Will I am


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YO, Will! Where you been, man? ‘‘ Oh you know, to Cuba, on tour with Justin Bieber, train­ing the Smith kids to take over the world . th. th.’’

It’s been a long four years since Will Smith last put him­self up where he be­longs, on the big- screen in drama Seven Pounds.

That he’s step­ping back with a sure­bet se­quel in the shape of Men in Black III is no ac­ci­dent, noth­ing is with Smith, a metic­u­lous ca­reer plan­ner even from the Fresh Prince days.

‘‘ You wanna come back and say, ‘ Hey, re­mem­ber me?’,’’ Smith says.

‘‘ I have to re­mind peo­ple of the his­tory we have to­gether, then make those strange left turns be­yond that point. I just needed time to grow as an artist,’’ says the 43- year- old.

‘‘ Jada [ ac­tor- wife Jada Pin­kett- Smith] and I went to Cuba – it was in­sane how my mind was open­ing up to artistry.

‘‘ We pro­duced Karate Kid ( star­ring son Jaden), my daugh­ter ( Wil­low) did her mu­sic and Jada was do­ing her tele­vi­sion show . . . then there was a unan­i­mous fam­ily decision that Daddy had to go back to work.’’

Smith un­leashes that great en­velop­ing Smith laugh.

So, re­mem­ber when Smith saved the Earth in In­de­pen­dence Day? The ques­tion is now, who will save Earth from the Smith fam­ily? Af­ter join­ing his fa­ther in The Pur­suit of Hap­py­ness and Keanu Reeves in The Day the Earth Stood Still, 13- year- old Jaden claims his own box- of­fice­draw­card sta­tus af­ter The Karate Kid kicked up $ 350 mil­lion world­wide.

About the same time her brother was kung fu fight­ing with Jackie Chan, Wil­low, now 11, had an R& B pop hit called Whip My Hair. It went to No. 18 in Australia, No. 11 in the US and No. 2 in the UK.

‘‘ It def­i­nitely ex­panded in a way that I didn’t re­alise it would,’’ says Daddy Will, re­fer­ring to the Smith fam­ily em­pire. ‘‘ Wil­low was the big­gest sur­prise for me –

Whip My Hair was in­sane . . . So we found our­selves on tour with Wil­low and Justin Bieber,’’ he laughs.

‘‘ It’s been an in­ter­est­ing four years. I’m glad I wasn’t work­ing. It was a great op­por­tu­nity to learn and be the best ver­sion of a hus­band and daddy.

‘‘ Be­cause I feel like as a fam­ily we’re in a great po­si­tion to make his­tory. The way that things are lin­ing up for us is very rare. We’re in a re­ally in­ter­est­ing space to do and to cre­ate things that very few en­ter­tain­ment fam­i­lies in his­tory have done.

‘‘ So at this point it’s about set­tling down and let­ting ev­ery­one find their lane.

‘‘ You know, Whip My Hair, Wil­low en­joyed it but that’s not her lane, that’s not where she’s most com­fort­able . . . Jaden is dif­fer­ent. Jaden is like, ‘ Dad, I wanna do what­ever I have to do to be bet­ter than you’.’’ Smith bursts into laugh­ter again. ‘‘ I was like, ‘ Per­fect!’ ’’ Though fo­cus has re­turned to his own arm of the em­pire for now, Smith hasn’t left his fam­ily com­pletely to their own de­vices.

‘‘ My next thing, Af­ter Earth, is work­ing with my son again, so it’s got­ten to the point where to go away and make a movie by my­self . . . I’m like, ‘ Some­body from the fam­ily has to be on set with me!’’’ Di­rected by M. Night Shya­malan, Af­ter

Earth will again see Smith mix­ing it up with aliens. But at the same time, it’s a step to­wards those ‘‘ left turns’’.

Men in Black III, on the other hand, ‘‘ is very easy for me, I feel at home and safe and con­fi­dent and com­fort­able,’’ Smith says.

It was Smith who came up with the ‘‘ bones’’ of the idea for III while on the set of

MIB II a decade ago, but he says it took the film­mak­ers five years to crack the story, its emo­tional end­ing in par­tic­u­lar.

Rather than just fol­low­ing the agents keep­ing Earth safe from aliens, this new film digs into the bro­mance be­tween K ( Tommy Lee Jones) and J ( Smith).

When J trav­els back in time to save K from be­ing killed ( the big hook be­ing that young Agent K is played to Jones- ap­ing per­fec­tion by Josh Brolin), J learns why his part­ner has been so grumpy and se­cre­tive for so many years.

‘‘ I guess be­cause I’m in the peak of my fa­ther­ing years, I’m re­ally at­tracted to sto­ries and ideas that ex­plore fa­ther fig­ures and men­tor­ship,’’ Smith says.

And the fran­chise hasn’t lost its funny bone – just ask Wil­low, who af­ter see­ing an early cut of the film de­clared, ‘‘ That’s a hit, Daddy’’.

‘‘ Straight from the mouths of babes,’’ guf­faws Smith.

While Smith’s slate is hope­fully filled with a fur­ther rash of se­quels ( I, Ro­bot 2,

Han­cock 2, Bad Boys 3), he talks far more long­ingly of those ‘‘ left turns’’.

So what does the man who unashamedly de­clared and achieved his goal of be­ing the big­gest movie star in the world still want to achieve as an ac­tor? Turns out, there’s a few things. One: ‘‘ What I re­alised, act­ing is just the gift that I’ve been given to learn about my­self. So I’m at­tracted to char­ac­ters right now who have sim­i­lar is­sues to the things that are go­ing on in my life.’’

Two: ‘‘ I’m feel­ing very drama- hun­gry. There’s a dra­matic mus­cle I have, I just want to play crazy peo­ple!’’

Three: ‘‘ I wanna make movies that have good ideas at the cen­tre. Aris­to­tle talked about the cen­tral ques­tion of hu­man­ity: ‘ How should a hu­man be­ing lead his or her life?’ I just wanna cre­ate art and be a part of groups that of­fer some ideas or so­lu­tions on how one should lead their life.’’ Four: Smith just wants to have fun. ‘‘ I’m mak­ing a bit of an ad­just­ment on set right now. It was never about hav­ing fun for me dur­ing the process, fun was al­ways af­ter: ‘ When the movie’s No. 1, then we all gonna have a lot of fun!’,’’ he laughs.

‘‘ Fun is an el­e­ment that Jada’s re­ally helped me with and specif­i­cally with the kids, be­cause they’re not do­ing it for sur­vival. I was do­ing it for sur­vival.

‘‘ When you get into that sec­ond gen­er­a­tion and it’s no longer about sur­vival, it’s re­ally im­por­tant to have your vi­sion broad enough to see all of the gifts in the jour­ney. So I’m loos­en­ing up.’’

Smith’s wife of al­most 15 years, Jada re­cently spoke out about split ru­mours that have been dog­ging the cou­ple, declar­ing them ‘‘ com­pletely un­true’’. Smith, al­ways a tor­nado of pos­i­tive en­ergy, finds such neg­a­tiv­ity talk ‘‘ re­ally frus­trat­ing’’.

‘‘ I had to take the po­si­tion of ‘ No com­ment’ on things, which is re­ally un­like me,’’ he laughs.

‘‘ Like, I’m in Philly and a guy comes up to me and he says, ‘ Hey Will, I heard you bought the top floor of this apart­ment build­ing across the street’. I said, ‘ No, no I didn’t’. He said, ‘ Yeah you did, it was on the cover of the Metro sec­tion’.

‘‘ I said, ‘ I don’t care if Je­sus said it, it’s not true’. He said, ‘ Oh no, I get it, I un­der­stand. It’s for se­crecy’.

‘‘ I said, ‘ No, no, it’s not for se­crecy. I’ve never seen that build­ing’. He said, ‘ OK Will, I un­der­stand, I re­spect your privacy’. I said, ‘ NO! NO! It’s not about my privacy!’ . . .

‘‘ What I re­alised is that I am the least re­li­able source for in­for­ma­tion about my life. There’s ab­so­lutely noth­ing I can say and the only way is ‘ No com­ment’, right, ’ cos then you keep your mys­tery.

‘‘ You can’t play the game. ’ Cos as soon as you get in the game, you’re sucked in, it’s like the mob.’’ He stops and grins. ‘‘ But I like to just kill ‘ em at Num­ber 1.’’ And that, in the end, is al­ways where Will Smith winds up – on top.

‘‘ Some peo­ple are just karmi­cally dif­fer­ent,’’ says Barry Son­nen­feld, who has di­rected Smith in three Men in Black movies over the course of 15 years.

‘‘ Will has this weird karmic en­ergy that you just know he’s a win­ner. He’s gonna bring 100 per cent to ev­ery­thing. If he de­cides to run for of­fice, or he de­cides to di­rect, what­ever it is, he will suc­ceed.’’

SPE­CIAL AGENT: Will Smith is back as J ( far left) with Josh Brolin as a younger Tommy Lee Jones; ( be­low) the fam­ily man.

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