Here comes the 'Men in Black' hiatus
EXCLUSIVE: After a postponement of roughly a month, Will Smith's upcoming sci-fi comedy "Men In Black 3" will begin shooting tomorrow in New York. But in an unusual move for a big-budget Hollywood film, the production will take a nearly two-month hiatus from filming when it wraps for the holidays.
Two sources close to the 3-D production say the plan is for the film to shoot through the week of Christmas, then shut down until the middle of February, when it will resume.
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of sensitivities around the big-budget 3-D movie, say that screenwriter Jeff Nathanson, whose credits include "Catch Me If You Can" and "Rush Hour 2," has also been brought in to begin work this week on a new draft of the film's script. Nathanson will specifically work on the story's time-travel component that sees a leap back to 1969, when Josh Brolin appears as a young Agent Kay (the character made popular by Tommy Lee Jones, who also reprises the role in this film).
"Tropic Thunder" writer Etan Cohen authored the first draft of the screenplay.
The shoot that begins this week will focus on the film's present-day events, while the production that picks up in mid-February will be centered on the 1969 storyline, the sources said.
The schedule likely won't affect the planned release of the film, which is scheduled for May 2012. But production shut-downs are very rare, especially on bigger-budget films, as they tend to drive up costs (the crew must continue to be paid during the shut-down).
The film's producer confirmed the hiatus but said it was not the result of creative disagreement but rather part of a plan conceived months ago that would allow the production to begin in 2010 but allow parts of the movie, which is set in the summer, to shoot in a more temperate climate.
"We had to start shooting this year to take advantage of New York State tax incentives, but we also needed to be able to shoot certain exteriors in warmer weather," producer Walter Parkes said. "So back in July we had the idea to keep the start date but build in a hiatus so we could essentially extend the production to late spring.”
A Sony spokesman on Monday echoed Parkes' statement.
The news of the hiatus comes after reports last month that the third installment of the Smith-led franchise was being pushed back from its October start date -- the second time that the preproduction process was halted -- because of dissenting views on the story among Smith, director Barry Sonnenfeld and the movie's producers.
At the time Sony said the delay was happening for tax-incentive reasons and was not related to any creative disagreement.
The script for "MIB 3" has generated a lot of talk in the blogosphere, particularly for the "Back to The Future"-style plot twist that sends Smith's Agent Jay back to 1969. According to those who've read said script, he travels back in time and meets Andy Warhol (who is secretly an alien) and other counterculture figures such as Yoko Ono and Jimi Hendrix (also secretly aliens).
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in "Men in Black." Credit: Sony Pictures