Films

Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones weren’t supposed to be in ‘Men in Black’

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Tom Victor
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There are some films which you couldn’t possibly picture with different actors in the lead roles.

Al Pacino just is Michael Corleone, and it’s impossible to envisage someone else, but Jack Nicholson was initially approached for the role.

We can’t begin to imagine how different The Godfather Part II might have been if that had come to fruition, just as we can’t imagine Leonardo DiCaprio as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho or Will Smith as Neo in The Matrix. Yet all of these were very real possibilities.

Smith might have only been in the mix for that role due to his unforgettable performance in Men in Black. However, as you’ve probably worked out, that bit of casting wasn’t always set in stone.

Speaking to the Huffington Post, director Barry Sonnenfeld explained that executive producer Steven Spielberg had other ideas for Smith’s Agent J and Tommy Lee Jones’ Agent K.

Spielberg reportedly wanted Chris O’Donnell for the role, and the Batman Forever actor might well have got it if not for an act of apparent sabotage from the director.

″[Spielberg] told me I had to go to dinner with Chris and convince Chris to be in the movie,” Sonnenfeld told the publication.

“But I knew I wanted Will Smith, so I told Chris that I wasn’t a very good director and I didn’t think the script was very good and if he had any other options he shouldn’t do Men in Black.

“He let it be known the next day that he was not interested.”

While Smith was making the role his own, O’Donnell was putting in a Razzie-nominated performance for Batman & Robin. One can only imagine how Men in Black might have panned out with him in Smith’s place.

Chris O'Donnell in 'Batman & Robin'

As for Agent K, Jones was in the mix early on but wasn’t always a lock for the role.

Sonnenfeld’s relationship with the Oscar-winning actor is what sealed the deal, but Clint Eastwood was the executives’ first choice.

Eastwood might not have ever been as close to starring in Men in Black as O’Donnell, but his one lead role that year – in Absolute Power – wasn’t the same box office success.

For now, we’re trying to imagine Eastwood and O’Donnell having the same chemistry as Smith and Jones. As hard as we try, we can’t see it coming close.

(Images: Rex Features)