11Linda Fiorentino "won" her role in a game of poker
Linda Fiorentino had been working in Hollywood for a while, but she didn't really get a ton of notice until her breakout role in John Dahl's 1994 excellent noir thriller The Last Seduction. Critics raved, and the movie became an indie hit. From there, she went on to star opposite David Caruso in Jade and with Bill Murray in the man-and-his-elephant comedy Larger Than Life. It apparently wasn't her past work or her impressive list of costars that got her the job as Laurel Weaver in MiB, though. It was poker.
Although she has never really provided the full specifics, the actress has verified the long-standing rumor that she “won” the role in a poker game, having met Barry Sonnenfeld at a tournament. “By the end of it, I had the job. And I won the game,” she once told an interviewer in 2003. Whatever happened between them during that match clearly convinced the director that she was perfect for the role. Fiorentino also shot down a different rumor, that she wasn't in MiB II because Tommy Lee Jones refused to work with her again. She insists that she was unavailable due to a commitment to another film.
10It contains references to a cinematic classic and a beloved book series
Men in Black is full of funny moments and general references to the science-fiction genre in its many forms. Some of those references are very specific, yet sail over the heads of some audience members. For starters, the font used in the opening credits was designed by Pablo Ferro, a widely-respected artist. They intentionally replicate the work he did for the credits of Stanley Kubrick's classic comedy Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. It's a subtle cue that MiB is going to be similarly off-kilter.
Another subtle joke references a beloved literary work. In one scene, Kay estimates that there are more than 1,500 aliens living on Earth, most of them working as cab drivers. This seems like a throwaway line on the surface, but it's actually a nod to Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books. In the fourth installment, So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, the character Ford Prefect writes that cab driving in New York City is a great job for extraterrestrials inhabiting our planet and hoping to escape notice.
9A key joke is based on a gravitational anomaly
Men in Black has a lot of different kinds of jokes. Some are a bit cerebral, others intentionally lowbrow, still others outright absurd. Then there are the jokes that are so wonky, only a very select number of audience members (or Neil DeGrasse Tyson) will get them. One such joke is based on an actual astronomical phenomenon. If you're not up on your astronomy, you wouldn't even know what the joke meant. The scene involves Jay accidentally launching a small orb around MiB headquarters, where it smashes into things like a rubber ball on crack. Kay tells him the orb is "a practical joke from the Great Attractor."
That's no throwaway line; the Great Attractor is a real gravitational anomaly. Located some 250 million light years away from our planet, it reveals the presence of a mass that is thousands and thousands of times larger than the Milky Way. This mass impacts the motion of galaxies far and wide, including our own. This being the case, the joke of the scene is that this strange entity far, far away from Earth has the ability to cause the orb Jay touches to behave erratically and unpredictably. It's pretty funny, once you know what it means.
8An animal rights group ensured no cockroaches were harmed
There are all kinds of crazy creatures in the original MiB, including worm guys and, of course, Edgar the Bug. Those are obviously fictional, but other creatures are all too real. One scene employs a slew of cockroaches. Jay, in an effort to get the Bug's attention by agitating him, starts stomping on roaches that have emerged, squishing them under his feet. Whenever animals like dogs, cats, and horses are used in film production, a representative from the American Humane Association is supposed to be on set to make sure they aren't hurt. And guess what? That applies to cockroaches, too!
The AHA's official website breaks down the roach action, then explains in (somewhat humorous) detail how the effects were achieved without harming the critters. Among the tidbits in their report: "Two trainers were inside [a dumpster] releasing thirty roaches through a tube. As a safety precaution, 12" of Plexiglas surrounded the side and back of the dumpster and a 5" sheet was used for a barrier in front of the container." Trainers attached roaches to Will Smith's sleeve using monofiliment line for one shot, and the actor stomped on mustard packets to simulate bug-squashing in another. The Men in Black filmmakers took sufficient care of the icky little co-stars, leading the AHA to grant the movie its "acceptable" rating.
7An entire subplot was dropped in post-production
For a light sci-fi comedy, Men in Black has a complicated plot. Not complicated like Inception, where you practically need a road map to follow it; complicated in the sense that there is a lot going on. Specifically, at one point, there was a lot of talk about the war between the Arquillians and the Baltians. Oh wait, you don't really remember much about the Baltians? Yeah, there's a reason for that. An entire subplot involving the two alien races' battle, which puts the Earth in jeopardy, was reshaped during the post-production process. The Baltians' presence was cut in order to streamline the plot.
Needless to say, excising a chunk of the story necessitated some creative maneuvering. In order to make the Arquillians Earth's primary threat, a few subtle alterations had to be made to fill in the holes where no-longer-existing references to the Baltians once were. This was accomplished through changing some of Frank the Pug's lines (easy to do, since the talking dog's mouth was computer-generated). Images on computer screens in MiB headquarters were also digitally replaced to eliminate mention of the other alien race. It's a testament to how smoothly the movie made this transition that you can't tell that anything was missing.