black the following year.
Smith infamously slapped Chris Rock at this year’s Oscars, for which he was banned from the Academy Awards for the next 10 years.
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/men-in-black-director-chris-odonnell-will-smith-b2115936.html Men in Black director says he downplayed the film to Chris O’Donnell so he could cast Will Smith instead