After some movie missteps, and a four-year break, Smith is back in ‘Black’
- Last Updated: 2:08 PM, May 20, 2012
- Posted: 9:37 PM, May 19, 2012
In your world, two plus two equals four. In Will Smith’s world, “Two plus two is gonna be what I want it to be,” as he once told TV host Tavis Smiley.
Whoa. Hold up, Big Willie. Let us take a moment to get jiggy with that math. What are we to make of a man who believes so strongly in his own power that he suggests something as inviolate as arithmetic is under his control? Is this a case of extreme optimism — or extreme narcissism?
In the end, it doesn’t matter. Will Smith is the biggest movie star in the world, and it’s impossible to say if that status gave him a belief in his own power, or if that belief in his own power earned him that status.
Now 43, Smith has been absent from movie screens since 2008’s “Seven Pounds,” a relative eternity for a star as big as he is. He finally returns Friday in “Men in Black 3,” reprising his role as Agent J, who must time travel back to 1969 to prevent Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), from being assassinated.
The movie comes at a decisive moment in Smith’s career, thanks to his long hiatus and the faltering of his two previous films, “Hancock” and “Seven Pounds.” Those movies made loads of cash but were bashed by critics, breaking a run of commercial and critical successes running back to his Oscar-nominated role in 2001’s “Ali.” (We’ll just ignore “Wild, Wild West.”)
During the past four years, the star has also seen his golden image dinged by rare p.r. gaffes involving the way he handles his kids’ careers, his apparent ties to Scientology and his ginormous double-decker on-set dressing room.
Smith, though, already has a process for solving thorny problems. “Make a choice — from that point on, the universe is gonna get out of your way. It’s water,” Smith told Smiley. “I believe I can create whatever I want to create.”
What the famously hard-working Smith desperately wants to create now is a universe in which he remains the top draw in Hollywood.
First step: Choose a sure thing. After “Seven Pounds,” Smith was deciding whether to shoot “MIB3” or “The City That Sailed,” an original fantasy script about a piece of America breaking off and floating in the ocean. Not surprisingly, he chose the safe sequel.
“He hasn’t done a movie since ‘Seven Pounds,’ so I think there’s a big, big ‘want to see’ [factor],” says producer Todd Black, who worked with Smith on “Seven Pounds” and “The Pursuit of Happyness.” “And to make a comeback in a big, populist movie like this is really smart. It goes right to the sweet spot of his audience.”
Next step: Use your massive influence and power to mold projects to your liking and avoid any possible missteps.