Men In Black 3 almost cast Mark Wahlberg as young Tommy Lee Jones. Released in 2012, the third installment in the Men in Black series put a new twist on the tried-and-true formula by introducing time travel and sending Will Smith’s Agent J back to the Swingin’ ’60s to meet the younger version of Jones’ uptight Agent K.
Of course, the highlight of the whole time travel scenario was the performance of Josh Brolin as the more youthful version of Jones’ memorably gruff character. Thanks in large part to Brolin’s performance, critics generally thought more highly of the third Men in Black than they did the second, and audiences largely concurred as the movie went on to gross $624 million at the worldwide box office compared to just $441 million for Men in Black 2. Despite the film’s success, the Men in Black franchise would go on hold for several years, not returning until 2019’s Men in Black: International, which went on to be a flop.
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Speaking on CinemaBlend’s ReelBlend podcast (via JoBlo), Men in Black 3 director Barry Sonnenfeld talked about everyone’s favorite part of the movie – Brolin’s performance – and revealed that Brolin almost didn’t get the part. As Sonnenfeld explains, he was forced to consider Wahlberg for the role instead thanks to some behind-the-scenes pressuring:
One of the most powerful agents there are is a guy named Ari Emanuel. He’s the head of William Morris Endeavor. And he’s really good friends with Mark Wahlberg. And he really wanted Mark Wahlberg to play young Tommy Lee Jones. And I think Mark would have done a great job. But I think Brolin was born to play Tommy.
As Sonnenfeld explains, he wanted Brolin all along and was able to withstand pressure to cast Wahlberg thanks to the studio backing him up despite being “nervous” about going against the powerful Emanuel’s wishes. Sonnenfeld also makes it clear that he had no problem with Wahlberg personally, saying “Mark was lovely. He was great.”
In the same interview, Sonnenfeld revealed the lengths Brolin went to in capturing Jones’ particular way of speaking, saying the actor kept a tape recorder with him during shooting and listened to Jones’ dialog from the original Men in Black in order to nail his Texas lilt. Amusingly, when the film came out, Jones insisted to Sonnenfeld that he doesn’t speak with a Texas accent like Brolin sported in the movie, forcing Sonnenfeld to tell Jones that he does indeed speak with that exact accent.
Though Sonnenfeld insists Wahlberg would have also been good as young Agent K in Men in Black 3, it’s actually hard to imagine the actor nailing the role like Brolin did. Wahlberg needless to say is not exactly renowned for his ability as a mimic, so it’s difficult to believe he could have done even a passable impersonation of Jones. Likely, Wahlberg would have played Agent K more like himself than Jones, which would have definitely been detrimental to the movie’s comedic effect. In this case, the movie absolutely landed the correct actor for the role in question, and it’s a good thing Sonnenfeld and company stood their ground and fought for the man they wanted.
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