Will Smith may finally be human.
For well over a decade, he has been the Bulletproof Movie Star, the one guy who maintained a real degree of stardom even in an age where they’re starting to prove that movie stars aren’t really what drives this industry anymore. These days, for the first time, it feels like he’s working a little harder to sell each film because he realizes it’s not enough anymore to just show up.
Smith, though, is in that same class of guy as Tom Cruise, guys who have avoided the curse of movie stardom by making strong choices and working with great collaborators, and even when I don’t like the films he makes, he impresses me because of the way he manages things. Do I wish he’d starred in “Django Unchained”? Sort of. I loved Jamie Foxx in the film in the end, but there would be something wonderful about watching Smith subvert his own image in a film like that.
Will Smith is the ultimate arbiter of the Will Smith brand, though, and in today’s entertainment landscape, that’s how you remain on top for as long as he has. Part of it is also knowing how to hand things off at times, and “After Earth” is one of those cases. This is very much a Jaden Smith movie, with Will playing a supporting part, and he seems fine with that. To me, that’s the sign of a movie star who is secure with their place in things, because it doesn’t always have to be exclusively about them.
You want to see why I like Will Smith in one reaction? Watch this interview. I opened it by sharing with him an anecdote about a recent reaction from my kids, and when you see his face, that’s a happy dad, not an ego-driven movie star. Smith has always projected this amazing affability, and in person, it’s exactly the same.
We went to the Virgin Galactic Spaceport to do this interview, which I’ll talk more about tomorrow when I publish my Jaden interview, but I’ll say this: leave it to Smith to bring reporters to one of the most amazing places in America right now to chat for five minutes. That’s Big Willie Style, and it was a pleasure to have that conversation.
“After Earth” opens on Friday.