Sure, Men In Black II made a mint at the box office over the just-concluded Fourth of July holiday weekend, but let's face it: The follow-up pales in comparison to the rollicking original. That comes as quite a disappointment considering the much-hyped sequel reunites many of the same players behind the 1997 smash, including producers Laurie MacDonald and Walter F. Parkes, director Barry Sonnenfeld and stars Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith.
Of course, given all the behind-the-scenes drama, it's little surprise that MIB II saw much of its quality neuralized. "It was a very difficult movie for me to make," sighs Sonnenfeld. "It was filled with stress, and a lot of the stress came from the fact that because the first movie was successful financially, everyone involved [in MIB II] — the studio, the producers... — were so unbelievably afraid that this one had to do well that they had to be very involved... So, it was really tough."
So tough that Sonnenfeld — who admits that he's a "nervous" individual who tends to "live in fear" — nearly suffered a heart attack during filming. "We were shooting one night [last June] and things were going particularly bad," he recalls. "I went to my [trailer] to meditate and my arm went totally asleep, all of my fingers went cold and I couldn't feel anything under my armpit. Then, my chest [felt] like someone was blowing a balloon up in it."
The filmmaker was rushed to the hospital, where doctors determined that although his heart was fine, his stress level was not. "[My health was] compromised by the fear and tension and anxiety that was put on me by everyone being nervous that the movie wasn't going to make any money," he groans. "I'll never be okay as long as I live. I've still got sciatica."
Producers MacDonald and Parkes pin the blame on Columbia. "Once the studio decided they really wanted [to release it on July 4, 2002], there was tremendous pressure — because we had a very short prep," admits MacDonald. Adds Parkes: "I think it's very hard no matter what when you're chasing a release date."
In other words, had they been given more time, MIB II may not have had to resort to talking dogs and Michael Jackson cameos to get laughs. Concedes Parkes: "We find as producers and as studio heads that predicating your production on release dates... can tend to be in conflict with quality."