Willard Christopher "Will" Smith, Jr.
(born September 25, 1968)
is a Golden Globe- and two time Academy Award-nominated American actor,
and a multiple Grammy Award-winning hip hop artist. He is one of a small
group of people who have enjoyed success in three major entertainment
media in the United States. Newsweek
has called him the most
powerful actor on the planet.
Smith's most notable television role was that of William "Will" Smith
(his namesake role) in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. In his film
work, his notable roles include Agent J in Men in Black and
Men in Black II, Muhammad Ali in Ali, as well as his role in
the blockbuster Independence Day and more recently as Chris
Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness with his son Jaden Smith and
as Robert Neville in I Am Legend with his daughter Willow Smith.
He is also one of only three actors in the history of film to have
seven consecutive US$100 million blockbusters, the two other being Tom
Cruise and Tom Hanks.
Seven Pounds - Will Smith - Film Trailer
Life and career
Early life and education
Will Smith was born and raised in West Philadelphia and Germantown in
Northwest Philadelphia, the son of Caroline (née Bright), a school
administrator who worked for the Philadelphia school board, and Willard
Christopher Smith, Sr., a refrigeration engineer.
He was raised Baptist. His
parents divorced when he was thirteen.
Smith's charming and sly demeanour in school resulted in the nickname
"Prince", which eventually turned into the "Fresh Prince". While still
in his teens, Smith began rapping and eventually began collaborating
with Jeff Townes (a.k.a. D.J. Jazzy Jeff), whom he met at a party. He
attended Overbrook High School in West Philadelphia. D.J. Jazzy Jeff &
The Fresh Prince was born with Smith handling the rhymes and Townes
overseeing the mastery of mixing and scratching – the combination was a
pop and hip-hop hit during the 1980s and early 1990s.
While it is widely reported that Smith turned down a scholarship to
attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Smith denied this in
a Reader's Digest interview, stating, "My mother, who worked for
the School Board of Philadelphia, had a friend who was the admissions
officer at MIT. I had pretty high SAT scores and they needed black kids,
so I probably could have gotten in. But I had no intention of going to
college." This is
corroborated in a Wired interview where he states he never
applied to MIT. Despite the
above, when Smith appeared on Inside the Actors Studio, he stated
that he was admitted to the "pre-engineering program" at MIT.
Smith started as the MC of the hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh
Prince, with his childhood friend Jeffrey "DJ Jazzy Jeff" Townes as
turntablist and producer as well as Ready Rock C (Clarence Holmes) as
the human beat box. The trio was known for performing humorous,
radio-friendly songs, most notably "Parents Just Don't Understand" and
"Summertime." They gained critical acclaim for winning the first ever
Grammy in the Rap category (1988). He had a line in "Voices That Care",
a 1991 Gulf War song by a celebrity group.
Smith was nearing bankruptcy when, in 1990, the NBC television
network signed him to a contract and built a sitcom, The Fresh Prince
of Bel-Air, around him. The show was successful and launched his
acting career. Smith set himself the goal of becoming "'the biggest
movie star in the world'," studying box office successes' common
characteristics. Although he
made a notable dramatic film debut in Six Degrees of Separation
while still appearing in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Smith's
film career took off with his role in the buddy cop action film Bad
Boys (1995) along with co-star Martin Lawrence.
After The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ended in 1996, Smith began a
successful solo music career while simultaneously starring in a series
of films. The first two films were hugely successful summer
blockbusters: Independence Day (1996), in which he played a
fearless and confident fighter pilot, and Men in Black (1997),
where he played the comic and confident Agent J against Tommy Lee
Jones's deadpan Agent K. Smith's acting in Men in Black won
critical praise. He originally rejected the lead role in Men in Black,
but wife Jada Pinkett Smith coaxed him into acceptance. The two films
established Smith's commercial reputation as a bankable star whose
appeal across age, race, and gender lines could "open" a film at the box
office, a reputation Smith would begin to term a "Big Willie Weekend".
Smith turned down the role of Neo in The Matrix in favour of
Wild Wild West. After the failure of Wild Wild West and
watching Keanu Reeves' performance, he suggests that he would not have
been the appropriate actor for the role at the time, but still considers
passing on The Matrix as a big mistake.
He then gained lead roles in several box office successes including
Men in Black II, Bad Boys II, Hitch, and I, Robot.
Smith is one of only two hip-hop artists to receive an Oscar
nomination in an acting category (Best Actor, Ali, 2001), for his
portrayal of the boxer Muhammad Ali, formerly known as Cassius Clay, in
the biopic. He once more was nominated for Best Actor Oscar – this time
for his role in another true-life movie, The Pursuit of Happyness,
where he played Chris Gardner in his rags to riches story.
Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith created the UPN (later CW)
sitcom All of Us, which was loosely based on their lives. The
show debuted on UPN in September 2003 and aired there for three seasons
before moving to The CW in October 2006 for one more season. The CW
cancelled All of Us in May 2007.
Smith appeared as himself in Jersey Girl delivering the Silent
Bob speech that appears in nearly all Kevin Smith movies. The lead
character's situation is due to the claim, "Will Smith is just a
Smith also released a string of hit singles, often associated with
his most recent film, throughout the late 1990s. The most notable of
these were his #1 hit theme song "Men in Black", the #1 hit "Gettin'
Jiggy Wit It" (which made jiggy a catchphrase for a while in
1998), and a cover of "Just the Two of Us", an affectionate message to
his young son. His first two solo albums went platinum, but his third,
on Columbia Records, was a sales disappointment compared to his past
efforts, and after a quick Greatest Hits release that was almost not
advertised at all, he was dropped by the label. He signed a recording
contract with Interscope Records and released the successful Lost &
Found in 2005. The album was propelled solely on the smash hit single,
"Switch", which appealed to the mainstream a la "Summertime". The single
stayed atop the charts for months and returned Smith to the forefront of
In 2005, Smith was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records
for attending a record breaking three premieres in a 24-hour time span.
On July 2, 2005, Smith served as host for the Live 8 concert in his
native Philadelphia in front of an enormous crowd, and later performed a
set with DJ Jazzy Jeff. Smith appeared at Nickelodeon Kid's Choice
awards in 2005 performing "Switch", as well as the Black Entertainment
Television awards in 2005. He appeared in the second game of the NBA
Finals (San Antonio vs. Detroit) performing "Switch" in 2005. Smith also
made a special appearance in the reality talent contest show "Indian
Idol", when he visited India.
Smith was considered for the role of John Smith in the movie Mr.
and Mrs. Smith; Brad Pitt eventually received the role.
He was also considered for the role of Willy Wonka in the remake of the
film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
He has planned to star in a feature film remake of the television series
It Takes a Thief.
Smith also produced All of Us, a program loosely based on his
love, life, and family in 2005. Smith starred in The Pursuit of
Happyness with his son Jaden Smith; he received his second Academy
Award nomination for the role for Best Actor but lost to Forest
Smith was recognized on December 10, 2007, at Grauman's Chinese
Theater on Hollywood Blvd. Smith left an imprint of his hands and feet
outside the world renowned theater in front of many fans, including
actor Tom Cruise.
Smith appeared in the film I Am Legend, released December 14,
2007. Despite mixed reviews, its opening was the largest ever for a film
released in the United States during December. Smith himself has said
that he considers the film to be "aggressively unique".
Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama stated that if
a film were to ever be made about his life, he would have Smith play his
part, because "he has the ears". Obama stated that the two have
discussed such a possibility.
Smith married Sheree Zampino in 1992. They had a son, Willard
Christopher III, also known as "Trey", but divorced in 1995. Trey
appeared in his father's music video for the 1998 single "Just The Two
Of Us". Smith married actress Jada Pinkett in 1997. Together they have
had two children: Jaden Christopher Syre (born 1998), his co-star in
The Pursuit of Happyness, and Willow Camille Reign (born 2000).
Along with his brother, Harry Smith, he owns Treyball Development Inc.,
a Beverly Hills-based company named after his first son.
Smith has been consistently listed in Fortune Magazine's "Richest 40"
list of the forty wealthiest Americans under the age of 40. Smith and
his family reside on Star Island (Florida) in Miami, Florida, Los
Angeles, Stockholm, Sweden and in Philadelphia. He donated money to
assist Katrina victims.
is politically liberal and donated $4,600 to the presidential campaign
of Democrat Barack Obama.
According to media sources, Smith needs flotation aids for swimming.
 Smith is an enthusiast of
the board games chess, bingo, and rummoli.
He is also said to be fond of video gaming.
Smith also according to "Scandinavian Tattoo magazine" likes the
music of swedish metal band "Soilwork"
In July 2002, Smith and his wife Jada requested a restraining order
for Mike Cooley, an ex-caretaker, who Smith alleged had been stalking
the couple and their children for some time. Cooley allegedly demanded
money or else he would file "a lawsuit against plaintiffs and to go to
the National Enquirer and other press with 'embarrassing' allegations'".
When the money was not paid, Cooley
allegedly stalked and harassed the family still seeking money.
Smith remains close friends with Tatyana Ali, his former co-star on
Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Smith influenced Ali to enter the music
field after she performed as a singer on several episodes of the show.
Ties to Scientology
Smith has admitted to studying Scientology and has said many
complimentary things about the religion. He and his wife are close
friends of prominent Scientologists Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, and it
has subsequently led to rumors that Smith is a Scientologist. Smith has
neither confirmed nor denied that he has formally joined the Church of
Scientology, but has said, "I just think a lot of the ideas in
Scientology are brilliant and revolutionary and non-religious."
and, "Ninety-eight percent of the principles in Scientology are
identical to the principles of the Bible.... I don't think that because
the word someone uses for spirit is 'thetan' that the definition becomes
any different". After Jada
made the film Collateral with Cruise in 2004, the couple donated
$20,000 to Scientology's literacy campaign, called HELP, The Hollywood
Education and Literacy Program, which is the basis for Scientology's
||Saturday Morning Videos
|The Perfect Date
- "ABC Afterschool Specials"
|The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
||William "Will" Smith
|Where the Day Takes You
||Made in America
||Tea Cake Walters
|Six Degrees of Separation
||Detective Mike Lowrey
||Captain Steven "Steve" Hiller, USMC
||Men in Black
||James Edwards / Agent J
||Enemy of the State
||Robert Clayton Dean
|Wild Wild West
||Captain Jim West
||Welcome to Hollywood
|The Legend of Bagger Vance
||Academy Award Best Actor Nomination
||Men in Black II
||James Edwards / Agent J
|Girlfriend by B2K
||Bad Boys II
||Detective Mike Lowrey
||A Closer Walk
||Detective Del Spooner
||There's a God on the Mic
||Alex "Hitch" Hitchens
||The Pursuit of Happyness
Academy Award Best Actor Nomination
||I Am Legend
||Filming starts on March 10, 2008. Release
date of 16 January 2009 (UK).