[IMG:L]In anticipation of Seven Pounds (in theaters Dec. 19), we take a look back at box office king Will Smith’s life and career highlights — and all the off-the-cuff things he’s had to say about it!
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996)
The rapper-turned-actor experienced huge success right off the bat with his TV show Fresh Prince, about a street-smart teenager from West Philly. The NBC sitcom, his first and last headlining TV venture, showcased Smith’s chief talent: infectious, one-of-a-kind charisma.
BEST QUOTE: On his first season of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: “I was trying so hard. I would memorize the entire script, then I’d be lipping everybody’s lines while they were talking. When I watch those episodes, it’s disgusting. My performances were horrible.”
KEEP READING: Six Degrees …
Six Degrees of Separation (1993)
As his TV star continued to rise, Smith made an odd movie choice with this little indie. The result was what many consider to this day to be the actor’s best performance, as the elusive, deceiving con man Paul. The role hinted at Smith’s abilities beyond the safety net of comedy.
BEST QUOTE: On refusing to kiss Anthony Michael Hall in Six Degrees of Separation : “It was very immature on my part. I was thinking, ‘How are my friends in Philly going to think about this?’ I wasn’t emotionally stable enough to artistically commit to that aspect of the film. In a movie with actors and a director and writer of this caliber, for me to be the one bringing something cheesy to it… This was a valuable lesson for me. Either you do it or you don’t.”
KEEP READING: Bad Boy …
Smith solidified his status as a double threat (TV and movies, or a triple threat with his music career factored in) with this action comedy, whose hefty box office take more than doubled with the release of the sequel eight years later. And since Bad Boys hit theaters, not a year has gone by without at least one major Will Smith movie being released.
BEST QUOTE: “We need Bad Boys 3. I was just watching Bad Boys II with my son and I told him you can’t open a movie better. That’s the best movie opening ever!”
KEEP READING: Gaining Independence …
Independence Day (1996)
Simply put, Smith no longer had any business — or time — being on TV after Independence Day, and he has stuck to the big screen ever since. The move to film made sense considering that ID4 earned over $800 million worldwide, which is damn near Titanic territory.
BEST QUOTE: On turning 28, the same year Independence Day was released: “When I turned 28, everything clicked. I even got way better in bed.”
KEEP READING: Meeting Jada …
Smith also soon became not only known for his golden touch at the box office, but also for his relationship with wife Jada Pinkett.
BEST QUOTE: “You’re so much stronger when your partner is strong. I honestly believe there is no woman for me but Jada. Of all the women I’ve met – and there’ve been a few – no one can handle me the way Jada does. Once you feel someone locked in on you, it’s no contest. As fine as other women can be, as tempting sexually, I’m not going anywhere. This is it. I can’t imagine what anyone else could offer.”
KEEP READING: He makes it look gooood …
How does a movie star follow up a ginormous hit like Independence Day? If you’re Will Smith, you just churn out another one. Men in Black proved that audiences didn’t mind seeing Smith fight extraterrestrials two summers in a row, and he was thus anointed a sure-fire box office hit.
BEST QUOTE: “When I started in movies, I said, ‘I want to be the biggest movie star in the world.’ The biggest movie stars make the biggest movies, so [my producing partner James Lassiter and I] looked at the top 10 movies of all time. At that point, they were all special-effects movies. So Independence Day, no-brainer. Men in Black, no-brainer. I, Robot, no-brainer.”
KEEP READING: His first disappointment …
Wild Wild West (1999)
Smith’s biggest failure, 1999’s Barry Sonnenfeld-directed Wild Wild West, would’ve been most actors’ biggest hit, having raked in over $200 million worldwide. Still, this outlandish remake of the 1960s TV show on which it was based does stand as one of Smith’s few hiccups of his career.
BEST QUOTE: “My biggest emotional defeat and the greatest emotional pain I’ve had as an actor was when Wild Wild West opened up to $52 million. The movie wasn’t good. And it hurt so bad to be the No. 1 movie, to open at $52 million and to know the movie wasn’t good.”
KEEP READING: His Oscar run …
In 2001, Smith was momentarily done making pure popcorn fare and set his sights on an Oscar with this downright impressive portrayal of boxing legend and sports icon Muhammad Ali. It was brave just to attempt the hallowed Ali role, but Smith was perhaps the only actor for the job, with his larger-than-life personality to match that of Ali. He earned his first Oscar nomination.
BEST QUOTE: On the change in his body that Ali‘s intense physical training required: “I’m human viagra. I’m Willagra. I’m a sex machine now. I’m raring to go every second of the day. My wife’s loving it.”
KEEP READING: Back to basics …
I, Robot (2004)
After two straight years of blockbuster sequels (Men in Black II, Bad Boys II), Smith returned to his comfort zone: an original kick-ass sci-fi movie. I, Robot earned a cool $347 million worldwide — just another day at the (box) office for Will.
BEST QUOTE: On Star Wars: “I might have been 8 or 9. That was the movie that put me into a space where the science fiction element was almost a spiritual connection for me. I thought, if someone could imagine that and then put it on a screen and make me feel like that… and my entire career I’ve been trying to make people feel like Star Wars made me feel.”
KEEP READING: Wooing the ladies …
In 2005, Smith took his first trip to rom-com land, and like every other move he made, it went down without a, er, hitch. He and Eva Mendes shared great chemistry, but it’s hard to imagine that not being the case for any actress playing opposite Smith.
BEST QUOTE: On women wanting to be swept off their feet: “Absolutely, love is the ultimate theme, and it’s not just women it’s men. I think it’s the more natural, the highest desire to which we all aspire — we all want to find that person that’s going to love us no matter how our feet smell, no matter how angry we get, no matter the things we say that we don’t mean.”
KEEP READING: His own Pursuit of Happyness …
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Oscar nomination No. 2 came in biopic No. 2 for Smith. He played real-life homeless single father-turned-stockbroker Chris Gardner in this uplifting, tear-jerking drama, whose par-for-the-course, $150 million-plus take at the box office further proved that audiences love Smith in absolutely any genre.
BEST QUOTE: On working with his son: “With a particularly difficult scene I was struggling and Jaden said to me, ‘Psst, you just do the same thing every take, Daddy.’ And I was like, you know, I was a little offended by that. But what he was saying was that innately he couldn’t understand how I was reading everything exactly the same way every time. He was feeling like, ‘Well, that’s not real. I thought we were supposed to be trying to make this real.’”
KEEP READING: Being a dad …
Smith is also a loving parent to Willow, 7, and Jaden, 9, with wife Pinkett, and Trey, 15, from his first marriage.
BEST QUOTE: On teaching his kids a work ethic: “My daughter says, ‘Daddy, are we rich?’ I say, ‘No, baby. You broke. Daddy works really hard. You don’t even own them clothes. This is the life that mommy and daddy desired and we worked really hard to create this life for ourselves. But you’re going to have to create your own.'”
KEEP READING: It’s all about the dog …
I Am Legend (2007)
Based on Richard Matheson’s beloved 1954 novel of the same name, I Am Legend set the box office record for best December opening of all time. And, oh yeah, the sci-fi actioner became the latest Smith movie to cross the half-a-billion-dollar mark at the worldwide B.O. These days, one of the actor’s films is only truly noteworthy if it doesn’t cross that mark!
BEST QUOTE: “When I was probably 9-years-old, I had a dog Trixie. It was a white golden retriever that got hit by a car. So now I refuse, I have had no animals. I’m not putting myself emotionally connected to a dog anymore. Then, they brought that damn Abbey on the set. It was the first time I had allowed myself to connect and be fond of a dog since that experience. To the owner I said, ‘Please, Abbey had to live with me. Please.’ He was like ‘Well, this is how I make my living, man.’ I was like ‘Tell me what you need. A house in the hills?’”
KEEP READING: The superhero …
Up until earlier this year, the role of superhero was one of the few Smith hadn’t yet tried his hand at. Thankfully, John Hancock isn’t your typical, Marvel Comics world-saver; he is an alcoholic! For any other actor, that might’ve been a risky, box office-limiting proposition, but Smith makes it work — to the tune of $227.5M.
BEST QUOTE: “I don’t feel like there’s anything I can’t do, no movie I can’t make. I feel like the next 10 years are going to be my sweet spot.”
KEEP READING: Even the presidency? …
“People laugh, but if I set my mind to it, within the next 15 years I would be president.” Or at least a Barack Obama cabinet member!