Feature by: Jack Foley
IT SEEMS there's just no stopping the Will Smith success story.
Having started out as a singer, the star then conquered television
with his comedy show, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, before turning
his attentions to movies and making some of the biggest box office
successes of the past few years.
Hitch, his latest film, sees him venturing into romantic comedy
for the first time, as well as serving as producer.
Needless to say, it proved another colossal hit, quickly becoming
one of the highest-grossing romantic comedies of all-time, as
well as one of the best reviewed.
Yet Smith remains remarkably modest and down-to-earth about his
achievements and ambitions.
"The work that we did on Hitch is really work that we’ve
been doing for years on other films – it’s just the
first time it’s from our company," he told a recent
London press conference.
"We found the script and we developed it from scratch, so
for me the importance of it is to be able to see the ideas that
we have come to light.
"As an actor, you’re always working for someone else
- it's someone else’s vision that you’re helping them
to realise, so going into producing is an opportunity to be able
to see your vision brought into fruition."
With this in mind, Smith was then asked whether serving as a
producer would allow him to explore other avenues as an actor,
and whether playing the good guy was becoming a little tiring.
"Yeah man, I’m tired of that shit," he joked
in reply. "Why does everybody expect that shit from me man?
I just want to knock somebody out man!
"You know, that’s the beauty of acting, it’s
a director’s medium so when directed properly, any actor
can sell anything.
"So generally the bad guy roles don’t really speak
to me, but I’m sure at some point something will come up.
"I saw The
Woodsman and I just loved the bravery of that role –
I mean I’m trying to think of any role that I’ve ever
seen that was more brave than The Woodsman, and really The Woodsman
is the only time that I’ve seen something that was at that
level of discomfort for the audience to watch.
"I would have really enjoyed playing that; I feel like I
would have been able to make it really scary. I thought that would
be something that would be powerful – but I do think I’m
good enough an actor to do it – I might not be, but I think
Given the actor's confidence in his own abilities, and the honesty
with which he replies to every question, it comes as little surprise
to find that his co-stars are equally as over-awed by his talents.
Kevin James, for example, describes Smith as 'a different breed
than all of us'.
"I've never worked with or met anyone as talented as he
is," he explained in interview.
"He could do anything - if he wanted to do your job I think
he would do it better than you; that's how frustrating he is.
"He concentrates on what he wants to do and does it so well
that there's just no limitations to this guy. And he does everything.
He started in music, he conquered that; he did a TV show and did
that; he did film and is at the top of his film game. This guy
Likewise, Eva Mendes, who has nothing but admiration for Smith,
even though she admits to finding some of the re-writes that took
place during the filming of Hitch a little difficult to cope with.
"What you see is what you get with Will," she explained.
"I've done a movie with him now, going through tedious re-writes
and rehearsals and moving schedules, and long, long shoots; he
was the producer on this as well, so I kind of had to respect
him. But I'm telling you, this guy never once lost his cool, always
kept morale up, funny as can be - that's him all the time.
"And now we're doing this press tour, where we're all on
this plane together, and we're all cranky and tired, and he's
always just the positive person that we all need and look up to.
"Sometimes I feel bad because we rely on him so much for
morale, you know? When he's not around, we're a little lost."
Having spent some 45 minutes in the company of Mr Smith myself,
it's easy to identify with what she means.
So long may his success continue!