Men in Black (1997) Poster



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Will Smith didn't believe it was really Steven Spielberg on the other end of the line when the producer-director first rang him to talk to him about Men in Black (1997).
Actor Vincent D'Onofrio researched his role as Edgar by watching a lot of bug documentaries. In order to achieve his character's distinctive walk, he put on knee braces so he couldn't bend his legs, and taped up his ankles.
The site BadAstronomy, famed for bashing sci-fi movies (such as Armageddon (1998)) about science blunders, praised this movie for being comedic yet surprisingly accurate when it comes to astronomy facts.
When Edwards (Will Smith) jumps from the overpass onto the tour bus, he jumps from Pershing Square Bridge, the same location where Robert Neville (also Smith) is attacked by the demon dogs after the sun goes down in I Am Legend (2007).
Will Smith, after reading the script, did not want to accept the role, but his wife Jada Pinkett Smith convinced him to take the part.
The sunglasses used by the Men in Black are the Ray-Ban "Predator 2" glasses. After the film released, Ray-Ban reported that sales of these glasses tripled, from $1.6 million to $5 million.
Will Smith says he improvised the line, "It just be raining black people in New York".
Tommy Lee Jones only accepted the role of K after Steven Spielberg promised the script would improve. He had been disappointed with the first draft, which he felt did not capture the tone of the comic.
The "known aliens" visible on the screen include Al Roker, Isaac Mizrahi, Danny DeVito, director Barry Sonnenfeld, Chloe Sonnenfeld (Barry's daughter), Sylvester Stallone, Dionne Warwick, Newt Gingrich, Anthony Robbins, George Lucas, and executive producer Steven Spielberg.
Lowell Cunningham's comic 'The Men in Black' was much darker and dryer than the family-oriented sci-fi comedy this film adaptation was. In the comics, the MiB survey not only extraterrestrial activity, but paranormal and supernatural activity on earth as well. They are allowed to maintain secrecy by any means necessary (including elimination); they also had a secret agenda: to manipulate and reshape the world in their own image by keeping the supernatural hidden. The comic's basic plot was of MiB Agent X going on the run and trying to keep from getting eliminated.
Clint Eastwood was offered the role of K but turned it down.
When K reveals there are about 1500 aliens on Earth and most of them are on Manhattan just trying to make a living, James asks "Cab drivers?". This is a reference to writer Douglas Adams's 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' novels, particularly the final novel 'So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish', where archivist Ford Prefect's entry in the Guide hints that driving a cab is a good way to make a living for aliens visiting New York.
When K is in the diner for the first time with James Edwards, the scene starts with the punchline of a joke that K is telling; the rest of the joke is likely some variation on the following: A farmer decided to go into town to see a movie along with his pet rooster. Noticing that no animals were allowed inside the cinema, he smuggled the rooster into the theater in his front overall pocket and unzipped it once the lights had dimmed and the movie had started so the rooster could see. The woman sitting next to him eventually noticed, and nudged her husband. "I think this man is a pervert. He's got his thing out." Her husband replies, "So? It's nothing you haven't seen before." to which she says "But honey, this one's eating my popcorn!"
Will Smith was cast because Barry Sonnenfeld's wife was a fan of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990), and Sonnenfeld also liked his performance in Six Degrees of Separation (1993).
The film was going to be set in underground bases/locations, including Kansas, Washington DC and Nevada, but Barry Sonnenfeld made New York the film's main Earth location. He thought it was more believable that aliens could hide out in a global capital (safety in crowds), and thought New Yorkers would be more tolerant of people who behaved oddly (who were in fact aliens in disguise). He also felt much of the city structures resembled flying saucers and rocket ships, which could be REAL spacecraft and other hidden alien technology.
Vincent D'Onofrio, who plays Edgar the Bug, went on to voice all the Bugs (same species) who appeared in Men in Black: The Series (1997).
Linda Fiorentino "won" her role in Men in Black in a poker game with director Barry Sonnenfeld. Afterwards he warned her she would not be in any nude scenes.
John Landis was offered the chance to direct but declined, feeling it was basically just "The Blues Brothers (1980) with aliens". He has since said that he was wrong and he regretted turning down the film.
The driver smuggling illegal aliens along a road marked "375" claims to have been "fishing in Cuernavaca." 375 is a reference to Nevada SR375, known as the "Extraterrestrial Highway" for being near Area 51. Cuernavaca is the Mexican city which British ufologist Gordon Creighton claimed a flying saucer had crashed near in 1951 and its dead aliens thereupon whisked away by the U.S. Air Force with Mexico's cooperation.
Chris O'Donnell was first offered the role of J, but he turned it down because he thought it was another "new recruit" role like his performance of Dick Grayson from Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997).
Through an apparent lab error, at least portions of the release prints used in the U.S. were not hard matted for spherical widescreen projection. This meant that if the projectionist did not properly frame the projected image, the audience would be able to see lens shades, microphones and other things not normally visible in the frame area.
The photo of Edwards when K is erasing all his data records is an old high school photo of Will Smith.
To research his role, Will Smith visited an alien encounter convention in Las Vegas.
Originally there were going to be two huge alien spaceships looming over Earth: an Arquillian ship and a Baltian ship, with representatives of both species staking claim of the galaxy. Mr. Rosenberg (the "little dude in the big dude's head") was a Baltian (confirmed by the novelization of the film), while the tall alien (Carel Struycken) he met at the restaurant was an Arquillian (and is so listed in the end credits). After some choice editing and rewriting, Rosenberg became an Arquillian.
Rick Baker claims his work on this film was his most complex to date, as he had to have approval on his alien designs from both director Barry Sonnenfeld and producer Steven Spielberg: "It was like, 'Steven likes the head on this one and Barry really likes the body on this one, so why don't you do a mix and match?' And I'd say, because it wouldn't make any sense."
During pre-production, Barry Sonnenfeld changed a lot of the film's aesthetic: "I started out saying aliens shouldn't be what humans perceive them to be. Why do they need eyes? So Rick did these great designs, and I'd say, 'That's great - but how do we know where he's looking?' I ended up where everyone else did, only I took three months."
James Edwards jokes about a possible candidate from the Army, calling him Captain America. Tommy Lee Jones would later go on to star in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011).
The MIB headquarters are located in the ventilation tower of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, which connects Manhattan with Brooklyn.
According to production designer Bo Welch, the MiB headquarters was designed to resemble a 1960s airport (the examination room of the MIB was particularly based on the TWA terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport). He used the 1960s theme because that was when MiB started up (as well as the decade of the space craze), and the airport design was because MiB's extraterrestrial affairs include their arrival and settlement to Earth, which airports assist in.
Much of the MIB traits and characteristics are in-keeping with established lore of Men in Black. For example, supposed encounters with MIBs, witnesses report they use outdated jokes and vernacular and that their dress and vehicle seem to be dated as well. In the Chinese restaurant, Agent Kay tells Edwards "Agent Jay", "be there or be square", an expression that's out-of-place for mid 1990's humor.
After script rewrites looking for a more action oriented ending, the original animatronic Bug was discarded after 8 months of development. The new sequence using a redesigned Bug contain 45 CG shots, at a cost of $100000 each. According to director Barry Sonnenfeld "It was the best $4.5 million we spent".
Kay mentions to Jay about the Zeronian migration in 1968 and that he probably wasn't even alive in 1968. Will Smith, who played Jay in the film, was born in 1968.
Yasushi Nirasawa worked on some designs for the Edgar Bug which ultimately went unused. One of his takes on the Edgar Bug was a creature more humanoid in form, with two heads and very long arms which resembled the forelegs of a praying mantis.
Kay tells Edgar the Bug that he is in violation of section 4153 of the Tycho Treaty. This is a reference to director Barry Sonnenfeld's birthday, April 1 1953 (4-1-53).
WILHELM SCREAM: When Edgar is pulled into the hole by the bug.
Quentin Tarantino was originally offered the chance to direct, but turned it down.
The high-pitched whine the neurolyzer makes when it flashes is the sound of a strobe flash's capacitor recharging.
Producers Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald originally wanted Barry Sonnenfeld to direct, because he had helmed the darkly humorous Addams Family movies. However, Soonenfeld was making Get Shorty (1995) at the time, so Les Mayfield was going to replace him, because the positive reception to his film Miracle on 34th Street (1994). The producers saw that film later and decided he was inappropriate for a sci-fi comedy, so they decided to wait until Sonnenfeld was available.
Rick Baker constructed an animatronic of the giant Bug to use in the film, but to his annoyance changes to the script's climax required that the Bug be rendered in computer-generated imagery.
David Schwimmer was asked to play the role of J before Will Smith, but turned it down.
Tony Shalhoub played Jack Jeebs in this film, a few episodes of Men in Black: The Series (1997) and in Men in Black II (2002).
The song "Over the Rainbow" was going to be used in the opening sequence.
Producer Steven Spielberg hired Jurassic Park (1993) and The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) collaborator David Koepp to do an uncredited rewrite.
The film titles were designed by legendary artist Pablo Ferro, sharing the style of one of his most famous works: the opening sequence of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
Bruce Campbell was set to appear in a small role, but he backed out to star in the television film Tornado! (1996).
Much of the initial script drafts were set underground, with locations ranging from Kansas to Washington, D.C. and Nevada. Barry Sonnenfeld decided to change the location to New York City, because the director felt New Yorkers would be tolerant of aliens who behaved oddly while disguised. He also felt much of the city's structures resembled flying saucers and rocket ships.
When K takes J through the arrivals and customs area, there is an alien father and son. The father is played by Debbie Lee Carrington, who went on to dress up as a mini-Mimi Bobeck on The Drew Carey Show (1995), while the son was played by Verne Troyer, who went on to play Mini-Me in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999).
When K is searching for his old girlfriend, when the satellite video feed of her appears, it lists coordinates of Latitude of 44.41 N and Longitude of 70.0 West. On a map, those coordinates are in the small town of Readfield, Maine, in the middle of Chimney Road, about 3000 feet Northwest (or so) from the intersection of Chimney Road and Main Street.
According to Vincent D'Onofrio, he based his voice as Edgar on George C. Scott and John Huston.
The Stadium the ship flies over during the baseball games is Shea Stadium in Flushing, Queens NY. The player that gets hit on the head with the fly ball is then NY Mets outfielder Bernard Gilkey.
The automobile Agents K and J drive (which J describes as a "Ford P.O.S.") is a 1987 Ford LTD Crown Victoria.
To make them into credible flying saucers, the CG renditions of the towers at Flushing Meadows, Corona Park, where the finale takes place, are substantially different from the actual buildings. Primarily, there are actually three structures of varying height, not two as shown in the film. Additionally, the saucer dish of the shortest tower intersects with the poles of the taller ones, and the dish of the mid-sized tower intersects with the pole of the largest one. Therefore, there is really only one complete saucer - on top of the tallest building. Moreover, the dish atop the highest tower is double the thickness of the shorter tower, not equal as depicted in the film.
The scene where James Edwards chases a disguised alien was to occur at the Lincoln Center. But once the New York Philharmonic decided to charge the filmmakers for using their buildings, Barry Sonnenfeld and Bo Welch went for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
The film's climax takes place on the site in Flushing Meadows, New York, where the 1964 World's Fair was held.
The double-action revolver carried by the tow-truck driver and later by Edgar in the morgue scene is a Ruger Super Redhawk .44 Magnum, which is available in two barrel lengths. This one has a 9-1/2" barrel and weighs 58 ounces (i.e., a little over 3-1/2 pounds) empty.
John Turturro was offered the role of Edgar, but had to decline due to other commitments.
According to the computer when his identity is being erased, Will Smith's character James D. Edwards III had the social security number 905-80-5406.
The housewife is named Beatrice, which is a reference to sci-fi author Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s 1959 novel 'The Sirens of Titan'.


The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

According to the novelization, J is right to shoot Tiffany, the cardboard cutout on the MIB firing range. She's actually a dangerous alien in disguise, while all of the other aliens around are completely harmless.
During the shoot, there was a script revision which changed the role of the 'Galaxy' in the movie - the two Arquillians at the restaurant were originally warring species, who would exchange the galaxy to end a war which Edgar Bug wanted to keep going. Fortunately, some creative tricks could be used to avoid having to re-shoot several scenes. For instance, the Arquillian restaurant dialogue was originally in English, but were redubbed in post-production in an alien language that could be subtitled with a new explanation. Similarly, new expository lines were written for Frank the Pug, whose scenes had to go through post-production anyway. Director Barry Sonnenfeld could be heard on the DVD bonus material jokingly advising fellow directors to include a talking dog into every movie, which makes it easy to change the plot while filming.
At the end of the film, Agent J reveals to Agent L that Dennis Rodman is an alien. This was changed to Michael Jackson in the German dubbing of the film due to Dennis Rodman not being widely known in Germany. Oddly enough, Michael Jackson makes a cameo in the sequel Men in Black II (2002).
The climax was going to be a humorous existential dialogue between agents J and K and the Bug, but the studio called for a more action-packed climax, so it was changed to the Bug getting blown up.
The final scene reveals that our universe is seen to exist in a gaming marble, just like the miniature galaxy. Both the scene and concept of the miniature galaxy were was inspired from Douglas Adams's novel 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy', where Ford Prefect tells Arthur Dent he knew of a planet that got used in a game of inter-galactic bar billiards and was potted into a black hole ("only scored 30 points, too").
After Edgar bug kills the Arquillians in the diner he leaves the restaurant and walks down the sidewalk. The camera cuts back to the cat in the restaurant where we hear the cat growl. The cat's growl is actually a sound effect from the "zombie" monster in the 1996 PC game Quake (1996).
The appearance of a female with the initial L (Laurel Weaver/Agent L) appears to be in keeping with the main MiB agents (J, K, and L). However, it could also be a reference to the comic hero Superman, an alien who often dealt with females with initials of L (Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris, etc). Weaver's designation as L is also a clever language joke: the French pronoun "elle" means "she" or "her".

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