It might have first hit the big screens in 1997, but the Men In Black franchise is still going strong more than two decades on. The latest film, Men in Black: International, stars Chris Hemsworth as the veteran Agent H and Tessa Thompson as the rookie M. Together, they face off against an alien that’s capable of morphing into any form.
Unlike its previous three predecessors, Men in Black: International goes beyond the reaches of New York City and into more international waters – almost literally.
Production designer Charles Wood, who has worked on films such as Avengers: Endgame and Guardians of the Galaxy, borrowed elements from the original MIB trilogy to take audiences on a globetrotting journey.
For Men in Black: International, Wood recreated the iconic entrance to the agency’s New York headquarters, complete with a lone security guard that always has a magazine at hand.
Most of the interior sets, such as the London branch, an interrogation room, and even the Eiffel Tower portal room, though, were based in Britain, at the Warner Bros Studios Leavesden, in southeast England.
“If you look at the top of the real Eiffel Tower in Paris [in France], you can see the observation deck. That’s the highest point of the Tower,” Wood explains. “In Men in Black: International, the Eiffel Tower serves as a space ladder, with portals to other solar systems and a ladder that takes you down to the streets of Paris.
“We based the inside [of the portal room] on an Ellis Island idea that aliens would arrive from other universes and go through immigration. It has three great big doors through which you can pass from one dimension to another.” Ellis Island is a New York island that hosted the nation’s busiest immigrant inspection station from 1892 until 1954.
Other scenes were shot on location. The film’s crew, for example, went to the Moroccan city of Marrakech to capture the atmospheric hustle and bustle of the city’s marketplace. It was used as the backdrop for scenes including an alien chop shop where Agents H and M borrow a galactic hoverbike, a sequence in which the duo find themselves surrounded by other MIB agents, and the exterior of a Moroccan antique shop.
In the Moroccan antique shop scene, alien twins enter through what Wood calls a kinetic door that flips around on itself before opens up. “They walk through and into the back room, where we meet Pawny [a snarky alien sidekick voiced by Kumail Nanjiani]. It was a mad world to create but great fun because of all the attention to detail.”