Barry Sonnenfeld Comments on Shooting MEN IN BLACK 3 without a Finished Script

by     Posted 2 years, 293 days ago


Scripts for blockbuster movies tend to go through multiple writers, and even on set there are tweaks to the pages.  But it’s rare that movie will start shooting if the script isn’t finished.  We like to joke about movies not having scripts, but really we’re making fun of a threadbare/stupid plot.  Barry Sonnenfeld‘s Men in Black 3 literally started shooting without a finished script.  As we previously reported, the movie took a hiatus so that various screenwriters could figure out a way to wrap up the story, which centers on Agent J (Will Smith) going back in time to team up with past K (Josh Brolin) and save the world.  The movie took a pause to try and take advantage of tax breaks in New York City (Sony was worried the tax incentives would expire; they didn’t) and the spring weather.

So what does Sonnenfeld think about this unusual and risky approach to making a blockbuster feature?  Hit the jump for what he and make-up effects artist Rick Baker had to say on the matter along with a possible spoiler.  Men in Black 3 opens in 3D on May 25th.

men-in-black-3-poster-script-problemsIn the latest issue of Empire [via The Playlist], Sonnenfeld talks about the controversial decision to film without a finished script:

“We knew starting the movie that we didn’t have a finished second or third act. Was it responsible? The answer is, if this movie does as well as I think it will, it was genius. If it’s a total failure, then it was a really stupid idea.”

No, if it does really well, it will be surprising.  You made a gamble.  There’s nothing “genius” about gambling.  A stupid bet is a stupid bet, and if you win, people will still think you were crazy.

Rick Baker will also be surprised if the finished film works out:

“It was a crazy production. We had a writer actually on the soundstage writing the words moments before the guys had to say them. I don’t think that’s any way to make a movie. But I’ve seen a rough cut and I was actually shocked at how good it was.”

And I’ll say this: a friend told me about a brief scene he saw from the film (and I don’t know if it will be in the final cut), but when he told me what happens in it, I was cracking up.  Add that to Josh Brolin’s dead-on Tommy Lee Jones impression, and there’s reason for a shred (but only a shred) of optimism.  However, a new trailer would be a lot more helpful than the steady stream of still images we’ve been getting recently.

Finally, Sonnenfeld let slip a possible spoiler:

“at least now we’ve got Josh Brolin to carry on with Tommy’s part…”

This could mean that Young K comes back to the present with J, or it could simply leave the door open for Men in Black 4 to have Young K come to the present.  Of course, that would mean everything that Agent K did in the interim wouldn’t have happened, which would means Agent J never would have been recruited…

If there’s a Men in Black 4, don’t shoot a single frame until the damn script is finished.

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  • jimmer

    matt shut your mouth. movies get made like this all time (kubrick doing rewrites everyday during production). finished product is all that matters. keep disrespecting people a thousand times more talented than you. it makes you look funny and smart.

  • GundarkHunter

    I have two words to say regarding this: Alien 3.

    • Wisdo

      Now that so many years have gone by I find that ALien 3, out of the four films is the one I return to again and again. It is the most serious of the 4 and its themes are the most resonant for me. I love the fact that you know from the outset that everyone is doomed. I love the stellar support cast each with their personal take on “the beast”. As far as Im concerned its much of an accidental masterpiece as it is a ‘botched job’. Thank Fincher and the cast for that.

  • pj_campbell

    Matt, did you even read Rick’s quote? He doesn’t say he’ll be surprised if the movie is good. He says he’s surprised by how good the movie looks so far in rough cut. There is a big difference between the two.

  • Mo

    No finished script is not a good idea.

    Jimmy, Kubrick was Kubrick.

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  • Matt

    I’m sorry, but the most important part of a film to me is the screenplay. That has to be the first priority of any film. If the script sucks, the film more than likely sucks. If a film doesn’t have a screenplay, how in the world does it succeed? Will Smith. It won’t matter to the public if the dialogue sucks. It’s Will Smith and Men in Black, that’s it. I loved the first film, but the second sucked. Should be very interesting.

  • Nullify

    The script HAS to be finished and finalized before shooting begins, otherwise, when it’s like it was here (the writer making dialog right before the actors film those scenes), there is no chance for re-writes cos those scenes are in the bag. Spontaneous writing is never good on its first draft, that’s why they have re-writes. The dialog in this movie has a very high chance of absolutely sucking.

    Anyway, after the colossal failure that was part 2, I’m not holding my breath.

  • Larry

    Plenty of good filmmakers sometimes work with a premise only (Jarmusch, Mike Leigh, some Soderbergh). It’s rare for a film of this budget, but it could potentially yield fresh results. In any case, it’s bound to be better than MIB 2.

  • Maxim

    ““We knew starting the movie that we didn’t have a finished second or third act. Was it responsible? The answer is, if this movie does as well as I think it will, it was genius. If it’s a total failure, then it was a really stupid idea.”

    No, if it does really well, it will be surprising. You made a gamble. There’s nothing “genius” about gambling. A stupid bet is a stupid bet, and if you win, people will still think you were crazy.

    Matt, get your sense of humor checked. It is clear that Barry is making a joke.

    Also, there is difference between something being a stupid bet vs being daring.

  • mattedscreen

    Alien 3. Waterworld, Terminator Salvation. Transformers Revenge of the Fallen. Just 4 of many, many stellar examples of how good a movie can be without a finished script to work from. Granted, it’s true re-writes happen all the time on set, that’s just part of the process, but they are at least working from an established idea, not making it all up as they go.

    I hope for a good movie, Loved the first, HATED the second, Third time the charm?

  • Jamie Helton

    Yeah, this will be a disaster like “Jaws” and “Apocalypse Now” was–two films that were in constant rewrites during production.

  • Arlene Eldon

    Did Sonnenfeld miss the part where MIB 2 got made and it sucked harder than a Hoover ad?

  • Pingback: VIDEO: MEN IN BLACK 3 Gets a Second Trailer

  • Hamza

    Iron Man 2 was actually filmed while the script was written due to tight production schedule, which may explain why the film felt disjointed and paceless in a few spots.

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