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
“Waiting To Exhale” author Terry McMillan lashed out at the family on Twitter, writing, “The Smith children act like child stars. There’s an arrogance in their demeanor and behavior. I find it incredibly sad. It feels like the Smith children are being pimped and exploited. What about fourth grade?”
Willow, for one, seems to regret her stardom. “If I could change one thing about my life, I wouldn’t be famous,” she said last week on Web series “Red Table Talk.”
And then there are the Scientology rumors. Perhaps going along with his belief that he can remake the world, Smith turned to the education system in 2008, opening a California private school that employs Study Technology, a teaching method created by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
Smith admits that he’s talked about Scientology with friend Tom Cruise, but he and Jada deny they belong to the church, despite donating tens of thousands to organizations affiliated with the group. One industry insider tells The Post that a 2007 party the Smiths and Cruises threw for David and Victoria Beckham was filled with high-ranking Scientologists, and the most senior member got ample face time with Smith.
Smith’s once-thriving pop career has also cooled, and the rapper hasn’t had a hit since 2005’s “Switch.” Despite recording theme songs for both of the previous “MIB” films, he declined to put his stamp on this one. The job went to Pitbull instead.
Still, audiences are unlikely to care about any of this behind-the-scenes drama. Dollars are the only ballots that matter in Hollywood, and Smith has proven himself electable on nearly every outing. Even “Seven Pounds” raked in nearly $170 million worldwide.
The Fresh Prince works hard to keep his image burnished. Actors on the NYC set report that Smith, though shadowed by bodyguards, was always friendly and “not a diva.” He even chatted and joked with background players, demonstrating his uncanny charm.
Joe Abbott, a New Jersey actor who worked on the film as an extra, says that he briefly met Smith in 2000 at the opening of the “Men in Black” ride at the Universal Studios theme park in Orlando. Abbott shook his hand and jokingly asked if Smith “was getting jiggy with it.” That’s it. One five-second encounter.
A decade later, on the Brooklyn set of “MIB3,” Abbot walked past Smith during a break. The star stopped, turned and said, “Hey, I know you from somewhere, don’t I?”
Smith even treated cast and crew to a holiday party in late 2010. “He flew his personal caterer in from LA and had lunch for everyone,” says Jian Leonardo, who played an agent. “It was really classy. There were crab cakes, steaks, nice food. “
Smith did, however, upbraid one extra who surreptitiously tried to film him during a scene. “Will called him out personally. ‘Is that guy filming me?’ ” says Michael Dean, a New York actor who played another agent. “He stopped the whole scene, walked up to the guy and asked him to leave the set. That was interesting, to see him take a role almost as a [production assistant].”
We’ll know in five days whether all of this hard work, meddling and drama has been worth it, and whether Smith can still be considered the world’s biggest star.
If not, well — there’s always Jaden.
Additional reporting by Caroline Hedley.