MEN IN BLACK—10 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets

Agents Jay (played by Will Smith) and Kay (played by Tommy Lee Jones) point their large, futuristic guns toward their target while standing next to each other outside at night in their iconic black suits and ties in Men in Black (1997)

When Men in Black rolled into theatres in 1997, it changed the dynamic of science fiction movies and buddy-cop comedies forever. Quickly becoming a huge hit and securing its place as a cult classic among sci-fi fans, Men in Black produced a perfect blend of storytelling, humor, action and, of course, aliens. With the original MIB movie having been released 22 years ago (yes... 22 years ago) and with the latest installment of Men in Black: International hitting Regal just this year, we decided to dig up some more behind-the-scenes secrets about the classic MIB movies! 

So come with us on a trip across space as we look at 10 out-of-this-world facts about the old and new Men in Black movies!


1. The Original Men in Black is the highest-grossing buddy comedy of all time

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Jay (Will Smith), Zed (Rip Torn), and Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) in Men in Black (1997)

Playing in theatres for a staggering 21 weeks, and raking in $250 million domestically (and nearly $590 million worldwide), Men in Black still remains the highest-grossing buddy action/comedy in history! 


2. Clint Eastwood was almost Agent K

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Dirty Harry (Clint Eastwood) in Dirty Harry (1971)

The chemistry between the two leads of MIB would be pertinent to the success of the movie. With Jay taking on the comedic role, Kay needed to be the straightest of straight men possible. Naturally, the studio leaned toward Eastwood, an actor known for his dry seriousness in his characters. However, director Barry Sonnenfeld felt that Tommy Lee Jones would be more intimidating. 


3. David Schwimmer was almost Agent J

David Schwimmer

Before Will Smith took up the mantle of Agent J, the studio offered David Schwimmer the role, but ultimately, he turned it down. This may have been a huge loss for him, but at least we got the effortlessly cool Smith out of the deal.


4. There was an original subplot to Men In Black that was dropped

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Jay (Will Smith) in Men in Black (1997)

As far as light, sci-fi comedies go, Men in Black has a relatively complex plotline. If you paid very close attention, you may remember the brief dialogue about a battle between the Arquillians and the Baltians. No? That’s probably because the entire subplot of a massive war between these two alien races that would leave Earth’s existence hanging in the balance kind of distracted form the already busy plot. 


5. Linda Fiorentino “won” her role in MIB in a game of poker

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Jay (Will Smith) and Laurel (Linda Fiorentino) in Men in Black (1997)

Linda Fiorentino was a hidden Hollywood gem in the 90’s. Not gaining much recognition until her role in The Last Seduction (1994), she wasn’t originally considered for the part of Dr. Laurel Weaver. Fate would have it that she would meet the MIB director at a poker tournament, and she shared that “by the end of it, I had the job, and I won the game.” 


6. Edgar the Bug was a harder-to-play role than you’d think

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Edgar (Vincent D’Onofrio) in Men in Black (1997)

Vincent D’Onofrio is largely known for being a dramatic actor in roles big or small, and his commitment to the role of “Edgar the Bug” adds to the hilarity of the character. Though pulling off this look wasn’t easy. He had to spend 6 hours a day in makeup, had to have his eyelids glued shut, and wore basketball braces that prevented him from being able to bend his legs! 


7. Men in Black is an Academy Award winner

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Kay (Tommy Lee Jones), Dee (Richard Hamilton), Jose (Sergio Calderón), and Mikey ( John Alexander) in Men in Black (1997)

Though not a traditional movie reviewed by The Academy, Men in Black was nominated for 3 Academy Awards® including: Best Music in a Musical or Comedy, Best Art Direction, and Best Makeup. Taking home the award in the third category, makeup artists Rick Baker and David LeRoy Anderson showed their astonishing makeup work. 


8. The truth behind the 22 Jump Street Crossover

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Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) in Men in Black: International (2019)

There was some buzz for a while of a crossover between the MIB and the Jump Street universes, but as writer and producer Walter F. Parkes explained, he “wasn’t surprised that we couldn’t really get there in the script because the two franchises have such utterly different tones. But the theory of it was great.” We’re almost disappointed.


9. The black suits

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Agent M (Tessa Thompson) and Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) in Men in Black: International (2019)

As we all know, what makes the “Men in Black” the “Men in Black” is, well . . . the black suit. Between all of the agents in the MIB, costume designer for the latest installment of Men in Black: International Penny Rose has to account for more than 250 Paul Smith black suits, each carefully tailored to each cast member, not to mention the wardrobe of platform shoes to offset the distinguishing 12-inch height difference between Thompson and Hemsworth.


10. Frank the Pug was a diva

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Frank the Pug (voiced by Tim Blaney) and Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) in Men in Black (1997)

Although Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones may have been the stars of the original MIB movie, Mushu the pug, who played Frank, had quite the extensive rider when traveling and working on set. In an interview with his owner, Cheryl Shawver, she shared every aspect of luxury lifestyle that Mushu had become accustomed to, including: attendance at the red carpets, flight reservations in Business Class, his own bed in every hotel, a strict bottled water only diet, and chicken and steak dinners ordered from room service!