You would be hard-pressed to poll any group of avid American moviegoers and not find that half or more absolutely enjoy the movies of actor Will Smith. The African/Native-American actor who grew up in West Philly has certainly come a long way from his life as a kid. Smith’s mom, Caroline, was a public school board employee, struggling to raise Will and his three siblings, while his dad, Willard C. Smith Sr., fought to hang on to his refrigerator business. Smith’s life forever changed when he went off to Julia Reynolds Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School, where he pursued music as a future career option. Before long, Smith and buddy Jeff Townes were performing rap/hip hop music at local parties under the surnames DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, while simultaneously blowing their money on extravagant cars, jewelry and even a house. It would be these poor financial decisions that would cause his near bankruptcy at the age of twenty-two.
In 1989, as fate would have it, Smith was discovered by Benny Medina, who wanted Smith to star in a comedy/sitcom about his life in Beverly Hills. Both Smith and NBC loved the script ideas and in 1990 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air debuted, lasting six years, rocketing Smith to national stardom. His fame during the nineties thrust him into several movie roles, including Six Degrees of Separation (1993) and the subsequent action films Bad Boys I and II (1995 and 2003).
Since those early days of fame and fortune, Smith has done nothing short of enhance and build his credibility and success as a talented, Oscar-winning actor, proving his capability at role-diversity. From donning the role of a legendary boxer in Ali (2001) to battling a barrage of evil androids in I, Robot (2004), Smith has captured the silver screen like no other actor before him and is sure to leave his mark on film history. The 2006 biography/drama The Pursuit of Happyness found Smith in one of his most unconventional, untypical roles ever, under the directorship of Gabriele Muccino. Fans must have been shocked to see Smith in a role that did not require a gun, badge or black suit and shades to pull off.
For his latest project Seven Pounds (Columbia Pictures/Sony Entertainment), slated to release December 19, 2008, Smith has reunited with Muccino for an emotionally dramatic story by screenplay writer Grant Nieporte. Our favorite actor will play the role of Ben Thomas, an IRS agent who ends up on a path of redemption from his past and a chance at true love with one of seven strangers he will meet along his journey: Emily, played by actress Rosario Dawson (Death Proof, 2007 and Eagle Eye, 2008).
Interestingly, this film, as with Pursuit of Happyness, will take Smith away from his familiar role of action-star or comedic funny man, both of which it seems he has developed a natural aptitude for, and set him smack-dab in the middle of a drama/romance. However, it is also becoming increasingly apparent that he is capable of pulling off this type of character. Prescreening critics across a wide range of online movie discussion forums and boards all seem to agree that Smith is the film’s only saving grace. A poor plot and even poorer supporting cast (Woody Harrelson, Michael Ealy) seem to be the downfall of Seven Pounds, which may indeed only be salvaged by Smith’s popularity among longtime movie fans and followers of his career. On the other hand, the movie will likely appeal to true drama fans, particularly those who enjoyed Smith in Pursuit of Happyness. Either way, Will Smith has become a household name around the world and it seems there is no end in sight for his budding career.