Wait — how could this be possible?! According to The Hollywood Reporter, it seems that a newly announced Men in Black 4 film may not feature Will Smith in a starring role — despite the fact that he's, y'know, basically the face of the franchise. Per THR, the producers of the Men in Black franchise have stated they will be reinventing the series as a trilogy, and that Will Smith will "most likely" not be involved.
This is shocking, of course: Will Smith is a film and TV icon who led the previous films, so this decision seems surprising. Like, personally, I did not go see the original Men in Black because of Tommy Lee Jones. Of course, it's too early to judge the decision considering the new film without Smith hasn't even gone into production yet, but I'm just having trouble imagining the movies without him. It feels like Jaws without the shark, or Blair Waldorf on Gossip Girl without her headbands — he's an essential part of why I, and so many others, love the films.
It should be noted that many other film franchises have replaced their stars with varying degrees of success — so Men In Black without Smith could work. A few examples:
There were, and continue to be, a lot of problems with Star Wars: Episode I-III. While it made sense to feature all new actors and characters in the prequels, the films lacked a lot of what made the original films great. Even if one can look past Jar Jar Binks or Hayden Christensen's wooden acting style, you are still left without Luke, Princess Leia or Han Solo, aka the heart and soul of the franchise. Thankfully, this wrong is about to be righted with the J.J. Abrams Star Wars reboot that features new characters in addition to the original cast members.
First, star Megan Fox was fired, than Shia Labeouf got the boot after three successful Transformers films. Luckily, even though it was sad to see LaBeouf go, it wasn't a bad decision. Fast forward to Transformers: Age of Extinction: Mark Wahlberg battled dinosaur robot aliens and the film grossed over a billion dollars. Another Transformers is set to premiere in 2016.
Pirates of the Caribbean
Everyone watches Pirates of the Caribbean for Johnny Depp, that's a given. But, the film franchise did lose two of its biggest stars when it wrote out Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley's characters for On Stranger Tides in 2011.
Though most stars are replaced due to contract disputes, in the case of Harry Potter it was a much sadder reason: Actor Richard Harris, who portrayed Albus Dumbledore in the first two films of the series, tragically died of Hodgkin's disease in 2002. He was replaced by Michael Gambon for the remaining Harry Potter films. Although Gambon brought his own magic to the role, it was still a sad situation.
Bald hottie and resident badass, Jason Statham, starred in three Transporter films. AsVulture reported at the time, producers of the franchise tried and failed to secure Statham for three additional films without formalized scripts or a pay raise. This lead to Statham being replaced by Game of Throne's hottie Ed Skrein in The Transporter Refuled.
Part of the reason there is so much excitement for the new Star Wars (besides the fact it's a new Star Wars) is because J.J. Abrams showed his amazing ability to reboot a classic film franchise with new actors with his 2009's Star Trek. The film starred Chris Pine as Capt. Kirk (formally played by William Shatner) and Zachary Quinto as Spock. Leonard Nimoy, aka the OG Spock, also appears in the film. The reboot was financially successful and warranted a 2013 sequel. You go, J.J.!
History seems to predict that Men in Black 4 has a 50/50 chance of being a complete disaster without Smith. This should be interesting.
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