25 Fun Facts About “Men in Black”

We’ve all wondered whether or not we’re truly alone in the universe, and it’s for that reason that alien media is so popular within science fiction.  Some have even theorized that extraterrestrial beings already live among us, and no film illustrates that scenario better than 1997’s Men in Black.

Darkly and sarcastically hilarious, with stellar effects that hold up today, and with a sense of thoughtfulness and philosophy, there’s a reason people remember this film so fondly.  So in honor of its 25th anniversary today, we thought it would be fun to look at 25 fun facts about Men in Black!

1. John Landis was originally offered the job to direct, but turned it down, feeling that it was just like his previous film The Blues Brothers, but with aliens.  However in hindsight he admitted that he regrets that decision.

2. Prior to casting Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith, the parts of K and J were offered to Clint Eastwood and Chris O’Donnell, both of whom turned it down.

3. The source comic was much darker and less humorous in tone.

4. Will Smith was reluctantly to take the role at first, since he had just completed another alien-themed movie Independence Day and didn’t want to do the same thing again.  Eventually, his wife Jada convinced him to take the part.

5. The initial script was going to be set in locations like Kansas and Nevada, but director Barry Sonnenfeld thought that New York City would be a much easier place for aliens to blend in, since they could easily hide in plain sight and New Yorkers are accustomed to seeing weird things in general.

He also felt that NYC had buildings that genuinely looked like flying saucers for the aliens to better blend in.

6. To prepare for the role of Edgar, Vincent D’Onofrio watched documentaries about insects, and even had his knees braced so that he couldn’t bend them, thus giving him that very unnatural movement.

7. The opening scene with Mikey getting shot involved blowing up a 25 gallon drum of blue “goo” in the desert.

8. The film’s original ending was a humorous and existential conversation between Agent J and Edgar.  However Barry Sonnenfeld wanted it to be more action-oriented and re-wrote it mid-production.

9. There was another entire subplot that involved a war between two races of aliens, the Arquillians and Baltians.  This was dropped towards the end of production, resulting in the subtitles being changed for the diner scene.  Additionally, because this was done so late, the film’s novelization still contains that subplot.

10. Linda Fiorentino reportedly “won” her role in the film during a poker game with Barry Sonnenfeld.

MIB 10
She brings great comedic timing and has really strong chemistry with Will Smith.

11. Shooting J’s chase scene at the Guggenheim Museum in New York was a last minute change because their original location (Lincoln Center) was going to charge them for shooting.

12. Will Smith was actually crushing mustard packets with his foot during the cockroach scene.  The American Humane Society was even on set to ensure that all the roaches used were unharmed, and all accounted for and collected back at the end of the day.

13. Barry Sonnefeld initially wanted to play the role of the morgue worker, but cast David Cross because he felt like they both had the same “energy”.

14. The Men in Black headquarters is actually the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel Ventilator Shaft, which is the ventilation tower of the tunnel that connects Manhattan to Brooklyn.  This was the first and only film (except for Men in Black II) to use this location.

MIB 14
It plays right into the “hiding in plain sight” concept, since you’d never expect a secret agency to be underneath something so seemingly mundane.

15. The entire MIB aesthetic, down to their headquarters and wardrobe was modeled after the 1960’s, since that’s when the program would have started.

16. Makeup/effects legend Rick Baker said that working on Men in Black was the most complicated production of his career, because director Barry Sonnenfeld and executive producer Steven Spielberg both had different ideas of the alien designs they wanted and often gave him conflicting guidance.

17. Edgar’s makeup design took Rick Baker and team six hours each day before shooting began.

18. Tommy Lee Jones reportedly got frustrated during production because he wanted to play Agent K with more of a comedic edge, but Barry Sonnenfeld insisted he “play it straight” because the tone worked better if he was always serious.

19. Rick Baker and his team built a massive animatronic for Edgar in his bug form, however the production ultimately used CGI for the scene, something which frustrated Baker greatly.

MIB 19
The CGI was solid by 90’s standards, but it still would have been cool to see that animatronic in action.

20. The iconic sugar water scene took 15 takes, and by the end Vincent D’Onofrio was disoriented and “high” from all the sugar.

21. The success of Men in Black inspired Marvel to option more comic book properties to Columbia Pictures, the next of which was Spider-Man.

22. Won an Oscar for Best Makeup, and was nominated for Best Art Direction and Best Music.  Also won Saturn Awards for Best Sci-Fi Film, Best Music, and Best Supporting Actor (Vincent D’Onofrio).

23. Internet blog Bad Astronomy, which normally critiques sci-fi movies for scientific accuracy, gave Men in Black a positive review, praising its depiction of astronomy as very accurate.

24. Following the film’s release, Ray-Ban “Predator 2” sunglasses (which the MIB sport) skyrocketed in sales.

MIB 24
J’s right, he does make it all look good!

25. Men in Black was the 3rd highest grossing film of 1997 (behind Titanic and The Lost World: Jurassic Park).  It grossed $589 million on a $90 million budget.

Which of these did you already know?  Which ones surprised you?  Let us know in the comments!

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