In an exclusive interview with Collider, the director of the upcoming movie Men In Black III Barry Sonnenfeld spoke to them about the movie, talking about the usage of 3D, the running time, cameos and more. Check out some exercepts below, and be sure to hit up the link below as well to read the full interview which includes updates on a lot of his upcoming projects.
I’m definitely curious about the 3D aspect. Some filmmakers I speak with love pushing the screen forward and coming at the audience and some filmmakers love adding the depth. For you on Men in Black 3, what kind of 3D can audiences be looking forward to?
I’m always surprised how many 3D movies put the convergence at the screen and the depth behind the screen. Of course I think, strangely, I feel it makes it feel less like 3D. For me, what’s been fun is, I put the convergence at the screen and a lot of the 3D is in front of the screen. Now that doesn’t mean we are throwing spears at the audience and stuff. But even in two-shots and close-ups, because of the nature of the lenses I used, which are wide-angle lenses, I really felt that by using wide-angle lenses you invite the audience into the scene, and somehow the audience feels, unconsciously, that the camera and the audience is in the room with the actors. As opposed to other directors that see things in a different way, and I’m not saying that it’s better or worse, but if you look at Michael Bay or Michael Mann or the Scott brothers, they tend to use longer lenses and have the camera further away from the actors. I use wide lenses and keep the camera close to the actors. So for me, 3D is like a perfect medium for the way I see. And if you look at the stuff I’ve done either as a cameraman, like from Throw Momma from the Train or Raising Arizona, or as a director let’s say Addams Family or the Men in Black movies, I always use these wider lenses and invite the audience into the foreground with us. So, to me, it’s a very natural step forward and I’ve really enjoyed the process of making this movie in 3D and in fact I think that’s it’s going to be just a fantastic looking movie in 3D.
In Men in Black you played an alien on the TV monitors, in Men in Black 2 you were the Neuralizer father. What role are you in Men in Black 3?
This will sound ironic, but I play a man who’s jumped off a building during the stock market crash of 1929.
I’m definitely curious about Easter Eggs. One of the things that people love about Men in Black and Men in Black 2 is you have a lot of cameos, you have a lot of little winks about celebrities and also little Easter Egg things. How conscious were you to make sure you had these little Easter Eggs in Men in Black 3, or little nods that would get that laugh from the crowd?
Well, we’ve always had in Men in Black headquarters, alien surveillance, so one of the joys is deciding who you would put up on the board, who you would tell the world are aliens. And A) the challenge is you have to get permission from these celebrities and B) you don’t want to go with people that are either a flash in the pan, or political, or people that then in 10 years no one will know who you’re talking about. In fact, in Addams Family Values, which I directed, there is a joke about Amy Fisher, and if you watch it today you’ll go, “I don’t know why that’s funny.” But when we shot the movie, she was the girlfriend of [Joey] Buttafuoco and shot his wife and it was a big moment in the news back then that no longer seems particularly funny or relevant. So the challenge is getting celebrities that are famous, will give you permission and won’t be like, “Who’s that guy?” in ten years. So that’s one thing, the alien surveillance board that we’ve had in all three movies. The first movie I know we had [Steven] Spielberg, Danny DeVito, George Lucas, [Sylvester] Stallone, Isaac Mizrahi, my baby daughter. I can’t remember who we had in the second one, but in this one there are a few people that you’ll see up on the surveillance board including Lady Gaga, Tim Burton, who probably knows more about aliens then I do, and let’s see who else . . . Justin Bieber . . . oh, I think in the second one we had Martha Stewart and Michael Jackson.
When Sony came at you for Men in Black 3…How the genesis of how the third film was made. Was this one of these things that you’ve been talking about for a long time with Will, or Will with Sony been talking…Could you talk about how it all came together to get the green light.
Well, it’s funny because when we were shooting Men in Black 2, Will came up with the idea for Men in Black 3. And Will said to me one night, “Wouldn’t it be really cool if for Men in Black 3, Tommy Lee Jones’ character, Agent K, disappears in the present and I have to go back to the past to save him, and in doing so discover things I never knew.” That’s what he said. And it sounded like a great idea. We all did Men in Black 2, we went off, we did other things, and then over the ensuing six or seven years, Walter Parkes the producer and Sony hired a writer named Etan Cohen, who wrote Tropic Thunder, who’s really talented, and a first draft was written. But I had nothing to do with it. And I then read it and thought it was pretty great and got involved in additional scripts and then directing the movie. But the initial concept was an idea that Will came up with while we were on the set of Men in Black 2.
How long was your first cut when you brought the film in and how much did you learn from test screenings and showing it to friends and family?
I’m an unusual director in that my cut is usually shorter then the final released film. I like short films. This film, not including titles, is 97 minutes. The longest film I ever directed was Get Shorty, which was 100 minutes, but that included the titles, so this and Get Shorty are about the same length. The first cut I do is usually between five and 10 minutes shorter then the cut that we release. Anything I think isn’t working or might not work, I don’t even put it in the director’s cut. And usually it’s the studio suggesting I put stuff back in, as opposed to studios saying, “You got to lose 40 minutes,” they are always saying, “You’ve got to gain five minutes.” When you’re done shooting, the movie that you’re going to release when you’re done shooting is as bad as it will ever be. And then through editing, and finishing the effects and adding music, you get to make the movie better again. So I’m really hard on myself and on the movie. I don’t believe in leaving a scene in because it was really hard to shoot, or because it’s the reason you took the movie, or because you always wanted to work with an actor . . . If it’s not making the movie work, get rid of it. In fact, the single, funniest, best scene for pure comedy in Get Shorty is not in the movie and it’s a scene with Gene Hackman, John Travolta, and Ben Stiller. Ben Stiller plays a recent NYU graduate who’s directing a 10-Day-Wonder for Gene Hackman. It’s a really funny scene, but it didn’t work within the context of the pace of the movie in that section, and I had to get rid of it. So I’m always the opposite. You won’t see a 2 hour and 30 minute first cut of a movie I direct.