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|Also Known As:||Willard Christopher Smith Jr., Willard Smith||Died:|
|Born:||September 25, 1968||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA||Profession:||actor, singer, lyricist|
Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY
With relentless energy and boundless charisma, rapper-turned-acclaimed actor Will Smith transformed himself from his early persona, The Fresh Prince, to become both an Oscar-nominated performer and one of the biggest blockbuster action stars of all time. Smith started his career in the popular rap duo, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, which produced such hit classics as "Parents Just Don't Understand" (1989) and "Summertime" (1991). He capitalized on his popularity with the sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (NBC, 1990-96) and had his first brush of dramatic acclaim following "Six Degrees of Separation" (1993). In the mid-1990s, Smith became a major action star with "Bad Boys" (1995), "Independence Day" (1996) and "Men in Black" (1997), and began earning both critical kudos and Oscar consideration for his performance as "Ali" (2001). Meanwhile, his marriage to actress Jada Pinkett-Smith - whom he wed in 1997 - made headlines mainly due to their rare stability and devotion to family. On screen, Smith rose to the top of all-time action stars, becoming only one of three actors to have seven consecutive $100 million blockbusters after starring in "I, Robot" (2004), "Hitch" (2005) and "I Am Legend"...
With relentless energy and boundless charisma, rapper-turned-acclaimed actor Will Smith transformed himself from his early persona, The Fresh Prince, to become both an Oscar-nominated performer and one of the biggest blockbuster action stars of all time. Smith started his career in the popular rap duo, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, which produced such hit classics as "Parents Just Don't Understand" (1989) and "Summertime" (1991). He capitalized on his popularity with the sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (NBC, 1990-96) and had his first brush of dramatic acclaim following "Six Degrees of Separation" (1993). In the mid-1990s, Smith became a major action star with "Bad Boys" (1995), "Independence Day" (1996) and "Men in Black" (1997), and began earning both critical kudos and Oscar consideration for his performance as "Ali" (2001). Meanwhile, his marriage to actress Jada Pinkett-Smith - whom he wed in 1997 - made headlines mainly due to their rare stability and devotion to family. On screen, Smith rose to the top of all-time action stars, becoming only one of three actors to have seven consecutive $100 million blockbusters after starring in "I, Robot" (2004), "Hitch" (2005) and "I Am Legend" (2007). As he won more praise for his performances in "The Pursuit of Happyness" (2006) and "Seven Pounds" (2008), Smith was well-established as that rare star whose infectious spirit and versatility transcended racial and generational borders, continually attracting record-breaking crowds to sci-fi adventures, comedies and dramas.
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CAST: (feature film)
Milestones close milestones
Will Smith is a golf fanatic.
"Will has this very infectious personality, with a great spirit. Whatever he has, you can't teach. I think the Eddie Murphy comparison is there." --Brandon Tartikoff quoted in People, September 4, 1990.
Smith was nicknamed "The Prince" by a teacher in Overbrook High School because of his regal attitude and his ability to talk his way out of difficult situations. "Fresh" was adopted later from street lingo meaning "cool."
Two albums have gone platinum: "He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper" and "And in This Corner".
"Everybody got excited about Will, but I was a little more cautious," admits ["Six Degrees of Separation" director Fred] Schepisi. "I interviewed a lot of actors. But Will tried to convince me that he'd do whatever it would take, go through whatever process, was sure he could get himself prepared. That confidence and charm was everything the character should be. [He was] worth taking a chance on."
At Schepisi's request, Smith trained with both an acting and dialect coach at least three days a week for three months before rehearsals began. "This character had to learn to walk and talk and act," says Smith. "And I had to learn to walk and talk and act to play him." --From "Can Will Smith Play on Park Avenue?" by Meredith Berkman in Entertainment Weekly, December 24, 1993.
So Smith ... called Denzel Washington "to get his opinion on how people look at roles that you choose," he says. "Denzel said white people generally look at a movie as acting. They accept the actors for who they are, and the role is separate. But black people, because they have so few heroes in film, tend to hold the artists personally responsible for the roles they choose." Washington told Smith that while he thought Paul was a good part for him, he also had some words of caution: "You can act all you want, but don't do any real physical scenes." In other words, Smith says Washington told him, "don't be kissing no man." --From Premiere, January 1994.
Smith took the role but decided to follow Washington's advice. While the script included a kiss between Smith's and Anthony Michael Hall's characters, director Schepisi eventually shot around the kiss and around explicitly sexual scenes ... Smith admits that at first he didn't tell the filmmakers about his reluctance. Grinning sheepishly, he says, "I waited till they gave me my check ... --From Premiere, January 1994.
"It was very immature on my part," Smith says now. "I was thinking, 'How are my friends back in Philly going to think about this?' I wasn't emotionally stable enough to artistically commit to that aspect of the film. In a movie with actors and a director of this caliber, for ME to be the one bringing something cheesy to it . . ." Smith trails off, clearly angry at himself for failing to finish the job. "This was a valuable lesson for me," he says a moment later. "Either you do it or you don't." --From Entertainment Weekly, December 24, 1993.
Smith hosted the Presidential Inaugural Celebration for Youth (part of the 1993 Inaugural Gala for President Clinton).
"The thing that was great about 'Bad Boys' is that it was an inexpensive movie and there were no expectations. That is so beautiful because whatever you do is going to be fine. The significance of 'Bad Boys' to me was that two black stars were in a film that was treated like a big-time film [by Columbia]. Outside of Eddie Murphy and Whoopi Goldberg, you don't see this level of attention given to too many films [with black actors]." --Will Smith in Los Angeles Times, December 10, 1995.
"When I look back on my career, I want to have a somewhat dazzling, eclectic portfolio." --Smith in Los Angeles Times, December 10, 1995.
"It's a whole different thing being an actor. A rapper is about being completely true to yourself. Being an actor is about changing who you are. You make yourself a different person. You become a different person." --Will Smith in Newsday, April 2, 1995.
On his upbringing, Smith told Rolling Stone (December 10, 1998): "My father made me a soldier, and my mother gave me the strength to be one."
Asked if he has aspiration to direct someday, Smith replied: "I don't think so. Actors can be a real pain ... The directors I've worked with are all people who are completely open to suggestion. I haven't worked with anyone yet who rejects input. So it's not like there's been a wonderful idea I've had that I would've done differently if I'd been directing." --From the Daily News, November 29, 1998.
"There's different ways that you can measure people's greatness. And the way I like to measure greatness is: How many people do you affect? In your time on earth, how many people can you affect? How many people can you make want to be better? Or how many people can you inspire to want to do what you do? ..." --Smith to Vanity Fair, July 1999.
"I just can't sit down that long. I have to be up, I have to be doing something. I have to be creating something, I have to be moving. I've always had too much energy." --Smith to London's The Sunday Times, June 27, 1999.
"I want to be as funny as Eddie Murphy and as great as Denzel [Washington] ... I'm committed to personal excellence and whatever that lends itself to." --Smith to The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 29, 2000.
"Redford was the first director where I closed my eyes and said, 'I'm not going to to allow my natural instincts to afect waht you want on-camera.' It was a dangerous scary place, I had to focus and create a characterm, not just do my Will Smith thing and get paid." --On his appearance in "The Legend of Bagger Vance" to Premiere, December 2000.
"I despise weakness. Weakness feels like a cancer. If someone around you us weak, eventually they'll make you weak." --Will Smith quoted in "The Contender" by John Brodie in GQ, December 2001.
On the less than successful box-office reception of "The Legend of Baggar Vance": "Using golf as an analogy for the concept that you can't have any fear about the undertaking attracted me to "Bagger Vance". But I knew going in that black folks just generally don't enjoy watching films about that era. Black folks don't like seeing black folks catering to white people." --From "The Contender" by John Brodie in GQ, December 2001.
"I'd turned down the part over and over, And for one reason: I was petrified! I honestly didn't think I was smart enough to understand how to play Ali. Everyone would come in excited about the movie till they talked to me, and then they'd go away, thinking, 'This guy is an idiot.'
"I was too embarrassed to say I didn't feel intellectually prepared to tackle the work. And the script by Stephen Rivele and Christopher Wilkinson was so good and had so much depth that it scared me even more." --Smith to the Los Angeles Times Calendar, December 9, 2001.
"I am just profoundly changed after making this film. I have a greater understanding of greatness. I had the opportunity to break down, define, and quantify and inest the parameters of greatness. It's really bittersweet, because I had the opportunity to be that close and to understand it and never really know if I will have the challenges to attain that level of greatness in my life." --Will Smith on "Ali" quoted in Time Out New York, December 13-27, 2001.
On playing Muhammad Ali: "It represents the most complete performance I've ever been given the opportunity to display. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, there are so many different aspects and so many ups and downs. It took more of what I possess as a performer and a person to create this interpretation of Muhammad Ali." --Will Smith quoted by Stephen Schaefer in Boston Herald, December 23, 2001.
"I desire perfection, I desire being the best that I can possibly be. I don't want to take time to eat, I don't want to take time to sleep. I want to let the other guy be eating and sleeping, while I'm working and trying to achieve my best earthly perfection. So with that desire, I generally don't allow myself to think about how it's going to land as much as I try to just worry about the task at hand and make sure I get as close to a hundred percent as possible, and generally good things have come out of that for me." --Will Smith quoted in Steppin' Out Magazine, January 9, 2002.
"The most difficult aspect was trying to develop an understandingof the black American point of view during the '60s." Being a child of rap music, it's difficult to understand social upheaval. A sign that says 'Coloreds Only' on the bus, that's just so foreign to me! That was a real struggle for me to understand how you would wake up and live your life under those circumstances." --Smith on the challenges of acting in "Ali" in Entertainment Weekly, January 16, 2002.
"I like to prove that people are wrong. I'm driven by actions, not by dialogue."---Smith on having to overcome prejudice in casting to Entertainment Weekly January 16, 2002
"My eyes weren't open enough to see that this is a piece of work. This is not me, this is Paul Poitier [the character he was portraying]. I think that I'm more mature now. I wish I had another shot at it."---Smith on refusing to kiss another man, as required by the script for the 'kiss' scene of "Six Degrees of Separation," in which he played a gay hustler Biography Spring 2004
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