Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Up Close and Personal with Will Smith

I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Will Smith about his new movie 7 Pounds and how he handles life as a mega super star! Ladies, not only was he one of the most down to earth people I've ever met, but he was FINE! lol. But I digress...the focus of this piece is the interview and it went a little something like this:

Up Close and Personal with Will Smith
By Janaya Black
Managing Editor

Will Smith has been coined the world’s biggest star on the planet, and with the magnitude of his impressive resume one could hardly argue that sentiment.
Will Smith, once known as one-half of the hip hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, has come a long way from the fresh-faced, happy-go-lucky rapper who just happened to land his own television show (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) to becoming one of the highest paid and most beloved leading men in Hollywood.
In celebration of the release of his newest movie 7 Pounds that opens in theaters on Dec 19, the FrontPage had the opportunity to sit down with Smith to discuss his role as Ben Thomas, one of the most challenging of his career, and his life as a super star.

FrontPage: You’ve been referred to a lot in the past year as the biggest movie star on the planet Earth, how does the view look from there?

Will Smith: Wow! (laughing) It’s uh…I read…I wish I could remember! My wife always remembers where she read stuff and it sounds so cool when you can say the author and stuff. [But], I read somebody said that he was a mountain climber and he set in his mind that I want to climb Everest, I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna do it. And he climbed to the top and realized he couldn’t breathe, right? And the only thought he had was ‘how the hell can I get down off of here as fast as I can?’ And it’s like this weird thing that kicks in your mind, like be careful what you wish for. You know, you go and you fight to get there and there’s this discomfort that sets in and it’s really the last probably year and a half has been kind of scary and a little bit frustrating for me. And I had an epiphany working on 7 Pounds, and I realized that part of that feeling was that I was looking at my life, and I was looking at myself, and my future too much around these movies. And after 7 Pounds, I just had this huge epiphany of how much more I want to do and the idea of living in service to humanity vs. living in service to the commerce of my movies. That explosion just totally washed away that sort of scary, uncomfortable feeling. It’s like however people look at me, as a movie star or not, I want to be remembered as a man who cared about people and dedicated his life to making the world better. So with that I went from thinking of myself in this high place to like ‘Damn, I got so much to do’ or ‘I need to get to work’ and that’s so much better a place for me emotionally.

FP: What attracted to you to this movie?

WS: I was attracted to 7 Pounds not because there was a fantastic one-liner that I could sell around the world very easily. I was attracted to 7 Pounds because there were ideas, there were emotions that were part of this character that I was hiding myself from, so I took 7 Pound as a self exploration. Jada said something to me a few months ago; she said its funny how much I was rejecting this character. She [was] like, ‘you know that you are Ben.’ I was like ‘What?’ She was like, ‘The reason you’re so nice and the reason you fight so hard to be up-tone is because you’re at war with that guy inside of you.’ Then I was like ‘Damn, deep lady!’ And that’s when I realized, it’s like projects I was choosing and everything had to be ok in the end or it emotionally hurt me. So now my sensibilities are becoming slight less delicate and I’m able to venture out a little bit more into the world of emotional and artistic ambiguity in a way that strikes me as more authentic, but it’s terrifying for me.

Just like as a child growing up, I needed to know, and my grandmother made sure that I knew God is going to make everything ok. So however scared you get of how bad life is, just know there’s somebody in a high place that’s on your side. So to play a character who doesn’t necessarily believe that, to feel like he has to fix it , that God made a mistake and it’s his responsibility to fix it, and how to carry that emotional weight is a terrifying space for me emotionally and artistically.

FP: How has this movie impacted you?

WS: I’ve been exploring the idea of trauma and the relationship between trauma and continuing life. Like with I am Legend, in to Hancock, and now with 7 Pounds I’m starting the character on trauma. And then I was asking the question, ‘What’s the difference between someone who falls into depression and someone like Nelson Mandella, or Muhammad Ali, or Ghandi or Mother Theresa that just keeps going in the face of the ultimate weight of humanity and life?’ And the thing that I discovered on 7 Pounds is its purpose. When you wake up and you’ve dedicated your life to something beyond yourself all is bearable. It just to exploded in my mind with this movie and with this character, and if there’s been a movie in my career that I’d say changed my life, it’s 7 Pounds.

FP: Rosario (Dawson) said that you were kind of shy about the love scenes and maybe put them off a little bit. Was that the case?

WS: Yes. See for me, my grandmother was really firm about how men are supposed to treat women. So, it’s like for me, my worst nightmare is for an actress to come on my set and feel like I’m taking this as an opportunity to get a little quickie feel or some legal cheating going on. I just need, specifically women, to be comfortable around me. I just don’t want to feel like I’m that dude.

FP: How does Jada feel about that?

WS: Jada said, ‘Listen, I know you’re uncomfortable but you better not embarrass me!’ (laughing) She was like, ‘When you do that love scene, you better show them what you’re working with!’

FP: Did she come to the set?

WS: No, she didn’t come to the set. I asked her to come to the set and she was like ‘are you stupid?’

FP: There are numerous reports about how grounded you are and how easy you are to work with. How do you manage to stay so humble in the midst of all your success?

WS: I think because I’m scared. I’m so grateful to be in the position that I’m in, to have been blessed with the things that I’ve been blessed with. I was with Redman the other day in Chicago and he came up and we’re sitting down and he said, ‘Man, listen; now I’ve got this relationship that I’m trying to make work and I’m telling you- if you and Jada don’t work, I’m done!’ And I was like wow! And he meant it. He was like the only reason he’s going to try is because of what he saw with Jada and I and he’s believing that there maybe a possibility so he’s going to give it a shot. So it’s like I just don’t want to break that. I don’t want to damage other people’s lives in that way so it really keeps me humble and grounded because I don’t totally feel like I’ve got it. It’s like I might mess something up and that sort of keeps me in a place where I’m really focused and paying attention. I just don’t want to step wrongly.

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Sylvia Hubbard said...

I'm so proud of you and I love this interview.

I'll be seeing this movie of course!

Janaya Black said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janaya Black said...

Thank you! I decided to give this blogging thing another shot.