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Will Smith rigged his career for $$$. Bill Simmons on Will Smith as an actor.

darkrain Members Posts: 2,128 ✭✭✭
edited June 2012 in Lights, Camera, Action!
Very good read and good point about Will Smith. This is why I upset with Will Smith.
None other than the great William Goldman disagrees with me. He believes that we have one movie star right now and only one: Will Smith. I find this depressing since these were Smith's past eight movies …

Men In Black II
Bad Boys II
I, Robot
The Pursuit of Happyness
I Am Legend
Seven Pounds

That's nine years of work: one alien sequel, one buddy-cop sequel, two futuristic/apocalyptic action movies, one superhero movie, one romantic comedy and two overly sappy dramas. My favorite of those efforts, by default, was The Pursuit of Happyness. I'm a sucker for "father and son hit rock-bottom, bond, then eventually turn things around" movies dating back to Kramer vs. Kramer, and only because my parents got divorced and I spent two years living with my father in a Boston apartment, sleeping on a sofa bed, eating grilled cheeses and going to Celtics games. Throw an alien in there and I think I'd have the plot for Will Smith's next movie.

Goldman's argument is simple: He believes Smith is our only movie star because every one of his movies makes money. Lots and lots of money. If you trade for LeBron, you're guaranteed 82 games, 26 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and 50 percent shooting for every regular-season game, followed by a mysterious collapse in a huge playoff series. If you fund a Will Smith movie, you're guaranteed a $150 million worldwide gross … minimum. It's impossible NOT to make money from Will Smith. He's a sure thing. He's foolproof.

Not even Leo DiCaprio can say that: Back in 2008, Leo released Body of Lies, a decently reviewed action movie with Russell Crowe that tanked at the box office ($70 million budget, $39 million U.S. gross). That was his next movie after The Departed and Blood Diamond, two critical and commercial hits that had seemingly vaulted him to Smith's level of bankability. Nope. If you swapped Will Smith for Leo in Body of Lies, the movie would have made at least $150 million worldwide. You know how I know this? Because I, Robot made $347 million, Seven Pounds made $168 million and I Am Legend made $256 million. Those movies all stunk. If I gave you those three Blu-rays for Christmas, you would regift them to someone you didn't like. Doesn't matter. Will Smith's movies make money.

The big question: Do his movies make money because he's Will Smith (and people simply enjoy seeing him on a big screen), or because he figured out some loophole in the Star System? His career choices these past two decades were, for lack of a better word, creepy. As if a computer program spit them out.

(Oh, wait … that's basically what happened!)

True story: When Smith was trapped on the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air set in the early '90s, dreaming of starring in movies instead of selling Alfonso Ribeiro's jokes, Smith and his manager, James Lassiter, studied a list of the top 10 grossing films ever. Here's what Smith told Time Magazine in 2007: "We looked at (the list) and said, O.K., what are the patterns? We realized that 10 out of 10 had special effects. Nine out of 10 had special effects with creatures. Eight out of 10 had special effects with creatures and a love story."

Pretty shrewd. Smith established himself as bankable with 1994's Bad Boys, then went right after that top-10 list, starring in 1996's Independence Day and Men in Black one year later. Those two films grossed nearly $1.4 billion worldwide. Will Smith was right. In a perfect world, Smith would have used that success to create the career that we would have wanted him to have. You know, a little like how DiCaprio does it: go make a big-ass movie in which you get to be a movie star (Blood Diamond), then an action movie (Body of Lies), then an artsy one (Revolutionary Road), then a weird one (Shutter Island), then a super-ambitious one (Inception), and the whole time, you're stretching yourself as an actor, working with talented directors and keeping your fans on their toes.

Will Smith had no interest in "stretching himself," just printing money. After those alien movies, he spent the next 12 years running the Hollywood equivalent of Dean Smith's "Four Corners" offense. He made an "action hero who gets framed and has to spend most of the movie sprinting" choice (Enemy of the State), another wacky science fiction choice (the excruciating Wild Wild West), a sappy period choice (Legend of Bagger Vance, also excruciating), then a calculated "I had to get in incredible shape for this biopic" choice (Ali, which should have been great but never got there, although I blame Michael Mann more than Smith). That was followed by Men in Black II and everything else above.

In that 2007 Time Magazine feature, he freely admitted to studying box office patterns much like Theo Epstein studies XFIP and BABIP, saying that he and Lassiter got together every Monday morning to look at "what happened last weekend, and what are the things that happened the last 10, 20, 30 weekends." Later in the feature, he unwittingly describes why the movie industry sucks so much:

"Movie stars are made with worldwide box office. You put a movie out in the U.S., and let's say it breaks even. Then the studio needs you to go around the world and get profit. Being able to get $30 mil in England, 37 in Japan, 15 in Germany is what makes the studio support your movies differently than they support other actors' movies."

Again, totally logical … and totally depressing. Will Smith hasn't taken a chance since 1993's Six Degrees of Separation — his first major movie, by the way — and only because it doesn't make sense for him to take chances. He studied a system that spit out a certain outcome, then rigged his career to benefit from that outcome. Even in real life, he plays a character of sorts: Will Smith, the happy family man who handles the media spectacularly, doesn't flaunt his wealth, never says anything controversial and lacks any personal demons (at least none that we know about). If you were picking him apart, maybe you'd point to his Scientology connection (fair or unfair, there's a stigma that goes with it) and how he turned his children into self-sufficient brands (although he's not the first to do so). Neither damaged his career in any way. At least not yet.

When a Soho neighborhood rebelled against his monstrosity of a trailer this spring, Smith's reaction was fascinating: basically, "I thought you'd love having me here! I'm Will Smith! I can't believe this!" It's the way you would react if you believed your approval rating was unassailable. Which might be true.

See, people like Will Smith because he's never given them a reason not to like him. He would never play an evil cop like Denzel did (Training Day); he doesn't want us to see Evil Will Smith. He would never play someone trapped in a damaging 1950s marriage like Leo did (Revolutionary Road); he doesn't want us to think about Bad Husband Will Smith. Remember when Cruise released Magnolia and Eyes Wide Shut back-to-back, two of his rawest performances and the two single weirdest movies he ever made? Smith would never take a chance like that, much like Starbucks would never add grills to their stores and start flipping burgers and hot dogs. What's the point?

Just last month, a story circulated around Hollywood that Quentin Tarantino was desperately pursuing Smith as the lead for his next movie, Django Unchained, in which a freed slave teams up with a German bounty hunter to find his wife and ends up killing a bunch of plantation owners along the way. Supposedly the script is incredible. Supposedly Smith's agents at CAA, and even his manager, begged him to play Django. And supposedly, Smith turned it down. He didn't want to risk what he had. He didn't want people to meet Angry Slave Will Smith. He didn't want to mess with a sure thing.



  • darkrain
    darkrain Members Posts: 2,128 ✭✭✭
    Last Part
    So yeah, Will Smith might be our only movie star right now, but that says more about Hollywood's faults than anything else. Goldman once wrote that, in Hollywood, nobody knows anything. He was wrong. Will Smith figured out where Hollywood was going well before anyone else did. These days, it's all about making alien movies, superhero movies and sequels. Will Smith beat everybody there. He could see the future … and the future sucked. You can't call him a failure because he accomplished exactly what he wanted to accomplish. But shouldn't his career have been better? Didn't he have a responsibility to push himself? Isn't that what good actors are supposed to do?

    I keep coming back to Six Degrees of Separation, the biggest gamble he ever made, when everyone doubted that the "Fresh Prince" could pull off a 🤬 con artist in an indie movie. He pulled it off. Within that movie, Smith hits a couple of places that he hasn't hit since: It's a really good performance, a little like Leo in This Boy's Life (same year, by the way) in that you left the theater feeling like you just watched the seeds planted for a meaningful movie career.

    Of course, there was a moment in the script when Smith's character had to kiss Anthony Michael Hall's character, only Smith refused. They edited the movie so that, as Smith leans in for the "kiss," we're seeing him from behind and hear a smooch … only it never actually happened. Even at 25 years old, Will Smith was thinking ahead. He didn't want to film a scene that could be thrown back in his face later. Or, he was afraid to kiss a dude. Or, he knew he couldn't play anyone other than himself — as the past two decades have pretty much backed up — so kissing another man in a movie was impossible because he's Will Smith and Will Smith doesn't kiss guys. It's a totally inauthentic moment in a performance that, otherwise, was totally authentic.

    If you think Pursuit of Happyness or Ali is Will Smith's defining performance, you would be wrong. It's Six Degrees of Separation. Everything is on display: his once-in-a-generation charisma, his acting chops, his sense of humor, his sense of the moment … and, most of all, his self-awareness. He made Six Degrees to prove he wasn't just a rapper-turned-sitcom star, that he could actually act, that he cared about his craft. You know, as long as he didn't have to kiss another dude. It was a chance, but a calculated one. He never took another one. Now he's our one and only movie star, according to William Goldman. There's a lesson here.

    Source: http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/6716942/page/2/bill-simmons-ryan-reynolds-smith-perception-success-hollywood
  • Inglewood_B
    Inglewood_B Members Posts: 12,246 ✭✭✭✭✭
    damn, that's... damn.
  • Disciplined InSight
    Disciplined InSight Members Posts: 13,478 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Great read.. Basically Will is using the same strategy in Hollywood like your favorite commercial music artist in their respective genres (whether it's Hip Hop/ R & B etc.) and eating well off that 🤬 .

    NAWLEDGE_REIGNS Members Posts: 1,253 ✭✭✭
    Will Smith Is Doing The Movies Will Smith Should Be Doing....Big Budgeted CGI Laden Summer Blockbusters...I Never Been A Fan Of His Dramatic Performances ....His Strength Lies In Comedies/Action Films With Flashy Sequences And Cutesy One Liners.....He Has Charisma To Pull Those Off...
  • marc123
    marc123 Members Posts: 16,999 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I never liked that 🤬
  • rapmastermind
    rapmastermind Members Posts: 5,574 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited June 2012
    Here's a full breakdown of Will's Box Office. He has had 13 100 Million Dollar Films in 20 years which is a record. The fact is people should study Will moves cause by not limiting yourself to specific genre's you have a chance to have better box office results. Also people need to get over Will turning down Django. QT isn't 🤬 , if Will doesn't want to work with him that's his business. What if Django turns out to suck? we don't know but I know one thing is for sure. Django ain't doing MIB3 numbers so Will was able to come back on top after taking 4 years off.

  • rip.dilla
    rip.dilla Members Posts: 17,412 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I watched MIB3 on IMAX 3D

    The wrinkles starting to appear on Will's face

    Eddie Murphy was once the world's biggest movie star, but roles he kept on picking ...
  • Shizlansky
    Shizlansky Members Posts: 35,095 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Pursuit of Happiness
    I Am Legend
    7 Pounds

    I think Will Smith murked them roles.

    He's one if the most diverse actors of all-time IMO
  • young_reezy
    young_reezy Members Posts: 3,129 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I get the premise of the article, I do agree somewhat, but at the end of the day can you blame will for capitalizing off the system?
    KNiGHTS Members Posts: 4,435 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Don't forget dude turned a full scholarship to M.I.T. He's not the typical "rapper-turned-actor." Furthermore, this is blatant hating.

    Props on the 6 Degrees thing, though. I thought for sure he kissed dude. Will even undid Chappelle's theory on how they always want to punk a black man by making him do something 🤬 (cross dressing, wearing a dress, being 🤬 , etc.).
  • sdca
    sdca Members Posts: 290 ✭✭
    Will is a star. This article was an interesting read, but kind of harsh!

    This sports writer lost me, when using DiCaprio as an example of what Will's career should've been.

    Leo's movies are diverse, but he acts the same way in ALL of them. So he isn't exactly 'stretching himself as an actor' either.

    They both play in some seriously boring movies though... all while staying in their lanes.
  • RawAce
    RawAce Members Posts: 4,800 ✭✭✭✭✭
    i was about to type
    then i saw the kate upton gif

    completely forgot what i was gonna type

    thats a bad white bytch
  • Copper
    Copper Members Posts: 49,532 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Article summary: "im hating cause will smith making money and I want him to do movies that I want him to do that dont make as much money as his movies normally make"
  • Disciplined InSight
    Disciplined InSight Members Posts: 13,478 ✭✭✭✭✭
    The writer (who is Caucasian by the way) wants to pigeonhole Will into with making dramatic flicks because he thinks drama roles=great actor.
  • Copper
    Copper Members Posts: 49,532 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited June 2012
    Bad Boys 2 >>>> Revolutionary Road and The Aviator
    Ali >>> Blood diamond and Shutter Island
  • wmj710
    wmj710 Members Posts: 3,798 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited June 2012
    Sounds like will smith took control of his career planned it out, and was a sucsess. I can see why that would upset some people.
  • wmj710
    wmj710 Members Posts: 3,798 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I'm sure other actors have tried the same thing with out as much sucsess.
  • FroHawke
    FroHawke Members Posts: 1,114 ✭✭✭
    For an actor, counting in the fact that a black actor in Hollywood to have had such a run is a remarkable, remarkable achievement. The guy was brilliant in his strategy and played it to perfection....
    You'll never hear a bad word about him on set because he knows that in Hollywood, if ur known as a difficult black actor, its pretty much a curtain call for you. Dude has not made a misstep, I hear he treats all his castmembers, aides very well.
    More actors should learn from him....but it's hard when you cant match his talent.
  • Matt-
    Matt- Members Posts: 21,585 ✭✭✭✭✭
    will smith's movies have sucked recently, i don't care how much money he's made or the films have made. But he's still a great actor. He's just a great actor who chose to take his talents to movies with bad plots. That sucks that he would rather do that than to take on more roles not based on what makes money. But that in no way makes him a bad actor or a sell out or any of those things. He's gonna make money no matter what, so i don't know why he has to resort to taking on such stupid roles in such stupid movies.. but its his career. if he wants to sell himself short by making lame movies, then so be it. its not up to anyone to say he can't

    but 🤬 all that other stuff, will smith is not the only movie star of today.

    look at DiCaprio's past 8 movies.

    J. Edgar
    Shutter Island
    Revolutionary Road
    Body of Lies
    Blood Diamond
    The Departed
    The Aviator

    most damn good movies. its ridiculous to say that he's not a movie star or not on smith or anyone else's level. its simple minded to equate money making ability with greatness in the entertainment industry.
  • Swiffness!
    Swiffness! Members Posts: 10,128 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited June 2012
    Bill Simmons basically does the print version of Skip Bayless's hater act for ESPN, but he's got some good points here.....

    C'mon, b. How many times have ppl on this board said that Will needs to switch it up and play a villain already. Srsly, Will. Play. A. 🤬 . Villain. A psychopath. He'd CRUSH that kind of role in a summer blockbuster. Do a Face-Off type flick w/ Denzel or summin damn. Shieeeeit Training Day HELPED Denzel's drawing power.

    Once Upon A Time In The West.

    Henry Fonda was literally THE Mr. Good Guy Hollywood Actor for 3 decades when he accepted the villain role........the film opens with him slaughtering a family (and this in 1968!), before slowwwwwwly panning so the audience could see his face and go OMFG. 🤬 is legendary.


    like, imagine a flick opening with a whole family gettin murked by some silent assassin and then the
    camera pans up and you see Will did dat 🤬

    C'mon Big Willie. Play someone evil, 🤬 . Please.
  • R.D.
    R.D. Members Posts: 20,156 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Does Will have a classic movie outside of Bad Boys which was equally carried by Martin
  • Matt-
    Matt- Members Posts: 21,585 ✭✭✭✭✭
    i don't know why he needed to write a whole column just to say that he took a risk w/ 6 degrees of separation and that he chooses roles that are likely to be high grossing movies and avoids roles that could make people think negatively of him. its like he baited everyone into the article by starting off with a nugget about who the real movie stars of hollywood are, and then spent the next 25 paragraphs stating obvious facts about will smith which sort of prove that he is a star.
  • Shizlansky
    Shizlansky Members Posts: 35,095 ✭✭✭✭✭
    R.D. wrote: »
    Does Will have a classic movie outside of Bad Boys which was equally carried by Martin

    7 pounds
    Pursuit of Happiness.

    Acting at its finest.