Rehab, knife fights and run-in with the FBI – strange story of Men In Black stars

Men In Black was a hit movie spin-off from Lowell Cunningham’s comic book series about a shadowy organisation keeping the world safe from alien threats.

It collected stellar reviews and helped launch Will Smith’s solo music career.

The film was a huge hit, and spawned three big-screen sequels as well as an animated spin-off, Men in Black: The Series.

Men In Black took its inspiration from a secretive agency notorious in UFO lore for hushing up eyewitness accounts.

But rather than focus on the Men In Black’s sinister reputation, the action was played for laughs, with talking dogs, comedy aliens and plenty of bad-tempered banter between stars Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith.

But what happened next?

Will Smith



Will Smith reportedly won the lead role because director Barry Sonnenfeld’s wife was a fan of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Smith was already a star coming into Men In Black, having achieved success with Six Degrees of Separation and action drama Bad Boys before appearing in sci-fi blockbuster Independence Day.

Smith’s Men In Black theme was featured on both the film’s official soundtrack album and his own debut solo album Big Willie Style.

The single topped the charts for four weeks was certified platinum in the UK, but Smith wasn’t distracted by music success for long, diving back into movies with a string of successes including Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness, both of which earned him Oscar nominations.



The cast shared the screen with a menagerie of weird and improbable aliens
The cast shared the screen with a menagerie of weird and improbable aliens

While Smith doesn’t have a 100% record for picking winners – his DC Universe movie Suicide Squad made money but was slammed by the critics – he remains one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood.

He’s also one of the most desirable men in Hollywood. In a recent interview with GQ, Will admitted that while his marriage to fellow actor Jada Pinkett-Smith started out as a conventional monogamous relationship, they later decided to move to an open marriage after realising they were “both miserable and clearly something had to change”.

Earlier this year Will announced that his autobiography “WILL”, is set to be published in November.

Tommy Lee Jones



Tommy Lee Jones said the original script for the film 'stank' but agreed to sign up after a promise that it would be rewritten from producer Steven Spielberg
Tommy Lee Jones said the original script for the film ‘stank’ but agreed to sign up after a promise that it would be rewritten from producer Steven Spielberg

The cantankerous but charming screen presence Tommy Lee Jones brought to his character, Agent Kay has served him well.

He’s popped up playing versions of the same character in Rules of Engagement, Space Cowboys, “No Country for Old Men, and Captain America: The First Avenger.

He picked up a couple of Oscar nominations for his work in Lincoln and In the Valley of Elah, and along the way he found time to marry his third wife, photographer Dawn Maria Laurel.

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Linda Fiorentino



Linda Fiorentino
By the end of the movie, Fiorentino’s Dr. Laurel Weaver character was recruited to the Men In Black

Fiorentino reportedly ”won” the role of deputy medical examiner Laurel Weaver in a game of poker with director Barry Sonnenfeld.

She made a half dozen or so films after Men In Black, including sci-fi comedy What Planet Are You From? and Kevin Smith’s irreverent religious fantasy Dogma.

But her career stalled after a high-profile row about the direction of a film about artist Georgia O’Keeffe that she was set to star in.

While she was known for racy performances in films such as The Last Seduction and After Hours, she complained that the script over-sexualised the artist’s life.

“I couldn’t find any historical references to Georgia O’Keeffe masturbating on a rock,” she told reporters after her court battle with the producers came to an end.

“There were all these arbitrary scenes to make investors happy.”



Fiorentino's breakthough role in The Last Seduction wasn't eligible for an Oscar nomination because the film came out on TV before it was released in cinemas
Fiorentino’s breakthough role in The Last Seduction wasn’t eligible for an Oscar nomination because the film came out on TV before it was released in cinemas

Fiorentino dismissed rumours that she wasn’t cast in Men In Black II because Tommy Lee Jones had called her “too difficult to work with” and insisted that she was unavailable due to a commitment to another film.

Kevin Smith, speaking after Dogma had wrapped, was also not a Fiorentino fan.

“Linda created crisis and trauma and anguish,” he said. “She created drama while we were making a comedy. She was ticked off that there were other people in the movie who were more famous than she was.”

Fiorentino she hasn’t appeared on screen since 2009, when she became mixed up in a real-life FBI case involving her boyfriend at the time, FBI agent Mark T. Rossini, and her ex, private eye Anthony Pellicano.



After 2002, Fiorentino only appeared in one more film - 2009's Once More With Feeling
After 2002, Fiorentino only appeared in one more film – 2009’s Once More With Feeling

Fiorentino reportedly told Rossini that she was researching a script about notorious wiretapper Pellicano, and asked to see confidential FBI documents relating to his prosecution.

In fact, there was no film and Fiorentino simply wanted to help out her former boyfriend.

Rossini narrowly escaped a jail sentence for illegally obtaining the evidence and after telling a judge he was “profoundly and deeply ashamed and remorseful’ for what he’d done was slapped with a $5,000 fine and given a year’s probation. The 17-year FBO veteran also lost his job.

Pellicano was sentenced to 15 years behind bars after being convicted of conspiring to use illegal wiretaps to dig up dirt on celebrities for a string of elite Hollywood clients.

Rip Torn



Rip was called back for Men In Black II, and even made a brief cameo appearance in Men in Black 3
Rip was called back for Men In Black II, and even made a brief cameo appearance in Men in Black 3

Elmore Rual “Rip” Torn Jr, who played MIB agency boss Zed, was one of Hollywood’s more colourful characters.

Cast in the 1969 cult classic Easy Rider, Torn got into a knife fight with co-star Dennis Hopper. The dramatic falling-out led to Torn leaving the movie, being replaced by Jack Nicholson.

Torn also caused bloodshed on the set of 1968 movie Maidstone, where he director and star Norman Mailer in the head with a hammer during a bloody tussle that was caught on camera.



Rip Torn's first screen credit was for 1957 POW drama Time Limit
Rip Torn’s first screen credit was for 1957 POW drama Time Limit

But even after his success in Men In Black and its sequel, Torn wasn’t ready for the quiet life. In 2010 he was arrested for breaking into a bank.

Torn was later charged with carrying a firearm without a permit, carrying a firearm while intoxicated, first-degree burglary, second-degree criminal trespassing, and third-degree criminal mischief.

In court, Torn claimed he had broken into the bank “by mistake,” believing it was his own home.

After agreeing to enter rehab, Torn was was given a two-and-a-half-year suspended jail sentence, and three years’ probation.

The Emmy award-winning star died on July 9, 2019, aged 88. He had been suffering from complications related to Alzheimer’s disease.

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