A/V Room









I, Robot - Will Smith Q&A

Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. You’ve got to be happy at the moment, with the movie’s Box Office. You’re doing incredibly well in America…
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. To be confident in the film, and the powerful intellectual base that Isaac Asimov stepped forward with, thanks to his short stories, and the great visionary future that Alex put together, and some of the greatest special effects you’ve ever seen, you know, and me naked, I just think the film has a lot to offer [laughs].

Q. It’s the biggest box office weekend for you?
Yes, it’s the biggest opening weekend I’ve ever had. I feel real good about it but, again, I’m happy that people are liking the movie.

Q. The shower scene… did you have the set cleared, or were you gung-ho about it. Could you talk us through that?
[Laughs] No, no, we brought people in. [Straight-faced] We had a studio audience. No, it’s actually really bizarre and awkward. You just want as few people there as possible. It’s a weird thing. But it was really important character nakedness, okay? 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 called survivors’ guilt, and one of the symptoms is paranoia, which is the reason why he had the door open, there’s no shower curtain, 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.

Q. It says in one of your biogs that you turned down a scholarship to NYT…
So the legend has it…

Q. Can you imagine how your life might have gone if you had taken that path?
Well, you know, maths and science has always been huge in my life, from the time I was like, probably, five-years-old, I wanted to be a scientist, and that was really the road that my parents were leading me down. At probably 11 or 12-years-old was the first time I got interested in entertainment, so I guess my love of science fiction is sort of the blend of the future that had been set forth for me in science, and the ability to entertain somewhat.
And I guess Star Wars was the movie. I might have been eight or nine-years-old and Star Wars was the movie that really put me into a space where the science fiction element of it was almost a spiritual connection for me; that someone could imagine that and then put it on the screen, and be able to make me feel like that. My entire career, I’ve been trying to make people feel the way Star Wars made me feel.

Q. Going into this film, people had been harsh about Bad Boys 2….
Who! What do you mean, man? People like you, you know?

Q. I would venture I was not the only one…. You’d also parted with your record company. I just wondered if you momentarily felt unloved, given the previous success of your career?
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. Probably Bad Boys is 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, you know?
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.

Q. Do you pay attention to the reviews?
For me, generally, the type of films that I make are… the summer films, at least, are virtually review proof. I don’t think I’ve ever got a good review from one of the Summer films. Cisco and Ebert, in the States, who were the most popular reviewers, would give movies thumbs up and thumbs down. They gave Independence Day four thumbs down. The only movie in their history that they did so.
You know, they would give every movie a thumb up or a thumb down, so it’s two. So they gave it two thumbs down, but then the movie came out, it was successful, so they said, ‘well, we’ll review it again, maybe we missed something’, and they gave it two thumbs down again. So, from the beginning of my career, I’m used to that, but more for a film like Ali, or Six Degrees of Separation, I desperately need you to stop writing bad things about me [slams the table, and laughs].

Q. The film clearly states a bleak depiction of man versus machine in the not too distant future. How are you both with technology/machinery? And what’s the thing you most fear happening to man, with technology?
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. 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 is when we ditch harsh adherence to logic and sort of reject our intuition, is only going to leave us in a situation that we see in I, Robot. It’s not specifically what’s going to happen with the robots, 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.

Q. Are you techno-friendly? Do you know your Google from your Yahoo?
Oh absolutely! I love technology. Whatever the latest ‘in thing’ is, I’ve got to have it. I’m a serious techno-geek.

Q. What toys do you have?
A. [Aside to press conference conductor]
I think he’s not giving enough people the chance. I think it’s beginning to be rude [laughs]. No, I have my iPod, which is the greatest gadget of the millennium.

Q. Do you think that the future depicted in the film is actually just 30 or 40 years away? Will the world be dominated by robots?
I think that if you look at the technology of the last 50 years, it’s actually advanced at a rate equal to the last thousand years, with the discovery of the micro-chip in the 50s, technology is expanding expendentially. I actually believe that the future that we see, the robot technology, the electro-magnetic cars, all of that, I believe that may not even be 30 years in the future. I think we could be much closer to that. I think the robotic technology that exists, that we studied for the film, they have cameras, in the States, in some of the 7/11s, that are programmed with theft body language; that the camera can determine if someone’s stealing through their body language.
Now, is that just a cool camera, or is that artificial intelligence? At some point, the camera is going to be a better judge of who’s stealing, than a person that’s sitting there looking. So the technology is there, it’s just a matter of pooling the technology into one piece of hardware.

Q. Given the CGI creation of the robots, could the film be pointing to a future where actors might become redundant?
[In a mock voice] Hold on fella, hold yourself, I resent that question [laughs]. No, actually, what we saw with the film was exactly the opposite. 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. 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.

Q. So does that mean in those scenes you shared with Sonny, Alan was there and was then replaced, rather like with Gollum?
Yeah, it was the Gollum process in Lord of the Rings. Alex, speak to that for me, would you?
Alex: I think the connection that you have as an audience, with Sonny as a character, really comes from a human being; more so than the programme that created the look of Sonny. And that’s Alan Tudyk. We think of it as almost sort of a reincarnation of the soul of an actor into another body. He looks different, but he’s still that actor, portraying that character, and I don’t think that’s ever going to change. There will always be a need for that origin for a character.

Q. You’re one of the few people I can think of who has successfully shifted from the music industry into the film world. David Bowie and Mick Jagger would probably loved to have done so. When was the major turning point for you?
I think it was more, I think I was always an actor that was rapping. The music that I made was always very theatrical, especially with the music videos, and Quincy Jones noticed and essentially said to me that you’re already doing it, so come and meet some people for the television show, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I think that making the transition to television, prior to the film world, was the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Television is like the gym, it’s a really good training ground, a really good work-out. You have to learn how to work fast. And having the opportunity to movie into films was just a really gradual process. What you saw seemed big and fast, but it was a really gradual process, and really Six Degrees of Separation was the first real roll the dice on everything.
I also never had to do anything for money, which, I think, was what really gave me the opportunity to make the right choices. When people start offering you money, I think that throws a lot of people off. You find yourself in a lot of situations that may not be the right ones, because you need to get paid.

Q. You said you liked technology. Would you allow a robot in your house?
Absolutely, absolutely…

Q. What household chore would you love it to do?
We can’t talk about that here! [Laughs] No, I think the absolute perfect use of a robot would be as a golf caddy. I play golf a lot and I’m really, really just not good. And I think if you had a robot that could tell you exact distance to the hole, and what the wind was doing, I’d probably still be bad, but at least I’d have a robot.

Q. But you were a good caddy in The Legend of Bagger Vance?
[Laughs] Yeah, you know, I learned a lot but it didn’t help my golf swing.

Q. You mentioned Star Wars before, so C3PO or R2-D2?
The chicks dig R2, so go to go with R2. If you’ve got to hang out with the dude, and you’re drinking, you got to go with R2 [laughs]

Q. Your character likes a lot of retro things - music and trainers - so are you a retro guy?
I’m not really a retro guy, I’m a future guy. Most of my interaction with the past, or if I’m looking into the past, or studying it, it’s always to get a sense of what the future is going to be. No old sneakers… my old Technics 1200 turntables are pretty much the only thing that I have musically that’s old. I’m completely into my computer, my iPod, music programmes, touch screen, remotes, all of that type of stuff.

Q. But what about the Stevie Wonder stuff in the film?
Oh love that! Love the Stevie Wonder music. That was a personal choice.

Q. It’s been said that the triumph of Halle Berry’s performance in Monster’s Ball was not that she won an Oscar, but that she was picked for a role that didn’t specifically warrant a coloured actress. Would you say there is now greater equality in Hollywood casting?
The big issue, I think, with the racial elements of Hollywood is that you have presidents of studios, and 90 per cent of the staff are Caucasian, you know, so they’re going to make stories that are close to their hearts. So, the scripts that they are creating, the things that they’re trying to build for their studio, are going to reflect their experiences. So, once Will Smith, or Denzel, or Halle Berry shows another road, or shows another angle, is when it comes on to the heads of the studio’s radar. Until that point, you couldn’t, or shouldn’t expect an American from New York to make a wonderful story about someone from Ireland, you know?

Q. This film is kind of unique, in that it just tells one story and doesn’t seem interested in setting up a franchise. Was that part of the allure?
This guy, right here [points to Alex], and we’ve had thousands of discussions about it, Alex is an art film director, you know. He cringes at the mainstream concept. We talked about the idea of Bridget and I kissing at the end of the film, which is like the mainstream. But Alex is like [motions to vomit]. The film that Alex created, and what he wanted to create, is just beautifully artistic to me.
My favourite scene is Sonny and I in the interrogation scene, which is so brilliant with what Alex was trying to create. I just love the humanity of that scene. The direction that he gave me was essentially that I was a racist sheriff, who had just captured the person I am most racist against. That was like, wow, you know, I was just not used to getting that kind of direction in a big Summer blockbuster.
I was like, ‘no, I’m fine, Alex, just let me do me!’ [laughs] But his approach is such an artistic approach to it, and the acting approach to it is so not a special effects blockbuster movie kind of approach.

# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z