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Will Smith on what MIB explains about some life forms on earth; Tommy Lee Jones uses ‘stand by your man’ technique for comedy; what have Tommy and Will done with their rolls? Andrew L. Urban brings you things you may not otherwise know, from the official Columbia TriStar production notes for Men in Black II. 

Some of the things the actors say about the film:
Will Smith:
“I just think the concept of the Men in Black, a government organization that polices and monitors extra-terrestrial activity on planet Earth, is cool,” says Smith. “I mean, the fact that things are going on right under our noses. The existence of a Men in Black-type operation explains a lot of things you’ve always wondered about - like how is Regis so successful? Came outa nowhere, all of a sudden he’s the biggest guy on TV; you ask yourself, ‘Why?’ Answer is: because he’s not from here, ya know? So the Men in Black explain a lot of things.”

“The flavor of Men in Black is very distinctly Sonnenfeld,” says Smith. “It’s very Sonnenfeldian. Tommy and I adopt Barry’s sensibilities in playing these characters. It’s different from the way Tommy or I might choose to play these guys on our own. Barry is just a wonderfully bizarre individual and that’s what makes this movie and these characters work.”

“After being partners with the greatest Man in Black in the history of the agency, which is what Kay was, it’s very difficult for Jay to find another one to fill those shoes,” explains Smith. “So, he, in effect, becomes Kay. You know, slightly cynical, slightly jaded. That sort of attitude may be great for the job but not for your personal life. You get out of touch with people. You get lonely being a Man in Black.”

“When Jay meets Laura, he’s quite enchanted by her and he sort of goes off-book, specifically with the part of MIB protocol that specifies all witnesses must be debriefed and neuralized. He’s attracted to her and he doesn’t want to neuralize her because he wants her to remember him.”

Tommy Lee Jones:
Jones who had been known exclusively for dramatic roles, would add another nomination to the mix of what makes Men in Black work as a comedy.

“I don’t have a sense of humor of any recognizable kind,” the actor says wryly. “I’ve been very lucky because my mark is often right next to Will’s. So, the key to being funny for me is to stand as close to Will Smith as possible and do everything Barry tells me to do. It appears, on some occasions, I’ve gotten away with that.”

“We don’t really go into details about his life in the post office,” Jones says about Kay. “But you get the idea that he’s not really enjoying it. He’s a good postmaster. The people of Truro, Massachusetts like him. But I doubt he’s one hundred percent happy. I’ve really never been neuralized myself but you would expect that one would always have the idea that there was something missing.”

“The movie doesn’t really go into those things in great detail. The point is to go get Kay and bring him back on the job. We try to do that as expeditiously as possible without dwelling on these details. Any individual audience member is welcome to fill in the blanks. There are plenty of guideposts for people to do their own background on these issues. They don’t concern us because once we’re underway and our ship has sailed, we have bigger things to deal with.” 

The roll of the actor:
"Tommy and Will have reversed their rolls when the story begins.”
We wish we’d seen that reversal of rolls. Was it a brown roll and a white roll?
No wonder the publicist is not an agent: would you ring your acting client with the offer of a big roll in the next Sonnenfeld film? 

The instant movie poster:
“I always thought we were making a little buddy movie with a bunch of smoke and mirrors to make you think there was a science fiction element in it,” says the director. “But it opened very well and, a week later, three other movies had newspaper ads with their actors wearing sunglasses. And Will’s song was playing everywhere you went. So, it was kinda cool how, all of a sudden, it had pervaded society.”
And a week after that, presumably, they all opened around the country to huge box office – just can’t recall their titles….. Considering that it takes several weeks to set up a photo shoot with actors, not to mention booking the ads and totally ignoring the art director’s arrangements or the mere making of the films, this event should have made the Guiness Book of Records. 

Product placement pointers:
One other Agent Jay influence comes in the MIB automotive department. In the original, Jay disparaged the styling of Kay’s Ford LTD. This time around, Agent Jay has taken care of that problem by installing himself in a 2003 E-500 model Mercedes which makes its debut in MIBII.

While MIB became celluloid proof of the cultural maxim that one should never underestimate the influence of cool hardware and Raybans, MIBII could unleash upon an unsuspecting world new standards for hipness from which it might take years for popular culture to fully recover.

Published July 4, 2002

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