We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

Will Smith did one of his best movies after Spielberg interrogated him

We can thank Steven Spielberg for a lot of things, but now we know we owe him one for getting Will Smith to star in one of the best '90s movies ever made.

Will Smith in Men in Black

In the ’90s, you couldn’t get far without hearing or seeing Will Smith in some capacity. As a small screen prince, a music sensation, and a movie star on the rise, Will Smith was undoubtedly earning a place in pop culture. In doing so, he ended up making some of the best comedy movies and best action movies around.

One of our favorites, 1997’s Men in Black, marked a combination of genres. It was scary aliens meets over-the-top physical comedy. It was world-ending stakes taking place in the stylish cityscape of New York. It was also Will Smith at his finest, playing a disbelieving agency rookie against Tommy Lee Jones‘ hardened mentor. It turns out, however, that Smith needed a little convincing from one of the best directors in the world to take on the role.

Just a year prior, Smith had starred in one of the best alien movies of all time with Independence Day. (The man punches an alien in the face…what more could you want?) So when Men in Black came calling, he was quick to turn it down. A ‘been there, done that’ mentality, for sure.

In a conversation with Kevin Hart on the latter’s show Hart to Heart (released on Peacock today, August 3, 2023), Smith discussed the Men in Black offer, saying that it was originally picked out for him by James Lassiter, his business partner at the time.

“[Lassiter] picked Men in Black, I kinda understood Men in Black a little bit, but I didn’t want to make Men in Black,” Smith said. “That was the next year after Independence Day, so I didn’t want to make two alien movies back-to-back.”

YouTube Thumbnail

However, cinematic big daddy Steven Spielberg was producing Men in Black at the time, and didn’t take too easily to Smith’s rejection of his new project. So much so, that he told Smith to come and see him about it.

“Steven Spielberg sent a helicopter for me,” Smith said. “It landed at his house, and he had me at ‘hello.’ And it was the first time I’d ever had lemonade with carbonated water. I was like, ‘This is regular.’ He flew me in, and he said the coldest shit.”

“He said, ‘Tell me why you don’t want to make my movie.’ And he’s the producer,” Smith says. “And he put the ellipsis at the end, it was the dot, dot, dot. ‘Tell me why you don’t want to make my movie.’ It was the dot, dot, dot. If he had continued, he would’ve said, ‘Joker, you know I made Jaws, right? You know I made E.T.'”

YouTube Thumbnail

If anyone knows a thing or two about aliens, it has to be the man that made the one alien movie that leaves us in tears each and every time, right? Of course, Smith eventually saw the light (with a little convincing from Spielberg of course), and signed onto Men in Black, which ended up being one of the best science fiction movies of the ’90s.

We guess he remembered Spielberg’s words enough to keep him coming back for two more installments.

Take a look at our list of the best Steven Spielberg movies to catch up on his astonishing filmography. You can also get to know those outer-space folk a little more with our guides to the Alien timeline and the best Star Wars aliens. Plus, take a trip down memory lane with our Aliens review.