Men In Black's 'Entire Plot' Got A Rewrite After Filming Had Wrapped

Loosely based on a Marvel comic book series, the science fiction comedy "Men in Black” became the summer blockbuster of 1997. Secret Agents K and J (Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith) regulate alien activity on Earth and must prevent war by stopping a huge alien cockroach from stealing the tiny but subatomic energy rich Arquilian Galaxy.

The film had to overcome hurdle after hurdle and almost didn't make it to the big screen. The movie's director, Barry Sonnenfeld, worked on developing the project for six years before he left twice after having disagreements with producers (he used the time away to direct "Get Shorty"). Then the script had to go through several revisions; a reworking of the script was Tommy Lee Jones' stipulation for joining the project, which was just the beginning of the behind-the-scenes headaches caused by his casting. In fact, Ed Solomon, the screenwriter who wrote the "MIB," told Inverse that he was fired and rehired four times. "The making of the film was very stressful for me," Solomon said. "The multiple years; the multiple, multiple, multiple drafts..."

The original plot was deemed too complicated

In an interview with Vulture, "MIB" director Barry Sonnenfeld revealed that after filming finally wrapped — just when he, screenwriter Ed Solomon et al. thought they were done — they learned the entire plot would require yet another rewrite. "...[W]hen we were done shooting, we were two weeks away from finishing the movie and about to go record the score when [Sony's] John Calley at the studio felt the story was too complicated and changed the entire plot, via subtitles when the aliens were speaking and additional stuff that was on the big board," Sonnenfeld said.

According to IGN, the original plot involved planet Earth being caught up in a war between two races fighting against each other for the galaxy and the bugs; the bugs apparently thrive off the chaos. In the rewrites, mentions of the warring races were removed for the most part and the remaining plot holes were filled in by the alien subtitles and Frank the Pug. The late John Calley knows a little something about plot, having supervised many groundbreaking movies, including "A Clockwork Orange," the original "Exorcist," and "All the President's Men."

I'm not sure how the two warring races plotline would have been received by fans and critics alike, but going with the simpler plot served the movie well, especially considering that it was going to be Will Smith's summer follow up to the smash hit "Independence Day." Overly complicated plots usually don't make for good summer blockbusters. The most iconic summer movies — like "Jaws" — have easy to follow plots. 

That wasn't the last production hiccup with the MIB franchise

Barry Sonnenfeld directed the first three "MIB" films, and the studios requiring a rewrite after filming is far from the last hiccup the director would run into while working on the franchise. Though a commercial success, making "MIB II" was such a disaster that Sonnenfeld had a medical episode onset and required a trip to the hospital. He has since talked about some regrets he has regarding the sequel. During the making of "MIB 3," the script wasn't even completed when production began, which is usually an omen of bad things to come. Production was eventually paused to fix the script. Sonnenfeld told Vulture that they shot the first act, took a hiatus to rework the script and then returned to shoot the second and third acts.

These types of hiccups aren't unique to the "MIB” franchise. Sonnenfeld recounted a similar experience when he directed 1991's "The Addams Family." Two weeks before shooting began, the cast protested the allusion that Uncle Fester may be an imposter, so the script had to be tweaked. But that's all just a part of the business for Sonnenfeld. "I don't like reading all the [behind-the-scenes] reports, because ultimately, I feel like the only thing that should matter is the finished product, not how you get there," Sonnenfeld said.

If I were Sonnenfeld, I would probably have the same attitude. But as a fan and screenwriter peeking in from the outside, I love reading all about the juicy behind-the-scenes drama.