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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:||Music ... actor singer lyricist|
. This time critics were on the same page as audiences, expressing their collective thumbs up for the action comedy as it broke the $600 million mark worldwide.ard for Best Solo Rap performance. The song also appeared on Smith's debut solo album released on Columbia Records that year, Big Willie Style, which spawned chart-topping hits "Getting' Jiggy Wit It" and "Just the Two of Us," an homage to father/son relationships and dedicated to his son, Trey.
Smith and Pinkett capped 1997 with a New Year's Eve wedding outside Pinkett's hometown of Baltimore, MA. Nearby, Smith had been shooting the dramatic thriller "Enemy of the State" (1998), in which he offered a sturdy dramatic performance as a labor lawyer targeted by the National Security Agency after acquiring evidence pivotal to a politically-motivated killing. His next outing was one of the lesser efforts in the blockbusters Smith cannon â¿¿ "Wild Wild West" (1999), in which he was cast as a Civil War-era government agent in a loose interpretation of the popular 1960s TV series. His laid-back charm and charisma may have been overshadowed by overblown special effects, but Smith still managed to attract over $100 million in domestic box office (on a $200 million budget) and banked another number one hit with the film's theme song. The song also appeared on Smith's multi-platinum selling Willennium alongside singles "Freakin' It" and "Will 2K." But when Smith returned to the big screen in the highly-touted millennium, he was ready to put his action-comedy star status aside in favor of tackling serious drama. His first, decidedly non-summer extravaganza, was the period fable "The Legend of Bagger Vance" (2000), in which he played a mysterious caddy who dispenses inspirational support to a washed-up golf pro (Matt Damon). While Smith seemed a bit at sea in this drastic departure from his usual fare, reviewers agreed that he managed to keep the character from devolving completely into clichÃ©, despite challenges with the script and direction.
Smith's follow-up erased any doubt that he had the dramatic potential of one of his acting her s, Denzel Washington â¿¿ to say nothing of bumping his salary up to the $20 million mark. Preparing to play the lead in director Michael Mann's biopic "Ali" (2001), Smith followed the same training regimen as the heavyweight champion once did, challenging himself to dig spiritually and emotionally deeper than he had ever done before as an actor. The film concentrated on the tumultuous period in Ali's life, spanning his surprise win over Sonny Liston through his draft difficulties, to his defeat of George Foreman in the infamous "Rumble in the Jungle." Smith's powerhouse performance earned him the highest critical accolades of his career, including nominations from the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes, the Black Reel Awards, and the Image Awards.
Smith conquered entirely new creative territory with "Ali" but it was not his only landmark project of 2001. He also released his first book, the illustrated children's story Just the Two of Us, inspired by his 1998 hit song and dedicated to fathers everywhere. In 2002, he released the album Born to Reign before attempting to revisit his successful action film track record with a couple of would-be summer blockbuster sequels that generated solid ticket sales, but offered little creative innovation, including reuniting with Tommy Lee Jones in "Men in Black II" (2002) and Martin Lawrence in "Bad Boys 2" (2003). In 2003, he returned to the primetime fold as co-creator and executive producer â¿¿ along with Pinkett-Smith â¿¿ of the UPN sitcom, "All of Us" (UPN, 2003-07), which was based on their own experiences as a blended family. By now, the Smith-Pinkett household had grown to include not only Trey, but son Jaden Christopher and daughter Willow, all of whom would begin to express an interest in the family business.
Along with business partner James Lassiter, Smith formed Overbrook Entertainment, debuting as a feature film producer with an adaptation of Isaac Asimov's sci-fi classic "I, Robot" (2004), in which he also starred as a futuristic police detective. The familiar turn as blockbuster hero was crowd-pleasing if not horizon-expanding, but Smith followed up with a surprisingly belated visit to straight-ahead comedy. He lent his distinctive persona to DreamWorks' CGI-animated "Shark Tale" (2004) as Oscar, the mouthy young fish who ends up in hot water after the death of a shark mob boss. Overbrook's next release, "Hitch" (2005), fully capitalized on Smith's considerable charisma and romantic appeal, with his starring role as a smooth professional date doctor whose technique g s awry when he meets his own potential lady love (Eva Mendes).
Now signed to Interscope records, following the lackluster sales of his final album with Columbia, Smith released Lost and Found and enjoyed another rise in the pop and R&B charts with the single "Switch." The actor shook things up again, returning to drama by giving a strong performance in the fact-based "The Pursuit of Happyness" (2006), starring as a single dad struggling to raise a son â¿¿ played by Smith's own eight-year-old son, Jaden Christopher â¿¿ while doggedly pursuing a career at a prestigious stock brokerage firm, despite being homeless. Reviews for the film were mixed, but critics were unanimous in their praise of Smith's touching, inspirational portrayal which earned the actor Oscar, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, Black Reel, and Image Award nominations.
In 2007, Smith found himself listed as the top actor on the annual Entertainment Weekly list of "50 Smartest People in Hollywood," where he was touted for "achieving a level of global popularity unprecedented for an African-American actor." Further evidence of that claim came with the holiday release of "I Am Legend" (2007), in which Smith wowed again in a film departure that was darker in tone and more intellectually impacting than anything he had done in his career. The third adaptation of Richard Matheson's novel of the same name starred Smith as the potential sole survivor of a post-apocalyptic viral plague. The actor challenged himself by occupying nearly two-thirds of the screen time by himself. The film set box-office records and Smith felt it represented a career high mark for him, in that it successfully married audience accessibility and artistic merit within a mainstream feature. Smith celebrated the July 4th holiday of 2008 with "Hancock," a comedy about a fallen superhero rehabilitated by a publicist. Naturally, the film was a massive box office success â¿¿ over $600 million worldwide â¿¿ though critics were far less enthusiastic than audiences.
Slipping into producer mode, Smith oversaw Neil LaButeâ¿¿s thriller "Lakeview Terrace" (2008), which starred Samuel L. Jackson as a veteran LAPD office who terrorizes his new neighbors (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington), and "The Secret Life of Bees" (2008), which featured an acclaimed performance by Queen Latifah as a South Carolinian woman who shows a young girl (Dakota Fanning) the secrets of her motherâ¿¿s past. Also that year, he starred in "Seven Pounds" (2008), where he played a mysterious IRS agent determined to change the lives of seven people in order to achieve his own redemption. Once again, critics were rather unhappy with Smithâ¿¿s effort, but that did nothing to stop yet another $100 million take at the box office. Back to producing, he steered his son in the remake of "The Karate Kid" (2010), in which Jaden played a 12-year-old kid who moves from Detroit to Beijing and learns martial arts from the aging Mr. Han (Jackie Chan). After the financially successful, but critically dismissed romantic comedy "This Means War" (2012), Smith was back in the saddle with "Men in Black 3" (2012), which saw Agent J travel back in time to the 1960s in order to save both the future and Agent Kâ¿¿s (Tommy Lee Jones) younger self (Josh Brolin)
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