Smith is once again donning the black suit and dark shades and teaming up with Tommy Lee Jones in “Men in Black 3.”
Where the heck has Will Smith been for the past few years? The last time his face graced a big screen was in 2008, when he starred in both the tepid drama “Seven Pounds” and the blockbuster sci-fi comedy “Hancock.”
The fact that he’s once again donning the black suit and dark shades and teaming up with Tommy Lee Jones to protect the Earth from nasty alien creatures in “Men in Black 3” will soon make the point moot. But last week, while promoting the new movie, Smith admitted that he’s been having a ball working as a producer. He’s had that title on “This Means War” and the remake of “The Karate Kid” (which starred his son Jaden), and was co-producer on the TV show “Hawthorne,” which starred his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
“Producing is my most natural space in the business,” said Smith, 43. “That’s where I thrive. But it’s been more than three years off camera, and I just had to get back to work.”
Work, in Smith’s case, seems to be revolving around all sorts of sequels, as there have been recent announcements involving “Hancock 2,” “I, Robot 2,” and “Bad Boys 3.” For now, though, he’s focused on “MIB 3.” It’s been 10 years since “MIB 2” and 15 years since the original film, in which he and Tommy Lee Jones star as Agents J and K. But Smith isn’t worried about the time between films, or whether viewers are familiar with the previous films.
“It was really important to me for this movie to stand alone,” he said. “You can watch it without having seen the others, and you can glean some of the ideas. We were a little concerned about the ending, because you really have to have some knowledge of the first movie to truly get why this ending would be special. But I feel confident that for a good part of the audience, it stands alone.”
Smith was surprisingly honest about those other sequel announcements.
“I’d be surprised if all of those movies happen,” he said. “But I’m open to them. ‘Bad Boys 3’ has a really solid idea behind it right now. But who knows?”
“MIB 3” features a time travel plot that focuses on the relationship between Smith’s J and Jones’ K – how it’s changed and developed, and even how it began. There’s a point in the film where the upbeat J asks the grumpy K what gives him the most joy in his life.
When Smith was asked the same question, he said, “As a child I watched ‘Dallas’ and that was my vision for my life. I was thinking, ‘The property had a name! Southfork!’ Ours was just Row House. Southfork had grown people living on the property and they all came to breakfast and everybody worked in the family business. And I would think, ‘I want that!’ So the joy is watching the idea that I had as a kid coming into fruition. I’m actually building the family that I’ve always dreamed about. I love watching my family and my kids blossom from something that was in a 7-year-old’s mind.”
Page 2 of 2 - Actually, it wasn’t very long after Smith sat at home watching TV and longing for a “Dallas” kind of life that he found himself watching something else and being profoundly affected by it.
“The greatest experience I’ve ever had in a movie theater was watching ‘Star Wars,’” he said. “It shaped how I look at the world. My imagination was so small before I went into that movie theater, and then I had an explosion. I just couldn’t figure out how someone came up with that or how they could make me feel like that, watching it.”
Smith was about 10 at the time, and in the ensuing few months he kept thinking about it, realizing that he could do or be anything.
“My parents really reinforced that,” he said. “My mother worked for the school board in Philadelphia, so everything was about education. It felt like somehow the limits got knocked off after I saw that movie. And it coincided with the time that ‘Rapper’s Delight’ came out. So my introduction to rap music and ‘Star Wars’ were in the same year. My mind got expanded in a way that’s really hard to explain.”
Smith’s interest in rap led to him becoming half of the duo DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, which he followed up by landing the title role on the TV show “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” then building a successful big-screen career.
Now, Smith is taking the time to make sure he instills the right attitude in his showbiz kids. His oldest son, Trey, is a busy deejay, and his daughter, Willow, and younger son, Jaden, are following in dad’s acting footsteps.
“The most difficult part of the whole thing is emotional management,” he said. “To be able to have them connect to the artistry of what they create rather than connecting to the success or the adoration from what they create.”
But he’s also told them never to fear failure.
“The idea of failure is a label,” he said. “It has no bearing on what actually happened. What actually happened can turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to you, if you decide that it’s the best thing that ever happened to you. For me, the big thing with my kids is you have to control how you label things. Because those labels become what you say they are. It’s important to me that they understand the power that they have to create the lives that they want.”
The Patriot Ledger