“It was too hard to execute”: Will Smith’s Men in Black Original Script Was So “Anti-action” One Marvel Star Was Forced to Intervene

The film's initial script was much more grounded.

will smith, men in black, marvel

SUMMARY

  • Men in Black was initially going to be a lot more grounded and realistic , before Vincent D'Onofrio joined the cast as Edgar.
  • The film was initially going to be very different, but D'Onofrio crafted a character that lent itself to the zany vibe the film eventually settled in.
  • Films like Men in Black thrived at the turn of the century, when the industry started experimenting with computer animation.
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Men in Black is one of those franchises that defined the late 1990s and the early 2000s, along with franchises like The Mummy and Pirates of the Caribbean. However, given that this was the time when Hollywood did not shy away from experimenting, Men in Black had an earlier draft that would probably have made it less palatable to general audiences.

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Tommy Lee Jones sitting in a car alongside Will Smith
Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith in a still from Men in Black (1997)

Men in Black is a film that can be very neatly categorized as an action comedy. However, an earlier draft of the film did not have nearly as much action as the final cut of the movie and was also really grounded as compared to what the audiences finally got to see. However, thanks to the involvement of one Marvel actor, the film actually ended up doing a lot better as a zany science fiction adventure as opposed to a grounded alien thriller.

Vincent D’Onofrio’s entry in the film changed how it was being approached

Vincent D'Onofrio
Vincent D’Onofrio in Daredevil

Vincent D’Onofrio joined the project pretty early on and came on board to play the character of Eddy, the New York farmer who is slain and then replaced by the alien. D’Onofrio constructed his character carefully and presented it to the director, Barry Sonnenfeld. Sonnenfeld would give D’Onofrio notes and then it was off to the races. When talking about the initial ideas for the film, Sonnefeld, speaking to Vulture, said:

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“It originally didn’t take place in New York — it was in Vegas, D.C., and Lawrence, Kansas. But it was my theory that, if there are aliens, they’d be most at home in New York because they’d fit in without a disguise. If you see a guy talking to himself in Times Square in 90-degree weather in four down jackets, he’s not crazy — it’s just that 90 degrees on his planet is really cold.

He added:

The original scripts had more to do with bugs and pheromones and bugs smelling fear, stuff like that. It was too hard to execute, and it was anti-action. I believe in short movies and not a lot of visual effects. I wanted everything to be as real as it could be. We eventually came to an agreement.”

Vincent D’Onofrio’s entry into the film gave it a new light, as the character of Edgar and the alien who eventually wears his skin got fleshed out, bringing the film its action comedy flavor that it finally worked with, which became an immense hit with audiences.

Men in Black remains one of the most celebrated franchises of the early 2000s

Will Smith in Men in Black
Will Smith in Men in Black

The early 2000s marked the beginning of an odd time in Hollywood, as CGI was taking off as a staple part of the industry, and drama and intrigue were sent to the back shelf in favor of spectacle. Films like The Mummy, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Men in Black took over the film industry, essentially making mini-franchises that were lucrative and fun, but did not require as much worldbuilding as something like the Marvel Cinematic Universe or Star Wars.

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These three franchises would try to make a comeback in modern times but would fail to capture the magic of the original, which one could assume was due to their campy nature in the early 2000s and the late 1990s. While there might be other attempts to recapture the magic that these films held, it is safe to assume that these films together achieved great success at a time, when by all means, the films could have failed horribly for their experimental nature.

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Written by Anuraag Chatterjee

Articles Published: 609

Anuraag Chatterjee, Web Content Writer
With a passion for writing fiction and non fiction content, Anuraag is a Media Science graduate with 2 year's experience with Marketing and Content, with 3 published poetry anthologies. Anuraag holds a Bacherlor's degree in Arts with a focus on Communication and Media Studies.