Will Smith Recalls How He Almost Turned Down Men in Black

Will Smith remembers when Steven Spielberg confronted him when he initially passed on 1997’s Men in Black.

Why did Will Smith nearly pass on MIB?

Smith sat down with comedian Kevin Hart on the Peacock Interview show Hart to Hart to discuss his career. Speaking about the sci-fi comedy megahit executive produced by Spielberg, Smith recalled how he nearly passed on MIB having already battled aliens in his breakthrough 1996 blockbuster, Independence Day. Upon learning of Smith’s decision, Spielberg took drastic measures to convince the star to suit up and join the MIB.

“[John Lassiter] picked Men in Black. I kinda understood Men in Black like a little bit, but I didn’t want to make Men in Black — that was the next year after Independence Day,” Smith said. “So I didn’t want to make two alien movies back to back… Steven Spielberg sent a helicopter for me… to talk. 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, it was lemonade with carbonated water!”

Smith continued by explaining how Spielberg cut straight to the point in their face-to-face meeting. “But yeah, he flew me in, and he said the coldest s***. He said, ‘Tell me why you don’t want to make my movie….’ He’s the producer. He put the ellipses at the end, it was the ‘dot, dot, dot.’ If he had continued, he would’ve said, ‘Joker, you know I made Jaws, right? You know I made E.T.'”

Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, Men in Black starred Smith as Agent J, an ex-NYPD detective recruited by veteran Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) to join the underground organization that investigates extra-terrestrial life on Earth. With dazzling special effects and a catchy theme song by Smith, Men in Black was the biggest hit of 1997, grossing $589 million worldwide and further cemented Smith’s status as an A-list star in Hollywood. Smith and Jones reprised their roles in 2002’s Men in Black II and 2012’s Men in Black 3.

Smith will return to the big screen next summer when he re-teams with Martin Lawrence for Bad Boys 4, directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah of Warner Bros.’ abandoned Batgirl movie. Bad Boys 4 is scheduled for release on June 14, 2024.