“Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.” – Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) When Men in Black landed in theaters for the July 4th weekend in 1997, it brought a new sense of cool to the sci-fi comedy genre. From the dark suits and shades to Will Smith’s #1 rap single, the big-budget adventure had a style all its own, and it quickly became a smash hit drawing in audiences of all ages. The original film was so huge it spawned two sequels, an animated TV show, video games, and even a theme park ride. But even 17 years after it became a Hollywood sensation, there are plenty of behind-the-scenes stories that you might not know.
- The Original ‘Men’ Were Mean
The movie is based on a little-known comic book series, The Men in Black, created by Lowell Cunningham. Originally, only six issues were published in the early ‘90s, it was about black-suited secret agents who kept the public in the dark about aliens on Earth. But unlike the movie, the agents in the book also dealt with other supernatural beings like werewolves, zombies, and demons. And the characters weren’t nearly as nice, resorting to blatant destruction and even murder to keep their secrets.
- Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith Weren’t the First Choices
It’s impossible to imagine anyone other than Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith in the lead roles of Agents K and J. Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood was reportedly approached to play K originally, but he turned it down. Eastwood and Jones would later venture into outer space together in 2000’s Space Cowboys. And Chris O’Donnell was originally considered to play Agent J, but he also passed. It was director Barry Sonnefeld’s wife who spotted Smith on an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air who first suggested him for the role.
- It Was Much More Complicated
The screenplay had a detailed backstory about two warring alien races who were battling over the missing galaxy that ends up in the hands of the Men in Black. When test audiences watched an early cut, though, they found the multiple aliens confusing. So the filmmakers decided to change it to just one type of alien threatening the planet. Luckily for them, most of the dialogue explaining the story was spoken by aliens, so the filmmakers were able to replace dialogue and rewrite subtitles to simplify everything.
- A Last-Minute Change Cost Big Bucks
Originally, the crew filmed an ending where Agent J and the villainous alien bug had more of a philosophical discussion than a big fight. But the filmmakers decided it didn’t live up to the action-packed tone of the rest of the film. So they had to scrap the full-size, robotic alien created by the film’s Oscar-winning makeup designer, Rick Baker, and replace it with a fully computer-generated version at the cost of $4.5 million dollars. They did save money on one effect, though: when J angers the bug by squishing cockroaches, Will Smith was actually stomping on mustard packets.
- Steven Spielberg Is an Alien
Hollywood legend Steven Spielberg produced the film, but he also makes a very brief cameo appearance. When Agent K is showing J all of the Earth’s “known aliens” on a view screen, Spielberg shows up as one of the extraterrestrials in disguise. Other famous faces on the screen include Star Wars creator George Lucas, Danny DeVito, Dionne Warwick, Al Roker, designer Isaac Mizrahi, Newt Gingrich, Sylvester Stallone, and the movie’s director, Barry Sonnenfeld.
Today, Men in Black is one of the rare blockbuster hits that is just as entertaining today as when it first hit the big screen, and it has laughs and thrills that can be enjoyed by kids and adults. That’s why it’s a featured film selection at SpiritClips, the only streaming service that handpicks high-quality movies that are appropriate for all ages. You can try out SpiritClips for free for one week, and subscribe for as little as $2.99 a month. See it all at www.spiritclips.com.
The SpiritClips staff hopes our latest release, “Extraordinary Life”, allows you to see how special your memories are in the context of our national history. Below are some of the filmcards that we’ve made and shared with our loved ones. We hope that they encourage you to make and celebrate your own “Extraordinary Lives”.
Executive Producer Craig Ginsberg sent this personalized Valentine’s Day filmcard to his wife.
Executive Producer Tyrrell Shaffner made this personalized filmcard for her parents’ 40th wedding anniversary.
Editor Mitch Rouse made this filmcard for his girlfriend for Valentine’s Day.
Interaction Designer Ellen Perry made her card to celebrate the canines in her life.
Nare Mkrtchyan made this personalized card to make her boyfriend smile on Valentine’s Day
Sure, it’s 110 degrees in the Valley today, but why not take a moment to celebrate those things we usually do it when it’s chillier: compassion, generosity and family.
Here is our Flickr photostream for the green screen shoot for “The Gift of the Magi”, a SpiritClip based on O’Henry’s famous Christmas short story, which celebrates a poor, young couple’s love over their most prized possessions.
We shot this film in the summer of last year, so we quite literally had Christmas in the midst of summer: it got pretty hot wearing those period costumes! The actors were shot in front of a green screen so that turn of the century New York could be recreated using Visual F/X.
You can see the final product (with some pretty amazing CGI animation) of “The Gift of the Magi” at SpiritClips
Read O’Henry’s original story at Project Gutenburg
Actor Joe Tran stars as the Vietnamese guard in “Indivisible”, a SpiritClip based on John McCain’s experiences in a POW camp. Joe’s parents are from South Vietnam, and in this interview he shares the story of how his father’s friendship with American soldiers during the Vietnam War led to the actor being named Joe. Watch “Indivisible” at SpiritClips
Composer Patrick Kirst takes us onto the sound stage for the recording of the “The Price of Miracles” score, and shares how the hand drawn animation inspired the music for the film.
Deborah Ann Woll & Eric Nenninger, stars of the film “La Cachette,” talk about what they take from a film (literally):