This week marks the 25th anniversary of Men In Black, a classic film franchise that’s produced two sequels, a spinoff and a popular animated series in the decades since the first film was released on July 2, 1997.
Lead stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones made for the perfect on-screen duo, but history might’ve been way different if director Barry Sonnenfeld went with the original choice to cast current NCIS: Los Angeles star Chris O’Donnell.
“I think he’s a good actor, but I had really been thinking about Will since my wife made the suggestion,” Sonnenfeld revealed to Insider, further telling the tale by adding, “I met with Chris and he had concerns about the script and had another movie offer. So I told him, ‘Yeah, we might never fix this script and I don’t think I know how to direct this movie.’ So he passed on the movie the next day.”
As it turned out, the director of films like The Addams Family and its perfect sequel Addams Family Values downplayed the film to O’Donnell intentionally, explaining himself by stating, “Well, you know what, you always want to underpromise and overdeliver.” When Friends actor David Schwimmer was also suggested to play Agent J, Sonnenfeld reiterated his top choice by asserting, “I always thought about Will for the role.” Heck, even Clint Eastwood was in the running!
The first film alone was a major blockbuster success, garnering $589.4 million at the box office based on a $90 million budget. The latter sequels were equally successful, with Men In Black II racking in $441.8 million at the box office in 2002 and Men in Black 3 doing a whopping $624 million a decade later in 2012. That’s not to mention Smith’s musical skills adding to the franchise’s lucrative appeal, as the soundtrack gave us his GRAMMY-winning lead single of the same name and the debut of a then-unknown Alicia Keys.
Could you see Men In Black being the same without Will Smith? Sound off and check out what some on social media had to say below:
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1. Well Men in Black ended up being huge that year, whereas Chris was in Batman and Robin so that should say everything. lol. Seriously though, I cant see anyone else in MiB at this point. CERTAINLY not Chris and Clint Eastwood.
2. Barry Sonnenfeld & his wife read the Men in Black script together when he first received it. When they finished it he looked at her and said “Tommy Lee Jones.” She replied “Will Smith.” Spielberg wanted Clint Eastwood and Chris O’Donnell. Boy am I glad Barry won out on that one.
3. Well, Will Smith is a Hollywood legend! He slaps! 😅
4. They wanted Clint Eastwood. I’m not a huge MIB fan, but thank goodness that didn’t happen
5. Chris O’Donnell doesn’t have the “it” factor. He’s not interesting to watch. Smith has the “it” factor. As does Tommy Lee Jones and Clint Eastwood. O’Donnell is someone you just throw into the scene because you had to hire someone to say the lines. He’s boring.
6. No idea how he would have done in the part but i can’t imagine that movie without Smith. Glad it worked out like it did
7. The director of Men in Black acting like the movie was a disaster so Chris O’Donnell would pass on it and he could get Will Smith hired like he wanted 😭😂😂 I love it