Perhaps the series that cemented Will Smith's status as box office gold, Men in Black has certainly seen its ups and downs in public opinion over the years, although studio desire to continue the franchise has never really abated. After all, each film has brought in hundreds of millions of dollars in profit for Sony, regardless of what the critical verdict ended up being.
To that end, franchise producers Laurie MacDonald and Walter Parkes recently announced that an entirely new Men in Black trilogy was in development, even though Smith seems unlikely to return. What exactly the plot of this new MIB trilogy will be and what characters it will include currently remains anyone's guess, but MacDonald and Parkes have now shed some light on the gender makeup of their revamped team of alien hunters.
Speaking in a BBC interview, the producers revealed that or the first time ever, a Men in Black film will feature a female agent in a leading role. The idea of adding a woman to the main MIB team is not exactly an original idea, with the concept having been briefly flirted with at the end of the first Men in Black movie. In the epilogue to that film, Linda Fiorentino's Laurel Weaver character joins the MIB organization as Agent L, and assumes Agent K's (Tommy Lee Jones) former spot as Agent J's (Smith) partner.
Following Men in Black's massive success, many fans assumed that a sequel centering on the adventures of J and L was next on the menu. Ultimately though, producers opted to bring Jones' K back out of retirement for Men in Black II, and had J quickly gloss over L's absence via a throwaway line saying that she had returned to civilian life. Men in Black III also brought K back (albeit partially in the form of Josh Brolin), effectively shutting the door on a female lead being included in the original MIB series. While it's hard to imagine that Fiorentino will be asked back this late in the game, it could be argued that the addition of a 'woman in black' to the MIB roster is an event long overdue.
While including a female agent on the main MIB squad can be seen as a progressive step, there's no denying that such a move will likely change the partner dynamic established in the first three films. Casting will be a crucial element in winning over fans to this new spin on the Men In Black, and it's absolutely vital that producers make the right choice when deciding what actress to pin the future of the franchise on. Perhaps the role will go to an up-and-comer, who'll then be paired with an established actor in a manner similar to the casting of the then-rising Smith alongside Oscar winner Tommy Lee Jones. Then again, Sony could always play it safe and go with a known commodity that audiences are less likely to be skeptical of. Right now, the possibilities are wide open.
Of course, the above speculation is predicated on the notion that Will Smith won't be coming back. After all, two years ago he said he was done with the MIB franchise, and he's already turned down the upcoming Independence Day sequel. Surprisingly enough though, MacDonald and Parkes aren't quite ready to shut the door on Smith returning just yet, insisting that folks should "never count Will out." If Smith's J does end up sliding back into the picture, things are bound to get even more interesting in the race to see just who will next defend the Earth from the scum of the universe.
Men in Black 4 is in early development, and has no current release date.