FRANCE - JULY 18:  Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith in Paris, France on July 18, 2002.  (Photo by Alain BENAINOUS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Movies - TV
Casting Tommy Lee Jones Caused Behind the Scenes Headaches For Men In Black
When Tommy Lee Jones was cast in “Men in Black” as Agent K, the mentor to Will Smith’s character J, it initially caused two issues for writer Ed Solomon. One had to do with Solomon’s creative direction for Jones’ character, while the other issue was with the actor’s infamously hostile personality towards people he worked with.
At that time, Jones had won the Oscar for his performance in “The Fugitive” and was a bigger star than Smith, so there was some push behind the scenes to make Jones the lead. However, the story that Solomon wanted to tell was through the eyes of a newbie like Smith’s J character rather than through the experience of Jones’ Agent K character.
In their first meeting, Solomon remembered how Jones demanded that the writer “make up [his] mind” about whether the film was a comedy or sci-fi drama and inexplicably called him an “a**hole.” While confused at his hostility, Solomon said that he told Jones that the movie “wasn't good enough science fiction to be drama. That it needed the kinds of leaps of faith that a comedy allows.”
When filming finally started, Solomon also recalled director Barry Sonnenfeld saying to him, “'I think Tommy finally figured out he was in a comedy.' I think the fact that he didn't know is what [made] him so great in it. And he was great, I thought." His sentiment echoed what many of his collaborators have said about Jones, which is that while he’s a talented actor, he isn’t the easiest person to work with.