Men In Black director Barry Sonnenfeld: Keep telling Will Smith to do more comedy

Updated: Aug 30, 2018, 09:10 IST | Sonia Lulla

Men In Black director Barry Sonnenfeld on urging his leading man Will Smith to return to the genre viewers loved to see him in

Men In Black director Barry Sonnenfeld: Keep telling Will Smith to do more comedy
Barry Sonnenfeld. Pic/AFP

Months ago, filmmaker Barry Sonnenfeld's acclaimed outing, Men In Black clocked in 21 years since its release. The comedy that inarguably made leading man Will Smith's career, went on to be cherished by cinephiles across the globe. As the film is set to air on Sony Pix next month, mid-day connects with Sonnenfeld to reflect on the sci-fi.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

Why was it decided upon to make a film of aliens taking refuge as a comedy instead of one with a serious undertone?
I had read a draft of the first Men In Black [series], and loved the idea. It implied that we, as humans, don't have a clue about what's really going on. I love comedy. If MIB was written as a mean alien movie, I would not have been interested in it. This was the only version I was attracted to. Also, I never saw the aliens in MIB as refugees. That was never the intention. They were simply aliens on earth. The film hoped to say that some may blend in, some may not. I remember, when we were scouting for locations in New York, it was normal for us to see someone doing something strange and another announcing, 'Yeah, she's an alien'. So it was never political [to introduce them as refugees].

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

Can you talk about how the casting of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones was arrived at? Whenever I get a script, my wife and I read it together. We finished the first draft and looked at each other. I said to my wife, 'Tommy Lee Jones'. And she said, 'Will Smith'.
In [a majority of] comedies, there's one person who is funny, the one who cracks the jokes. Then, there's the other person; the straight man, who reacts to jokes. You never want two funny people in a comedy. You need one funny person, and one who reacts like viewers will. Will is boisterous, goofy and funny. Tommy is quiet and stern; a Harvard graduate. The two of them loved working with each other. Each one loved the other's point of view. The reason movies are successful is because of the on and off-screen chemistry [actors share].

The MIB series is often considered the series that made Smith. Did you think that this film would pave his way to stardom?
When we started it, Will had been seen in Six Degrees Of Separation. While MIB was underway, Independence Day hadn't released. I knew Will would become a huge star. He was charismatic and funny. Even till this day, I always ask him to do more comedy. Over his career, he began to do more serious movies. But I'm sure viewers would love to see him do comedy again.

Also Read: Will Smith to become author

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