EXCLUSIVE: Interview With MEN IN BLACK 3 Director Barry Sonnenfeld

Men in Black 3 director Barry Sonnenfeld reveals that there has already been talk of a fourth movie in the franchise and also discusses the 1969 setting, finding the right cast, the special effects, the 3D conversion and much more.

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By Josh Wilding - 5/23/2012
This Friday sees the return of Agent's J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) to the big screen after a ten year absence from theatres. Barry Sonnenfeld returns to helm Men in Black 3 and if you read our 4* review of the movie (find it HERE) you will already know that he does a fantastic job. Last week, I was able to put my questions to the director and he comments on everything from a fourth instalment in the franchise to deleted scenes, the special effects, casting Josh Brolin as a young Agent K, converting the movie to 3D and much, much more. Many thanks to Adelya Khasyanova for her help in setting up and conducting the following interview.



Is Men in Black 3 the end of the franchise or have there been talks of a fourth instalment?

Men in Black 3 is the end of the trilogy and finishes this part of Men in Black. I think it does that very satisfyingly. However, in success, I think Will Smith already has an idea where we can have a Men in Black 4 that would be very satisfying, but we'll see.


Have you thought about whether another movie would take Will Smith back to the past or would it be a spin-off featuring the younger Agent K?

I can't really talk about it, but I think everyone will be very satisfied.


Are there a lot of scenes which didn't make the final cut? Can we expect to see them on the DVD/Blu-ray?

There were very few scenes that didn't make the cut. Most of the stuff we cut out, we cut out at script stage. There are a few little scenes, but nothing that's hugely different.


What challenges did you encounter with the scenes shot for 3D, and in particular the one in which J jumps through time?

I had done a lot of testing of every 3D rig and also shot 2D and converted it to 3D. Based on my tests, I felt that the movie would look much better if it was shot in 2D and converted. So, nothing was shot in native 3D, which allowed me to have much more control over depth. It allowed me to use film instead of digital media, and the time jump was so much fun to work on because I got to control it all in post production.


The reason for choosing 1969 becomes apparent in the final act, but was that always a part of the plan while choosing when to send J back to?

I don't feel that this will give away too much, but the reason we specifically went back to 1969 was because that's when the moon launch occurred and we felt that it was the first time mankind actually stepped onto another planetary body. So, if you're the Men in Black and you're making movies about aliens, it's sort of the first time we became aliens and left the Earth, so there's that. Then 1969 was a great time for music, for culture, for Andy Warhol. And also by going back then, Will gets to experience a little bit of racism for the first time.


The different way J would have been treated in that period is touched upon in a few humorous scenes. Was it important to you to make a point of highlighting that?

It was not an important thing, it wasn't absolutely necessary, but it was I think a part of the culture of the era. I thought we did the right amount of it. We didn't make a big deal out of it, we didn't make it a part of the plot, but we had some fun with it.


With superhero movies now so popular, are there any in particular you would be interested in directing?

You know, I'm talking to Warner Bros. about doing a franchise based on a comic that hasn't been around since the 60s. But it's too early to talk about it. But possibly, yes.


What made you decide to include Andy Warhol and to have more to him than initially meets the eye?

I regret a little bit that Andy Warhol is in the trailer for our movie because we give away the surprise. I always like that what you think you would expect Andy Warhol to be, he isn't. But you know that going into the movie, but it was sort of a double jointed joke.


Did the advances in visual effects since the release of Men in Black 2 make a difference to the scale of the story you wanted to tell?

Very specifically. I don't like using digital technology to create aliens because I like the actors to be able to work with other actors, whether they're aliens or human. However, there are three scenes particularly - the jump off the Chrysler building, all of the moon launch and all of the scene at the baseball stadium - that literally would not have been in the script ten years ago. All three of those sets are 95% digital. Basically, where they're standing is real, but the entire surrounds are all done with tiling and computers. And due to storage and how much faster computers are, and cheaper, those are three scenes that exist only because of digital technology and the excellent work of Ken Ralston and Jay Radd.


Where did the idea for the monocycle chase sequence come from?

The Monocycle was an invention of mine, I just thought about it one night and thought I invented it, and then we went online and discovered they really do exist! And not nearly as technologically as sophisticated a way even though it's '69 technology, but they existed I think as far back as that. Plus, the Men in Black always use alien technology and make it their own, so I think a lot of that from '69 was borrowing some alien technology.


The chemistry between Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones was a big part of the first two films. What made Josh Brolin the right choice to take on the role of a younger K?

As soon as I read that there would be a younger K, I immediately thought exclusively of Josh. I had seen him in W. and thought he was brilliant at portraying George W. Bush, our former President. I had met him several times at parties because Josh and I are both friends with the Cohen's. And he striked me very much the first time I met him as having many physical similarities, especially in head shape and size, to Tommy. So it was an easy decision and obviously we're thrilled that he did it.


Some might view Jemaine Clement as an unconventional choice for a villain like Boris. What made you decide to cast the actor?

I thought he was brilliant in Flight of the Conchords, but the idea to cast him actually was the producers idea, Walter Parks. He had worked with Jemaine on Dinner With Schmucks. Then I met Jemaine, and between his size and his deep, deep voice and his ability to be odd, I thought he'd be great. One of my favourite moments in the movie, because it's such a hiccup, is when Jemaine, playing Boris the Animal, learns how to laugh for the first time like a human and it's so odd. It was totally Jemaine's idea and it was not in the script.


What kind of work did Josh Brolin and Alice Eve do while preparing to play the younger versions of Tommy Lee Jones' K and Emma Thompson's O?

Well, we rehearsed. What Josh did was constantly listen to Tommy Lee Jones from the first movie. He always had an MP3 player on the set and was always listening to the rhythm. Although he's not imitating Tommy Lee Jones, which is fantastic, he's sort of using his voice and his tone and Tommy's lilt and syntax and rythm but creating a personality that's younger and more optimistic. I know that Alice met with Emma Thompson, and they talked for a while and Emma sort of gave Alice her advice on who O is and then we all rehearsed the various scenes together.


Why should audiences check out Men in Black 3?

Oh, that's easy. They should see Men in Black 3 because it's Will's first film in four year's and he's fantastic in it. The 3D is the best 3D they'll ever see so far, it's really spectacular. It's fresh, it's original, but it gives you what you remember you love about the movies and the relationships between Will and Tommy and Will and Josh are just great. It has a very emotional and satisfying ending.


A big thank you to Barry Sonnenfeld for answering the questions above. Don't forget to check out Men in Black 3 when it's released this Friday, and feel free to sound off with your thoughts on all of the above information in the usual place. In case you missed it (seriously?) here is the latest trailer for the film.





STARRING:

Will Smith as Agent J
Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K
Josh Brolin as Young Agent K
Rip Torn as Chief Zed
Emma Thompson as Agent O
Alice Eve as Young Agent O
Nicole Scherzinger as Lilly
Bill Hader as Andy Warhol

RELEASE DATE: May 25th, 2012.


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12 Comments
DoomXfactor - 5/23/2012, 1:16 PM
I hope Avengers takes a big chunk of their box office
Solitario - 5/23/2012, 1:19 PM
"A franchise based on a comic that hasn't been around since the 60s" or "A franchise based on a comic that has been around since the 60s"? It´s very different.
Greengo - 5/23/2012, 1:21 PM
"The monocycle was an invention of mine"

Hmmmmm

ImnotDaredevil - 5/23/2012, 1:37 PM
@teabag you could of included directions with your invention!;)
Greengo - 5/23/2012, 1:39 PM
LMAO!!!

Great interview Josh. Pretty interesting stuff and glad I could READ the interview.

It be cool if the could have edited in Will Smith's bitch slap at some point.

I'm sure he'll bitch slap an alien or two either way.
Greengo - 5/23/2012, 1:40 PM
@ImnotDaredevil: lmfao!! I know right??!!
M4A3E8 - 5/23/2012, 6:42 PM
I was delighted with the first film especially for the ending sequence where we are in a child's marble. Cops and aliens, how can you go wrong ? I was very disappointed by the second film. I think the concept should be turned into a television series, but please scrap the stupidity. The alien species that are introduced should also make sense, and not the moronic "Ball-chinian" type nonsense from the second film. Remember Darren McGavin in "NightStalker" ? You could have a 1950's MIB. Start fresh and keep it real. There is an audience for this, and we deserve it. A writer could have a field day with a television show like that. Remember how good the first season of "Lost" was ? Anything is possible. While I am on a rant, I'd really appreciate it if the director that did the HellBoy movies could please do a Dr Strange movie. Have a great day.
Jolt17 - 5/23/2012, 7:04 PM
I'm very glad to hear that there most likely won't be any more sequel to the series; as much I liked this third entry, it has pretty much put an end to the series nearly perfectly - any attempt to make another movie will make it seems a little bit forced, I believe. I'm also happy with the decision to go with the 1969 era, as all those elements he mentioned above work very well.
NorrinRaddical - 5/23/2012, 7:10 PM
congratulations Josh, cool interview
Jolt17 - 5/23/2012, 10:21 PM
Spoilers! I wish I could also know why didn't they explain the cause of Zed's death...and where has Frank the Pug gone! (His painting in J's room and "The talking dog!" banner at the carnival weren't enough.) Well, those might be spoiler-ish, though, but those holes are some of the weak parts of the movie, IMO - or I'm just too curious.
maximus - 5/24/2012, 1:36 PM
This movies looks weak,only good thing about this movies is that is the last one
JonasWepeel - 5/29/2012, 1:26 PM
@yossarian

SIFL & OLLY!!!!!!!!

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