Forget the Independence Day and Bad Boys film franchises; the biggest movie series in Will Smith’s highly accomplished filmography is undoubtedly Men in Black. Smith played the charismatic Agent J with all the charm and wit that audiences have come to love from him. Top this with Tommy Lee Jones’s stellar performance as the no-nonsense Agent K, and you’ve got yourself a winning formula for a blockbuster hit. All that being said, Steven Spielberg had some choice things to say to Will Smith.
The over-the-top alien invasion franchise accumulated a total of over $1.6 billion in box office revenue across its three successful sequels, beating out the likes of Smith’s beloved buddy cop trilogy (which only grossed a total of $839 million) for the title of his highest-grossing movie franchise. However, despite the film becoming a hit for The Fresh Prince, Smith was initially hesitant to commit to the role of Agent J. So, what convinced him to take on the role of the beloved MIB agent? A cold glass of fizzy lemonade and some even colder words from the executive producer himself, Steven Spielberg.
During the latest episode of Kevin Hart’s Peacock talk show, Hart to Heart, the 54-year-old actor revealed that he was so close to turning down his role in Men in Black when Spielberg intervened in a pretty grand way. According to Smith, the award-winning filmmaker personally arranged for a helicopter to pick him up in New York and bring him to his house, where he then convinced Smith to take on the iconic role, which would ultimately become one of the most beloved characters in his filmography.
“Steven Spielberg sent a helicopter for me,” Smith recalled. “I was in New York. To talk to me. … It landed at his house. And he had me at hello. … And it was the first time I ever had lemonade with carbonated water. You can’t say no to that.”
“He said the coldest shit,” the actor quipped. “He said, ‘Tell me, tell me why you don’t want to make my movie. And he was the producer. … And he put the ellipsis at the end, it was the dot, dot, dot. … If he had continued, he would have said, ‘Joker, you know I made Jaws, right? You know I made E.T.'”
Smith was initially hesitant to take on the role of Jay as he had just completed filming the 1996 alien invasion film Independence Day, and in his own words, he “didn’t want to make two alien movies back-to-back”. However, Smith ultimately decided to take on the character as he said he felt “protected” by Spielberg’s reputation.
It was undoubtedly the right choice for the renowned actor, as Men in Black went on to become a hugely popular film that spawned two sequels and inspired filmmakers to create a fourth film in 2019. However, one can’t help but imagine what might have been if Spielberg had never sent that helicopter to pick up Smith that fateful day. Without Spielberg’s intervention, the franchise may have taken a different direction, leaving audiences without the iconic duo of Smith and Tommy Lee Jones that became synonymous with the beloved alien franchise.