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I, Robot - It was really important character nakedness, it wasn’t gratuitous Hollywood nakedness!



Feature by: Jack Foley

WILL Smith isn’t the type of actor to do things quietly, so when he entered the room of The Dorchester Hotel to a fanfare of his own making, for the press conference for his latest blockbuster, I, Robot, you sensed that the ensuing 25 minutes could be rather lively.

And so it proved, as the rapper-turned actor energetically whipped up the room to deliver a rousing welcome, before entering into a whistling competition that really tested the ear-drums.

Smith, though, has got plenty to be happy about, given that I, Robot has delivered the most successful opening weekend, at the US Box Office, of his career, as well as receiving rave reviews from critics on both sides of the Atlantic.

The reception for the science-fiction thriller, which pits Smith’s sceptical detective against a possibly murderous robot in a not-too distant future, is in marked contrast to that which greeted his previous blockbuster, Bad Boys 2, not to mention his last album, which subsequently saw the star part company with his record label.

Asked how the disappointments of the past year had affected him, he said: "Anytime you create, and you’re putting something out in the world, you have to expect that some things are going to be great, and some things are going to be not so great.

"But Bad Boys is probably the most pain I have ever experienced in my career, because I feel like the better movie was actually inside of the movie that we had, you know?

"I felt like, if you take 25 minutes out of the movie and get it under two hours, cos there were things that were gratuitous, I just felt like there was a better movie that was inside of that movie, versus, for me, a film like Wild Wild West, where we just missed. It was a swing and a miss.

"Bad Boys is much more painful to me, because I feel like I have a relationship with the audience where I would strive for quality. It’s sort of what I have with my fans, I don’t make movies for money, I make it because there’s something I would like to see, and something that I want the audience to be able to see. For me, it’s more painful the quality let-down, rather than the box office let-down."

Talking about I, Robot, however, Smith adds: "I’m very happy with it. I’m more happy with the fact that I feel like we made a great movie, because I’ve had big box office in the past with not so great movies, and that doesn’t feel nice.

"But I think that the film has a lot to offer and I’m happy that people are liking it."

In truth, there isn’t much to dislike. By the actor’s own admission, the film offers a powerful intellectual base, inspired by the short stories of Isaac Asimov, that is contained within the visionary world of director, Alex Proyas, who made films such as The Crow and Dark City so memorable.

It also boasts some cutting-edge special effects, not to mention the prospect of seeing Smith naked.

But, as the jovial star was quick to point out, the much talked about ‘shower scene’ was not designed to be gratuitous, even though he joked that they had ‘brought people in’ to watch it while filming.

"It was really important character nakedness," he joked. "It wasn’t gratuitous Hollywood nakedness! The character suffered from a condition called survivors’ guilt, which, you know, you have an accident, and everyone else dies, so you feel guilt.

"It’s a psychological condition, and one of the symptoms is paranoia, which is the reason why he had the door open, there’s no shower curtain, and the gun holster is close by. He doesn’t wash his hair, because he needs his eyes to be open because he’s paranoid. So it was deep nakedness."

While Smith may be quick to joke about some of the lighter plot points in the movie, however, he did seize upon the opportunity to discuss some of the scientific possibilities it explores.

I, Robot is set some 30 to 40 years from now, when robots perform everyday tasks, such as collecting the rubbish, doing the cooking and walking the pet dog, while being governed by three laws, protecting them from harming people.

Smith plays Detective Del Spooner, a robot sceptic. He believes there are hidden dangers in giving robots so much responsibility and finds his resolve put to the test when a former mentor is murdered, possibly at the hands of one of the robots.

His bosses, however, think otherwise, and it is up to Spooner to prove his theory before the very fabric of society is placed under threat.

Far from offering a bleak vision of the future, however, both Smith and director, Proyas, believe the film offers a fair bit of optimism.

"I think the concept of the Isaac Asimov paradigm that he set off with the three laws was essentially that there’s nothing wrong with the technology. The technology is absolutely fine, and the robots in this film are doing exactly what they’ve been programmed to do," explained Smith.

"The problem is more man’s arrogance in thinking that we can confine the universe to laws. The universe will not be confined to laws, and the only thing that’s going to happen, when we ditch harsh adherence to logic and sort of reject our intuition, is that it is only going to leave us in a situation that we see in I, Robot.

"It’s more an indictment of human logic, than it is an indictment of technology. I think that the concept of technology is that we will have the lower intellectual endeavours taken care of by robots, or computers, which will free man up and actually give up more time to read books, and more time to evolve."

Smith was quick to play down suggestions, however, that robots, or special effects, might eventually replace actors in movies, given the growing emergence of computer-generated characters, such as the Lord of the Rings’ Gollum.

"The performance of Sonny in this film is Alan Tudyk’s performance; it’s all of the body language, the eyes, the facial motions, the voice, everything is Alan Tudyk’s performance," he explained. "You are watching the choices of an actor that were adapted by the special effects people.

"That cannot be generated; people go to the movies to see and feel humanity, and, at this point, you cannot computer generate humanity."

Needless to say, Smith describes himself as a serious techno-geek, someone who embraces the future more than clinging to the past, and who believes that his iPod is the ‘greatest gadget of the millennium’.

But when asked what household chore he would most like a robot to perform for him, he pauses, grins cheekily, and concludes: "We can’t talk about that here!"

It is a rare quiet moment in the circus that represent Smith’s life - although most people present at the press conference would hope for another meeting with the star in their very near future.

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