During a conversation with Kevin Hart on the newest episode of the comedian's Peacock series Hart to Heart, Smith looked back on his mindset at the time, noting that he was fresh off of Independence Day when he started being pursued for the part of Agent J.
"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."
Asked to reveal how he was convinced to join the project, Smith credited Steven Spielberg—an executive producer on the Barry Sonnenfeld-directed hit—with the ultimate persuasion.
"Steven Spielberg sent a helicopter for me," Smith told Hart. "I was in New York. To talk to me, to talk. It landed at his house. He had me at hello. You get off the helicopter at his house and it was the first time that I’d ever had lemonade with carbonated water. You can't say no to that."
At Spielberg’s house, Smith couldn’t help but notice the Jaws and Jurassic Park posters, which further underscored why he should (and did) reconsider his stance on the film.
“He flew me in and he said the coldest shit,” Smith recalled. “He said, ‘Tell me why you don’t wanna make my movie.’ He was the producer. And he put the ellipses at the end. … If he had continued, he would have said, ‘Joker, you know I made Jaws right? You know I made E.T.?’”
Of course, though Smith originally felt he “didn’t wanna be the alien guy,” he did indeed share starring duties in the sci-fi comedy alongside Tommy Lee Jones. The film launched a franchise, with Smith having since appeared in three Men in Black films.
Next year, Smith will revisit another beloved franchise from his catalog with the fourth entry in the Bad Boys series.