Will Smith came perilously close to declining one of the biggest movies of his career until executive producer Steven Spielberg employed his charm to ensure that the Academy Award winner couldn't resist the opportunity.
During his recent appearance on Kevin Hart’s Peacock series “Hart to Heart,” Smith revealed that he almost turned down the role of Agent J in the blockbuster hit, “Men in Black.”
At the time, he was highly encouraged by his former manager James Lassiter, whom he described as “the arbiter of taste,” to take the gig. However, the prospect of another alien-themed movie didn't quite pique his interest.
“In the heyday, the 10 movies I made at the top of my career, [James] was choosing the films. He just had an eye,” Smith said. I didn’t want to make ‘Pursuit of Happyness.’ I didn’t want to make ‘Ali.’ And [James] picked ‘Men in Black.’ I kind of understood ‘Men in Black’ a little bit but I didn’t want to make ‘Men in Black.’ That was the next year after ‘Independence Day.’ So I didn’t want to make two alien movies back to back.”
Ultimately, word about Smith’s hesitation got back to the Academy Award-winning filmmaker who had been on the project as an executive producer.
“Steven Spielberg sent a helicopter for me to talk to me,” Smith continued. “I was in New York. It landed at his house. And, like, he had me at hello. And it was the first time I ever had lemonade with carbonated water. You can’t say no to that.”
“He said the coldest sh—” the “King Richard” star added. “He said, ‘Tell me why you don’t want to make my movie…’ And he was the producer. And he put the ellipsis at the end, it was the dot, dot, dot. If he had continued, he would have said, ‘Joker, you know I made ‘Jaws,’ right? You know I made ‘E.T.’”
As viewers know, Smith agreed to the film and added another hit film and franchise to his resume. The movie earned $589 million at the worldwide box office and earned three Oscar nominations, one of which it won for “Best Makeup.”