Director Barry Sonnenfeld’s upcoming memoir pulls a punch. Literally.
According to “Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother,” the 66-year-old director shared a unique tradition with actor Will Smith — one that inadvertently saved the “Men in Black” actor close to a quarter of a million dollars.
Sonnefeld told Page Six that he and the “Ali” star enjoyed a ritual of trading punches to pass the time while on the set of “Wild Wild West” — the 1999 feature directed by Sonnenfeld and starring Smith.
“I would hit him as hard as I could in his shoulder and he would laugh hysterically,” Sonnenfeld explained, “And he would hit me as hard as he could in my shoulder and I would collapse in pain.”
Apparently, after one episode of playful punching, Sonnefeld required surgery for a broken hand. But when pressed by a doctor as to the cause of the injury, Sonnenfeld replied that the injuring party was a door he walked into. Altruism aside, Sonnenfeld knew that if he revealed the real cause of the injury — Smith’s punches — the film’s insurance wouldn’t cover the cost associated with missing a day of filming.
As fate would have it, Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, also went into labor at the same time. However, attending to his wife’s delivery would require Smith’s absence from set — an absence not covered by the film’s insurance. Cue Sonnefeld’s “injury.”
“It worked out great for Will because he would have had to shut down production anyway,” Sonnefeld notes, “and that was not insurable so he would have had to spend like $200,000 for the day.” “So, since I ‘walked into a door,’” the director points out, “we had to shut down…it was an insurance claim.”
But, surprisingly, that wasn’t the only injury Sonnefeld sustained at the hands of Smith. The “Independence Day” actor tackled the director on the set of “Men in Black” and broke Sonnefeld’s rotator cuff.
“My wife Sweetie took a photo of me in the recovery room with tubes and I’m out of it and sent it to Will,” recalled Sonnenfeld. “His response was – ‘Hilarious!’”
Sonnefeld’s memoir also recounts many of the director’s more ribald encounters during his early years in Hollywood, including his time as a cameraman for porno films.
Unsparing in its candor, Sonnefeld recalls shooting one particularly purple scene that left him covered in excrement, causing him to immediately vomit and run out into the street. “I did nine days [of shooting porno] and it took me six months after to get an erection,” he quipped. “It’s truly horrible. I always say if porn was made in ‘smell-o-vision’ no one would ever watch a porno again.”
“Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother” hits bookstands on Tuesday, March 10.
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