Why Will Smith nearly declined his ‘Men In Black’ role
(Credit: Gage Skidmore)

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Why Will Smith nearly declined his 'Men In Black' role

Former rapper and esteemed actor Will Smith is a highly decorated entertainer who has been the recipient of Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Screen Actors Guild Awards, and BAFTAs. However, one of his first big films after the sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, was the 1997 action film Men in Black. 

However, the actor almost turned down the role of Agent J but was cleverly convinced by the renowned E.T. director Steven Spielberg to accept the offer, which saw him become the star of the epic film franchise.

During an appearance on Kevin Hart’s Peacock chat show, Hart to Heart, Smith spoke extensively about the film, which grossed $589million worldwide and detailed how he didn’t want to a sci-fi film as he had just featured in Independence Day only a year earlier.

Opening up about his mindset at the time, Smith unveiled, “In the heyday, the ten movies I made at the top of my career, [my then-manager James Lassiter] was choosing the films. He just had an eye. I didn’t want to make, Pursuit of happiness. I didn’t want to make Ali. And [James] picked Men in Black.”

He continued, “I kind of understood Men in Black a little bit but I didn’t want to make Men in Black. That was the next year after Independence Day. So I didn’t want to make two alien movies back to back.”

However, the legendary Steven Spielberg, who was the film’s executive producer, knew what he wanted and, with his slick wordplay, managed to get Smith on board despite his initial reservations.

Talking about the snazzy way Spielberg talked him around, Smith disclosed, “Steven Spielberg sent a helicopter for me to talk to me. I was in New York. It landed at his house. And, like, 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.”

He continued, “He said the coldest shit. He said, ‘Tell me why you don’t want to make my movie…’ And he was the producer. And he put the ellipsis at the end; it was the dot, dot, dot. If he had continued, he would have said, ‘Joker, you know I made Jaws, right? You know I made E.T.‘”

Realising that he was considering turning down a role from a proven success, Smith ended up taking on the role and became a bigger star for it. The fourth instalment of another one of Smith’s hit films, Bad Boys, is set to be released next year on June 14th, 2024.

You can hear Smith talking about nearly rejecting the role below.