Will Smith, Men in Black II
Credit: Men in Black II: Zade Rosenthal

In today’s insta-sequel environment, how on alien-infested Earth could it have taken five years to bring ”Men in Black II” to the screen? ”’Men in Black’ put me over the top. I went from being a net player to a maximum-gross player in one film,” says Smith. ”So that makes it more difficult to make the deal financially.” Translation: The actor, who earned a reported $5 million on the first film, signed a mint back-end deal, which means he could pocket $40 million.

The raise is understandable. Smith’s Agent Jay is also more experienced, particularly compared with Jones’ Agent Kay, who was ”neuralized” of any memory of the duo’s exterminating duties. Jay’s first task, then, is to recruit Kay just as he himself was recruited in the first film. ”You remember Biz Markie, the human beat box?” asks Smith. ”We use the human beat box as an alien language. It’s just brilliant.”

Probably not as brilliant as casting ”The Practice”’s Boyle as the villain, Serleena, a shape-shifting extraterrestrial who takes on the form of a Victoria’s Secret model. When Famke Janssen dropped out, Boyle had one day to fetch a permission slip from her TV boss, David E. Kelley. ”I said, ‘David, I know this is crappy timing, but I really want to go do this movie,”’ she recalls. ”He asked me one question: ‘Does it mean a lot to you? Then we’ll make it work.”’ Her reward: a costume that the actress describes as ”quite a plethora of leather…. I have cleavage that we pulled up from my kneecaps.”

As for rumors that Michael Jackson filmed a small part…”Am I allowed to talk about that?” Boyle asks. ”I keep getting memos from Barry. So they’ve scared me s—less.” Luckily for us, Smith never got around to reading them. ”He’s an undercover Man in Black on the alien affirmative action program,” he says. ”It’s just a cameo, but he played it dead serious.” Sounds truly off-the-wall.

Men in Black II
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