Will I am
MEN IN BLACK III
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.