Will Smith’s Beef With MIB III

The Hollywood Reporter
Movie Talk

%photo13%What’s the hold up on Men in Black III? Will Smith doesn’t like the script.

Shooting on the big threequel has been delayed because its lead star wants to
see some changes, according to the new issue of The Hollywood Reporter (now on

Though the script’s original draft  (penned by Tropic
Thunder writer Etan Cohen) found favor with the studio, Sony Pictures, director
Barry Sonnenfeld and producer Walter Parkes, Smith wasn't wild. "He's become
very enamored with aspects of screenwriting," says a source involved with the

Nevertheless, in an unprecedented move, Sony started shooting
in November —  with only one act of the script completed.

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spokesman Steve Elzer tells THR the studio came up with the unusual shooting
plan because it feared the New
York incentive program would expire at the end of
December. (Instead, it was extended for five years.) The studio also has said
the hiatus would allow outdoor scenes to be shot in New York in

But several observers suspect the studio moved ahead with
production largely because all of the key players -- including Smith, Tommy Lee
Jones and director Barry Sonnenfeld -- were finally ready to go, and a delay
might have jeopardized that.

It had built in a break in production that
was scheduled to last from late December through mid-February, during which the
remainder of the script was to be finished.

The problem still hasn’t been
resolved  – and now the hiatus has been extended until March 28 as a new writer
David Koepp (who did uncredited work on the first MIB) is brought in for

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has hit work cut out for him.

MIB III calls for Smith's character, Agent
J, to go back in time - 1969, to be exact – where he encounters famous figures
of the day, like Yoko Ono, as well as a younger version of Jones' Agent K
(played by Josh Brolin).

The nature of the project has made it difficult
to get the screenplay right, a key player on the film tells THR: "Any movie
involving time travel seems to be difficult if you want to make it work and have
no b-s loopholes, which has taken longer than we thought it would.”

shooting that first act without the remainder of the script in place has only
compounded the issues. "It's hard because you're locked into the beginning of
the movie," a production source acknowledges. "It creates problems that are just
kind of crazy."

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former studio chief is not surprised that Sony did not come up with a script
that passed muster with Smith in the time allotted. "If he wasn't satisfied
after it's been years in development, how are you going to fix that at
Christmas?" this person asks.

And though the prolonged pause in
production is costing Sony millions, Smith is under no pressure to approve a
script that is not 100 percent to his liking. (The sequel was released in 2002
and, despite a drubbing from critics, grossed more than $440 million

According to a source with firsthand knowledge of the
situation, Sony expected to save more than $35 million thanks to the New York tax program. But
that will be reduced because the hiatus has gone on longer than anticipated.
(MIB has a budget that will easily pass $200 million.)

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maintains that the extra costs are not substantial. "Because we extended the
hiatus from the holidays, few people were on the payroll, so this was a
relatively inexpensive decision that has had an insignificant impact on the
budget," Elzer told THR in an e-mail.

Elzer says Koepp has already
delivered a revision of the script.

Assuming Koepp can solve the script
issues, and the film makes its March 28 re-start deadline, MIB III will hit
theaters in 3-D on May 25, 2012.