‘Friends’ Actor David Schwimmer Hurt His Film Career Turning Down a Major Role in ‘Men in Black’

Will Smith is a household name today; he has had a prolific career and is one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood today, starring in major blockbusters what feels like every year. One of the movies that really got his Hollywood career going was Men in Black. Who could forget Smith’s portrayal of Agent J, a cool-if-slightly reckless alien detective? 

It turns out that we might have missed out on Will Smith’s Agent J altogether if another ’90s sitcom star hadn’t rejected the role.

David Schwimmer smiling in front of a black background
David Schwimmer | Rob Kim/Getty Images

Who is David Schwimmer?

David Schwimmer’s name is nowhere near as universally recognizable as Will Smith’s, but there are surely some ’90s sitcom fans who recognize it. Schwimmer played Dr. Ross Gellar in the iconic ’90s sitcom Friends, which is still one of the most popular sitcoms in television history. Fans loved Schwimmer as the goofy, nerdy, at-times obsessive Ross who got his happy ending with the on-again-off-again love of his life, Rachel (brilliantly played by Jennifer Aniston). 

Apart from Friends, however, Schwimmer’s career never really seemed to take off after the show went off the air. This is especially true in comparison to his co-star Aniston, who’s gone on to star in blockbuster after blockbuster and achieve immense success. He has done some projects, like voice acting as Melman the giraffe in the Madagascar animated films and more recently in miniseries The People Vs. O.J. Simpson. However, Friends is still the most notable credit to his name.

RELATED: ‘Friends’ Creators Almost Gave the Role of Ross to This Actor After David Schwimmer Originally Turned it Down

‘Men in Black’ is a legendary film franchise

Men in Black is legendary. Decades later, many fans can still quote the movie and sing its theme song line-by-line. The sci-fi comedy, starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones is set in an alternate world in which aliens are regular visitors to Earth. Many of them are welcome and live ordinary human-esque lives, but some aliens are out for trouble.

That’s where the titular Men in Black come into play; Agent J (played by Smith) and Agent K (Played by Jones) work for a top-secret organization that polices aliens on Earth. They’re also responsible for erasing humans’ memories so that the existence of aliens is never found out. The original Men in Black was quickly followed by a sequel, and then another film was released several years later. The franchise was so popular that there was even a reboot in 2019.

Schwimmer turned down the chance to star in ‘Men in Black’

Men in Black has an excellent storyline, but what really made it so successful was Will Smith’s irresistible portrayal of Agent J. His comedic timing is impeccable, and he is fantastic in action roles, as is proven by many other movies he’s starred in as well. All in all, we can’t imagine a Men in Black without Will Smith – he even wrote the theme song! Smith has gone onto such notorious success in Hollywood that most people forget that he got his start on a ’90s sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

However, the role of Agent J wasn’t even supposed to go to Smith to begin with. It was actually originally offered to Schwimmer, reports Collider, who was still riding high on his Friends success at the time. For some unknown reason, Schwimmer turned the role down, and as we know, to this day he is still best known for playing Ross. Don’t get us wrong; we love Ross as much as the next person, but it’s hard not to wonder where Schwimmer’s film career might be now if he’d taken that role.