Will Smith


Will Smith Interview

I, Robot
From Fred Topel

In my five years as a journalist, one of the few major stars I had never gotten to interview was Will Smith. It’s not that he was inaccessible. He just usually did his press junkets in New York on dates that I couldn’t travel. Now that he came to L.A. to promote I, Robot, I finally got to interview the Fresh Prince. And I call him that out of utmost respect for his early work in rap and sitcom.

I, Robot casts Smith as a detective in a future where robots roam the streets. We own them to perform our daily tasks. But he suspects one robot of murder, which is unheard of in a world where the laws of robotics scientifically prevent robots from harming humans.

Smith is as funny in person as he comes across in his movies. His random jokes in the middle of serious answers may not come across as well in print, but please understand that he took the nudity answer as seriously as he did his joke about digitally removing his enormous manhood.

What’s your favorite catch phrase from all of your movies? I try to get something memorable in all of them. I guess the one that people say back to me the most is, “You know what the difference is between you and me? I make this look good.” That one went over well.

Do you ever get tired of doing these big summer blockbusters? Well my son just told me, he saw the movie about two weeks ago and he said, “Whoa, dad, I loved that! But, uh, don’t save the world any more.”

What makes I Robot different from your other action and sci-fi movies? I loved the blend of genres. It’s a mystery, which is supposed to clash with an action movie. Mystery and action, they kind of don’t blend well because the pace of a mystery is a little slower, and you’ve kind of got to discover things, and then there is the action movie element that I love that is not really overdone. The action sequences go on as long as they’re supposed to go on, and then right after that you’re into the drama of it, and I think that there are just so many different things going on in this film and very, very rarely do you get an opportunity in an action movie to tell the story of a little girl dying and how that affected you, and take six minutes of screen time to tell the story. And I just loved the idea, the gamble of making this kind of movie, because it’s actually a small art film that is masquerading as a big summer blockbuster. Like the interrogation scene of Sonny, I was looking at that scene last night. You can’t compare that to anything. There’s no other movie where you have that level of emotion and connection with a detective interrogating a robot, without it being silly. I love the film and hope that people can connect to it.

Was your nude scene essential to the plot? Oh, absolutely. And that’s what I loved about being able to make this movie and work with the people that I worked with. My character suffers from a psychological condition called survivor’s guilt. You know, someone has experienced an accident and you have survivor’s guilt. I sent the script to a group of psychologists and asked them to tell me what would this character’s behavior be, and they said paranoia was one of the things. So he left the shower door open, no curtain, with the gun hanging over the thing and they said he would never be able to wash his hair because he wouldn’t close his eyes in the shower. So it was those types of things. You probably have got to have a degree in psychology to pick all of that out of it, but it gives it a certain level of reality when you know that that much thought went into it, and even if you don’t it’s just kind of a cool naked guy.

Will you do more nude scenes in the future? It’s interesting, because America is the only place that it’s really a big deal. Actually, the scene in this movie was full frontal nudity, but they had to digitally remove it. Yeah, it was the most expensive CGI shot in the movie. [Laughs]. But for an American audience, I saw Bad Lieutenant with Harvey Keitel. I will never be that good an actor. I just will never be that good an actor. I looked at that scene and Harvey Keitel is just standing there butt naked, and it’s almost like the attitude is like, “Yeah. Look at this here.” I’ll never be that good an actor.

How do you stay so buff? Oh, I train at lunch or after work, three, four, five times a week. It’s kind of a game that I play with myself. At the end of the day everybody is tired, and everybody is going home. I need to know that I am the one person that is going to the gym. It’s just that I need that mindset because I’ve been successful financially. It’s easy to get lazy, and then once you start to slip physically, you’re going to start to slip mentally and then inevitably you’re going to slip creatively, so I start with my body and my mind and it keeps my creativity [going].

Does Jada feel pressure to keep up with your workout routine? She just needs to keep up, you know? Jada’s not going out like that. She watched the scene last night, and went right to the gym this morning. She was like, “Nope, you’re not catching me out there.”

Doesn’t she still have her Matrix training? Oh yeah, but it’s easy to slip out of shape though. She watched the thing last night, and she went right to the gym first thing this morning. We call the younger guys that might try to come and get Jada, we call them Thundercats, and the girls that would be trying to come see me, we call them Thunderkittens. So Jada was like, “All them Thunderkittens got to see my man last night. I’ve got to go get it together.”

How did the special effects in I, Robot compare to your other movies? Well, they will put a tennis ball or something there and somebody actually as joke started printing out robot faces, so they would just tack a robot face up there. Really, the thing that they need is the eye line, they just need you to be looking at the right place that eventually the eyes will be. It would have been impossible in a scene like the interrogation scene, because that scene is so much about the interaction, and fortunately Alan Tudyk, who played Sonny, we had the opportunity to actually play out a scene, work a scene and rehearse a scene and do it like actors. It was like the process that they did for Gollum on The Lord of the Rings. There was actually a person there in a green suit and then they just replaced the person. Even the fighting scenes, in the fighting scenes there was no [other person], and we worked the scene out with stunt men, so I did it and I learned all of the moves where everybody would be, and learned all of that stuff, and then I’m doing it by myself. If you see that, it would be the perfect tabloid videotape that Will Smith has lost his damn mind. I’m by myself [fighting] and it just looks bizarre.

At least you don’t get hurt. The thing that’s crazy is that you actually hurt yourself more when there is no one there, because what happens is when you throw a punch, you need the contact to stop your shoulder from popping out, and a lot of times you get hyperextensions in the elbows and all of that stuff so you actually hurt yourself more when you’re not actually making contact with anything because you have to throw it and then you have to stop it yourself also.

Are you technophobic like this character? No, I am strictly the future. I need every single gadget that I could possibly have. I need the latest Panther or Jaguar, whatever the latest thing is, the newest Ipod, I can’t have the old one, all of that stuff. I need to have everything. I need all of the latest gadgets. There’s a music program called Reason that connects to another music program called ProTools. I have an album coming out for Christmas, and I just recorded my first single from inception, creating the music, laying the vocals, everything in a hotel room, and mixed it on my laptop on a plane flying back to L.A. And it’s just insane to me. I burned a CD, so I have a CD of the record, of everything in my laptop, and that it’s come to that point is just beautiful to me.

Will you go on tour again? I’ll be doing the I, Robot tour, and I’ll be performing on the tour. I’m performing in Moscow, Berlin, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Paris, and somewhere else. There’s six [spots].



Interviewed by Stella Papamichael
“ My eyes were all swollen up and I was like, 'But I wove you!' Yeah, that didn't work out... ”

Every summer Will Smith saves the world in blockbusting movies like Men In Black, Independence Day and I, Robot. But with romantic comedy Hitch, he shows us his more vulnerable side as a dating doctor who flounders in his attempts to woo Eva Mendes. It's already broken box office records in the States, which is especially good news for Smith who also produced the movie.

Do you believe in what Hitch says - that every woman out there is just waiting to be swept off her feet?

Absolutely. Love is the ultimate theme, but it's not just for women. I think it's also for men - it's the highest desire to which we all aspire. We all want to be in love and find that person who is going to love us no matter how our feet smell, no matter how angry we get one day, no matter the things we say that we don't mean. We just want that person who is going to love us in spite of all those things.

Were you a smooth operator in your dating days?

No, no. Goofy was the word that was used most often by my sisters because I've been this tall ever since I was 12 years old. It was difficult being this tall and about half of the weight that I am now, you know? So I had that for a lot of years and as I started to fill out I gained a little more confidence. It was a difficult time growing up with women because I was hurt, you know? I was hurt.

What happened to you?

I was about 10 years old and Stacy Brooks promised me the last dance at Shawn Hollis' birthday party and I was prepared. I was there and ready for that last dance and the DJ announces that this is the last song and I turn around and she's on the floor with David Brandon! I've been scarred from that moment, you know? But hey, I'm getting over it. I think I'm going to be okay.

And like Hitch you had an allergic reaction that ruined your chances with a girl. Is that right?

Yes, and it's really weird because Stacy Brooks was that girl when I was growing up! Like all the bad stuff that happened... it happened around Stacy Brooks. Things were heating up as much as they can when you're 11 and I thought she was starting to like me and then I got stung by a bee. That allergic reaction in the movie is actually how I look when I get stung by a bee. So Stacy saw me like that and whereas in the movie it's like an endearing thing, when you're 11 it just freaks the girls out! When they see you looking like that they just want you to get the hell away from them. My eyes were all swollen up and I was like, "But I wove you!" Yeah, that didn't work out.

Do things go smoother when you were dating [Matrix star] Jada [Pinkett-Smith]?

It was one of those things where everything went perfectly - not perfectly in the sense of smooth and lovely - but everything that went wrong went perfectly wrong. In the beginning of our relationship everything that needed to go wrong went wrong very quickly. We learned early on who we were and who we wanted to be and decided on a path to get there. Normally at the beginning of relationship it's all flowers and butterflies but we didn't have that. I was coming out of a divorce and she was coming out of a bad relationship and there was just no time for bull***. It was just blatant, hard, cold honesty and that's the basis of our relationship: harsh honesty.

What's the worst dating advice you've ever been given?

It was from a friend of mine - his name is Charlie Mack. He's like my ghetto co-ordinator from back in Philly and he said, "No, no, no! Whatcha gotta understand man, is that women want a dude that can do anything, so what you wanna do is make 'em laugh. If you wanna make 'em laugh and then they need to see you, like, knock somebody the f*** out!" He says, "Generally on first dates that's what I do, you know? Going the whole night it's funny, funny, funny, then I just go outside and just knock somebody the f*** out 'cause they need to feel safe! Women need to feel safe when they with you." And I'm like, "Cool..." But listen. It works. I mean it's the worst most horrible advice I've ever heard, but when women see him knock somebody out they do really say, "Ooh, Charlie!"

How did you enjoy getting kissed by Kevin James?

Well, that was interesting. We were shooting the movie in New York a year ago and nobody knows what the movie is at that point so there are like 250 New Yorkers standing out there as we're doing the scene. So this black guy walks up and he's watching and sees Kevin lean in for this kiss and he screams out, "Brother, NO! Hell no, Will! Un-uh, man! Don't be doing that Will! What the HELL is you doing, brother?!" So you know we had to call security to calm him down and explain that it was a movie and he was little more okay with it. With comedy though, you can get away with anything. I'm comedically brave so I was very comfortable.

On a serious note, do you think we'll ever see a romantic comedy where a black man gets together with a white woman?

You know, that was a big, big issue and still is a big issue in the States for making these types of films. It's something that comes up whenever for a film like this. The conversation came up for I, Robot about having a romantic interest for myself which would have been Bridget Moynahan. As the director, Alex Proyas didn't want it because there was no romantic interest in the book, but it was definitely an issue for the studio so, you know, it's just one of those weird problems that we'll keep chipping away at.

Hitch is released in London's West End on 4th March and in UK cinemas nationwide on 11th March 2005.


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