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