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Willard Christopher "Will" Smith, Jr. (born September 25, 1968) is an American actor, film producer and rapper. He has enjoyed success in music, television and film. Newsweek has called him the most powerful actor on the planet. Smith has been nominated for four Golden Globe Awards, two Academy Awards, and has won multiple Grammy Awards.

Smith rose to fame as a rapper under the name The Fresh Prince in the late 1980s and his role in the television series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. His most notable films include Bad Boys, Independence Day, Men in Black, Ali, I, Robot, The Pursuit of Happyness, I Am Legend, Hancock, and Seven Pounds. He is the only actor in history to have eight consecutive films gross over $100 million in the domestic box office as well as being the only actor to have eight consecutive films open at #1 on the domestic box office as a Lead Actor.

Family and early life

Smith, an African American, was born and raised in West Philadelphia and Germantownmarker in Northwest Philadelphia. His mother, Caroline (née Bright), was a school administrator who worked for the Philadelphia school board, and his father, Willard Christopher Smith, Sr., was a refrigeration engineer. He was raised Baptist. His parents separated when he was thirteen and divorced when he was thirty-two. Smith's charming and sly demeanor 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. DJ Jazzy Jeff), whom he met at a party. He attended Overbrook High Schoolmarker in West Philadelphia. DJ 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 the Massachusetts Institute of Technologymarker (MIT), he never applied to MIT, although he was admitted to a "pre-engineering program" there. According to Smith, "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."

Recording and acting career

Early work (1985–1995)

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 spent money freely during his early career and underpaid his income taxes. The Internal Revenue Service eventually assessed a $2.8 million tax debt against Smith, took many of his possessions, and garnished his income.
Will Smith in 1993
Smith was nearly bankrupt in 1990 when 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 film Bad Boys (1995) along with co-star Martin Lawrence.

Breakthrough (1996–2000)

After The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ended May 20, 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' 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". In 1998 he starred with Gene Hackman in Enemy of the State. Smith turned down the role of Neo in The Matrix in favor of Wild Wild West. Despite the failure of Wild Wild West, Smith has said that he harbors no regrets about his decision, asserting that Keanu Reeves's performance as Neo was superior to what Smith would have achieved. Smith then went on to gain leading roles in several box office successes including Men in Black II, Bad Boys II, Hitch, and I, Robot.

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 catch phrase 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, Big Willie Style (1997) and Willennium (1999), went multi-platinum.

International success (2001–present)

Smith was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor, for the film Ali, 2001, for his portrayal of the boxer Muhammad Ali, formerly known as Cassius Clay, in the biopic. He was again nominated for Best Actor Oscar for his role in another true-life movie, The Pursuit of Happyness, where he played Chris Gardner in his rags-to-riches story.

Smith's third album on Columbia Records, Born to Reign released in 2002, 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 later signed a recording contract with Interscope Records. A year later, 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 rapper."

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. During this time, Smith released his fourth studio album, the successful Lost & Found. The album was propelled solely on the smash hit single, "Switch", which appealed to the mainstream. The single stayed atop the charts for months and returned Smith to the forefront of hip-hop. Smith appeared at Nickelodeon Kid's Choice awards in 2005 performing "Switch", as well as the BET awards in 2005. He appeared in the second game of the NBA Finals (San Antonio vs. Detroit) performing "Switch" to promote the album. Smith also made a special appearance in the reality talent contest show "Indian Idol", when he visited India.

Also in 2005, 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 in 2008
On December 10, 2007, Smith was recognized at Grauman's Chinese Theatremarker on Hollywood Boulevardmarker. Smith left an imprint of his hands and feet outside the world renowned theater in front of many fans. Later that month, Smith starred in the film I Am Legend, released December 14, 2007. Despite marginally positive 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". A reviewer said that the film's commercial success "cemented [Smith's] standing as the number one box office draw in Hollywood." On December 1, 2008, TV Guide reported that Smith has been selected as one of America’s top ten most fascinating people of 2008 for a Barbara Walters ABC special that aired on December 4, 2008.

Smith is currently developing a film entitled The Last Pharaoh, in which he will star as Taharqa.

President Barack Obama has 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 a possibility of a film based on the 2008 election, but this may not happen until the end of the Obama presidency.

Personal life

Smith was raised by his parents, Willard and Caroline, in West Philadelphia. Smith credits his father's dedication when discussing his own involvement in the lives of his three children: "I look at my father and how he was able to keep four kids fed and clothed and still managed to find time to spend with us." Smith married Sheree Zampino in 1992. They had a son, Willard Christopher Smith 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, who appeared as his daughter in "I Am Legend" (born 2000). Along with his brother, Harry Smith, he owns Treyball Development Inc., a Beverly Hillsmarker-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 Islandmarker in Miami Beach, Floridamarker and in Los Angeles, Stockholm, Swedenmarker and Philadelphiamarker. Smith donated a large amount of money to assist Katrina victims. Smith also donated $4,600 to the presidential campaign of Democrat Barack Obama.

Smith has said he has studied multiple religions, including Scientology, and he has said many complimentary things about Scientology and other faiths. Despite his praise of Scientology, Smith 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". He has denied having joined the Church of Scientology, saying "I am a Christian. I am a student of all religions, and I respect all people and all paths." After his wife Jada made the film Collateral with Cruise in 2004, the couple donated USD$20,000 to Scientology's literacy campaign, called HELP, the Hollywood Education and Literacy Program, which is the basis for Scientology's homeschooling system.



Year Film Role Salary (US$) Notes
1990 Saturday Morning Videos Host TV
ABC Afterschool Special - "The Perfect Date" Hawker TV
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air William "Will" Smith TV (1990-1996)
1992 Blossom Fresh Prince TV, Cameo
Where the Day Takes You Manny 50,000
1993 Made in America Tea Cake Walters 100,000
Six Degrees of Separation Paul 500,000
1995 Bad Boys Detective Mike Lowrey 2,000,000
1996 Independence Day Captain Steven "Steve" Hiller, USMC 5,000,000 MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss
1997 Men in Black James Darrell Edwards / Agent J 5,000,000 MTV Movie Award for Best Fight

MTV Movie Award for Best Song From a Movie
1998 Enemy of the State Robert Clayton Dean 14,000,000 Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture
1999 Torrance Rises Cameo
Wild Wild West Captain James "Jim" West 7,000,000
2000 Welcome to Hollywood Himself
The Legend of Bagger Vance Bagger Vance 10,000,000 Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture
2001 Ali Muhammad Ali 20,000,000 MTV Movie Award for Best Performance

Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actor

Nominated — Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor

Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama

Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture
2002 Men in Black II James Darrell Edwards / Agent J 20,000,000

+ 10% of the gross
BET Award for Best Actor

Nominated — Black Reel Award for Best Actor
Girlfriend by B2K Himself Music video
2003 Bad Boys II Detective Mike Lowrey 20,000,000

+ 20% of the gross
Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture
2004 A Closer Walk Narrator Documentary
Jersey Girl Himself Uncredited Cameo
American Chopper Himself TV, Cameo
I, Robot Detective Del Spooner 28,000,000 Producer

Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture
Shark Tale Oscar 15,000,000 Voice
2005 There's a God on the Mic Documentary
Hitch Alex "Hitch" Hitchens 20,000,000 Producer

Nominated — BET Award for Best Actor

Nominated — Black Movie Award for Best Actor

Nominated — Black Reel Award for Best Actor

Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture
2006 The Pursuit of Happyness Chris Gardner 10,000,000

+ 20% of the gross
ProducerNominated — Academy Award for Best Actor

Nominated — Black Reel Award for Best Actor

Nominated — Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor

Nominated — Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor

Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama

Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture

Nominated — Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
2007 I Am Legend Dr. Robert Neville 25,000,000 ProducerMTV Movie Award for Best Performance

Saturn Award for Best Actor

Nominated — BET Award for Best Actor

Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture,
2008 Hancock John Hancock 20,000,000

+ 20% of the gross
Lakeview Terrace Producer
The Secret Life of Bees Producer
Seven Pounds Tim Thomas Producer

Box office grosses

Year Title Budget U.S. gross Worldwide gross
1992 Where the Day Takes You N/A $390,152 $390,152
1993 Made in America $44,942,695 $104,942,695
Six Degrees of Separation $6,284,090 $6,284,090
1995 Bad Boys $23m $65,647,413 $141,247,413
1996 Independence Day $75m $306,169,255 $817,400,878
1997 Men in Black $90m $250,690,539 $587,790,539
1998 Enemy of the State $111,549,836 $250,649,836
1999 Wild Wild West $170m $113,805,681 $222,105,681
2000 The Legend of Bagger Vance $80m $30,695,227 $39,235,486
2001 Ali $107m $58,183,966 $84,383,966
2002 Men in Black II $140m $190,418,803 $441,818,803
2003 Bad Boys II $60m $138,540,870 $272,940,870
2004 I, Robot $120m $144,801,023 $348,601,023
Shark Tale $75m $161,192,000 $367,192,000
2005 Hitch $70m $177,784,257 $366,784,257
2006 The Pursuit of Happyness $55m $162,586,036 $306,086,036
2007 I Am Legend $150m $256,393,010 $585,055,701
2008 Hancock $227,946,274 $624,346,274
Seven Pounds $55m $69,369,933 $168,482,448

See also


Further reading

  • Doeden, Matt (2007). Will Smith. Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States: Lerner Publications, ISBN 0822566087

External links

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