'Back in Black'
Will Smith was the second of four children of Caroline and Willard Smith Sr., owner of a refrigeration company. He grew up in middle class West Philadelphia and got the nickname 'Prince' because of the way he could charm is way out of trouble. Smith completed his rapper name by adding "fresh" (a popular hip-hop adjective of the mid-eighties), and teamed up with Jeff Townes who, as Jazzy Jeff, became the Fresh Prince's musical partner. Eight years later, the duo had produced two platinum albums, including the Grammy-winning He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper, which featured the hit single "Parents Just Don't Understand".
With musical success achieved, Smith expressed a desire to try acting to several business associates, including Warner Bros executive Bunny Medina. It turned out that Medina, who was born poor in Los Angeles but lived as a teen with a rich Beverly Hills family, had been unsuccessfully pitching a sitcom based on his demographically diverse life. Fresh Prince of Bel Air premiered in 1990, and with its well-timed quips and pratfalls from Smith, the successful show stayed on the air for six years.
He grew up middle class and did so well in school that MIT offered him a scholarship, which he refused in order to pursue a show-business career. In 1993 he did his first starring movie role, as a young gay con man in 'Six Degrees of Separation.' For his follow-up flick, Smith teamed with fellow sitcom star Martin Lawrence in 'Bad Boys' (1995). The movie was a smash, Smith's asking price rose to $5 million per film, and offers poured in. He opted to play a heroic fighter pilot in the surefire blockbuster 'Independence Day' (1996).
Movies that followed for Smith include 'Men In Black' (1997), 'Enemy of the State' (1998), 'Wild Wild West' (1999), 'The Legend of Bagger Vance' (2000) the highly impressive 'Ali' (2001) and now, 'Men In Black II.'
How important is it for you that this movie is bigger than the original ? "I'm rumbling. I had "Independence Day" and "Men in Black" back to back. But now people are coming for me - so I got to go back and claim my throne. The movie is very funny so I think people will enjoy it."
How challenging was it to go back and do a sequel ? "You know, the sequel's not really challenging to the actors. You come to work every day trying to do your best. It's not like there's 110% that you can give. Every film gets compared to your last film anyway so for me it's like every film is a sequel."
So what made you want to do it again ? "You know, "Ali" was so far away from who I am, I adjusted my instincts so much for that film, I just wanted to be home, you know. So for me "MIB II" was almost like coming home. A family reunion, some place I felt comfortable doing comedy. The transition was a little bumpy but once Tommy Lee Jones got on the set, it smoothed out and it was great for me."
What's different about this one compared to the original ? "I think this movie is actually funnier. The first film had a real element of surprise that I don't think we'd be able to recapture, just because it came out of nowhere. People had no idea what they were going into the theatre to see. They had never seen a film like this. But I think we definitely captured the comedy this time. Overall, I think this is a better film than the first one."
To read our DVD Review of 'MIIB' just click here and be whisked away !
Interviewed by Thorne Cawlec for Exclusive Magazine
Back To Archives