EXCLUSIVE: The theme song goes, “Here come the Men in Black.” But they’re not coming so fast.
After a hiatus of nearly two months, "Men in Black III," the third installment in the sci-fi/comedy franchise, was to resume production this week in New York. But studio Sony and the film's producers have pushed back the production date again. Shooting is now delayed to March 28 owing to ongoing script issues, according to a person close to the 3-D production who was not authorized to speak about it publicly.
The delay comes on the heels of a previous postponement and hiatus. The Will Smith sequel was initially set to start shooting in October. But producers delayed the start date by nearly a month (a New York Post report at the time noted creative disagreements between Smith and filmmakers, a report that Sony denied). About a month later, producers opted to break production of the film into two phases: the first part, set in the present, would begin in November and wrap before the holidays (it in fact did that), but the second part, set in 1969, would not begin shooting until mid-February.
In the meantime, "Catch Me If You Can" screenwriter Jeff Nathanson was brought in to do new work on the script, working off a previous draft by "Tropic Thunder" writer Etan Cohen.
It's very unusual for a production of such scale to take a holiday break of nearly two months. At the time, producer Walter Parkes and a Sony spokesperson said that a mix of seasonal concerns and tax incentives, not creative disagreements, were responsible for the break.
"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," Parkes told 24 Frames last year. "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.”
The person close to the production said that although producers had hoped they could begin shooting this week, the lack of a ready script made that impossible. Parkes and a Sony spokesman were not immediately available for comment.
The plot for the new film, which is being directed by Barry Sonnenfeld (helmer of the first two installments), takes the franchise further into whimsical territory. In addition to Smith as Agent J, Tommy Lee Jones reprises his role as the wisecracking Agent K in the present (the part already shot). Josh Brolin, through a time-travel twist, plays a young Agent K from 1969 who encounters countercultural figures such as Andy Warhol and Yoko Ono, according to a person who read a version of the script in November.
It's unclear if the delays will affect the movie's planned May 2012 release date. [UPDATE, 3:38 PM: A Sony spokesman says the release date will not be affected by the production delay.]
After years of rumors, "Men in Black III" began to come together in 2009, as Sony looked to reprise the magic that made the franchise a global blockbuster. The initial two movies -- the first of which was released in 1997 and the second in 2002 -- tallied a whopping $1.03 billion in combined worldwide box office.
In a recent interview, Brolin told 24 Frames that the delays were making him a little impatient. "It’s one of those things where they say, 'OK, I’m going to go in a week' and then they say, 'Actually, it’s going to be two weeks.' OK, that’s all right. And then they go, 'OK, it’s going to be three,' " he said. "I mean, come on already."
— Steven Zeitchik and Nicole Sperling
Photo: Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smtih in "Men in Black." Credit: Sony Pictures.
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Here comes the 'Men in Black' hiatus