Smith starred in 1997 sci-fi action comedy opposite Tommy Lee Jones. The pair portrayed Agent K and Agent J, respectively, who were tasked with investigating a series of alien-related incidents on Earth.
The film — which spawned two sequels and a spin-off with Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson — was a critical and commercial success, but Smith needed convincing before taking on the role.
During a recent appearance on Kevin Hart’s Peacock TV show Hart To Heart, the actor said he was hesitant to star in the film right after Independence Day — another sci-fi film about aliens.
“I kind of 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.”
However, Smith revealed that Spielberg contacted him directly and sent a helicopter so they could speak face-to-face. “I was in New York. It landed at his house. And, like, he had me at hello,” the actor said. “And it was the first time I ever had lemonade with carbonated water. You can’t say no to that.”
The Oscar-winner recalled how Spielberg then convinced him to star in the film after saying the “coldest shit”.
“He said, ‘Tell me why you don’t want to make my movie…’ And he was the producer,” said Smith.
“And he put the ellipsis at the end, it was the dot, dot, dot. If he had continued, he would have said, ‘Joker, you know I made Jaws, right? You know I made ET.”
In the same episode of Hart To Hart, Smith revealed that “nobody” in his family was happy amid their rising fame in 2010.
“It was my first realisation that success and money don’t mean happiness,” the actor said. “Up until that point, I really believed that you could succeed your way – to a house and a family – and you could win your way to happiness.”
The King Richard star said it was then that he realised “material circumstances do not equal happiness and, in a lot of cases, they can be the reason you’re not happy”.
“You can have so much stuff that it makes you miserable,” Smith added. “That was my first pull-back and I was like, ‘OK, what am I missing?’ I was driving the people around me in a way that I was leaving scorched earth around me.”