Credit: Evan Agostini/AP
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Before Will Smith walked the red carpet at New York’s Men in Black 3 premiere last night, a publicist delivered the same strict message to each reporter she saw: Do not bring up the slap heard ’round the world. “We wouldn’t want to ruin this premiere too,” she explained, sounding both friendly and as though she’d happily eject anyone who disobeyed.

Notwithstanding that stern warning, the premiere’s atmosphere was positively jolly. For the most part, attendees ditched black for more festive attire; Smith sported a boisterous checked jacket, while women favored bright colors over less flashy gowns. Celebrity kids like Willow and Jaden Smith darted through the crowd, smiling mischievously without stopping for video crews. The boys of One Direction arrived carrying gigantic water guns that could bring down an alien army, provided they hailed from the invading planet in Signs.

Any premiere is an occasion for celebration — but this one inspired particularly high spirits. That’s probably because MIB 3 had a notoriously long, torturous development process; Smith first floated the story kernel that would become this movie’s plot during the filming of MIB 2 in 2002. No wonder one behind-the-scenes figure greeted a friend on the carpet by slapping his back and exclaiming, “You made it through the war!”

So why was the road to the threequel so fraught? “It’s just — I think we set the bar very high,” screenwriter Etan Cohen told EW. “It’s a giant movie. Because we didn’t want to repeat anything that was in the first two movies, we picked a very difficult story to tell. And it’s just that it was a tough nut to crack. I hope that translates into the audience thinking, ‘Wow, they pulled it off.'”

Josh Brolin echoed Cohen, recalling how difficult it was for him to nail Tommy Lee Jones’s mannerisms and speech patters. (Brolin plays a younger version of Jones’s character in the film.) “When you’re just playing around in a bar or something, it’s one thing,” he explained. “Then you go and you have to specify it, and it starts to get more strange. And then you start talking to doorknobs and dishes and it gets weird.”

One performer who didn’t have much trouble getting into character? Former X Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger, who has a small but memorable role as a femme fatale. She enthused about the teensy, “empowering” leather outfit she wore in the movie, immediately brushing off the suggestion that it may have been hard to maneuver: “I’m a Pussycat Doll always in my heart, so I can move in anything. And people always say, ‘How do you walk in those heels?’ I say, ‘Honey, I can do yoga in these puppies,'” she told EW.

Maybe Scherzinger is saving that trick for MIB 4.

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Men in Black III
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