Will Smith reflected on his role in one of Steven Speilberg’s blockbuster hit films during a sit down with comedian Kevin Hart on an upcoming episode of his Peacock series, “Hart to Heart,” airing Aug. 3.
Smith told Hart that he nearly did not make one of his most successful films, 1997’s “Men In Black.” He claims he had recently completed filming “Independence Day” and didn’t want to do another film about aliens so close together.
In the months leading up to the start of the film’s production in May 1996, it took some persuasion from film producer James Lassiter before Smith agreed to meet with Spielberg, and the famed director sent Smith a private helicopter for the meeting.
“JL [Lassiter] picked ‘Men in Black’,” said Smith. “I kinda 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.”
However, Spielberg changed Smith’s mind about taking the role in the film.
“Steven Spielberg sent a helicopter for me,” Smith said. “To talk. It landed at his house. And he had me at ‘Hello.’”
“Well, yeah. You can’t say no after you get off a helicopter,” Hart chimed in.
Smith added that Spielberg said the “coldest s—t” to him over some carbonated lemonade.
“He said ‘Tell me why you don’t want to make my movie …’ He put the ellipses at the end. … If he had continued, he woulda said, ‘Joker, you know I made ‘Jaws,’ right? You know I made ‘E.T.'”
“Men In Black” ended up making more than $589 million and resulted in three sequels. Smith was reportedly paid $5 million for the first film, $20 million for the second film plus 10 percent of the film’s box office, and $100 million for the third.
The “Summertime” rapper also co-wrote the film’s theme song and starred in the music video, which was given a $1 million budget, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Both earned him a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance.
Smith also said that it was Lassiter who pushed him to do “The Pursuit of Happyness” and “Ali,” two movies that Smith also didn’t want to make originally. Both films ended up being two of the actor’s most successful movies and resulted in two Oscar nominations for the star.
The 54-year-old actor eventually won an Academy Award for his performance as Venus and Serena Williams‘ coach and father in the 2022 film “King Richard.” Smith also received a 10-year ban from the Academy after he slapped comedian Chris Rock on stage after Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. He is currently filming “Bad Boys 4,” with Martin Lawrence.