MIB 2 Crew Unafraid of Strike

As alien-fighting government agents in 1997's Men in Black, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones were tough. For the sci-fi flick's sequel, which is set to enter production right before a possible 2001 actors' strike, they may have to be invincible.

Variety reports that Columbia has slotted MIB 2 for a June 4 start date, which is less than a month before the Screen Actors Guild's current contract expires. Smith and Jones, who are both excited about reprising their roles as Agents J and K from the $249 million-earning original, would have until June 30 to give director Barry Sonnenfeld their best close-ups.

If the strike does indeed move forward, Sonnenfeld would have to give his existing raw footage over to special effects technicians, who could fill in the film's alien beings while the actors are on the picket line.

According to Variety, Columbia's approach to MIB 2 is similar to that being taken with the two Matrix sequels, which have also been structured by directors Larry and Andy Wachowski to allow for a potential shutdown.

Many films have been shuffled in anticipation of the looming SAG strike. Leaders of the SAG are meeting with studio and TV execs this week to lay the groundwork for contract renewals, The Hollywood Reporter said today.

A Writers Guild of America strike may also threaten production schedules. That group's contract is up in the spring. Another blockbuster-slaying giant is a possible Directors Guild of America walkout in 2002.

MIB 2 needs a June start to accommodate its cast and crew. Smith will be finished starring in the Ali biopic, while Jones will have wrapped The Hunted for director William Friedkin. Sonnenfeld has finished shooting his latest film, the ensemble comedy Big Trouble, for Disney.