After first gracing our screens in 1990 in fan favorite, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will Smith went on to gain a huge following and a glittering career. The actor has managed to stay at the forefront of Hollywood, starring in hit movies a couple times a year.
But there have also been some misses. Disney’s live-action remake of Aladdin marks Smith’s biggest box office to date, acting as the genie is one of the greatest highlights of his career, but how did the others square up?
One of three wishes?
In June 2019, Will Smith excitedly shared a video to his Instagram account informing his followers of the incredible news that Disney’s Aladdin has become his highest grossing movie to date.
Despite the mixed reviews from critics, it was a hit with the fans. It turns out that his movie that the numbers had surpassed was the 1996 Independence Day. Two very different roles for the actor, but he saw mass success internationally with both of them.
A Disney smash hit
With so many Disney live-action remakes being released in the last couple of years, there was much uncertainty surrounding the predictions of success for Aladdin.
Although a classic and fan favorite, people were skeptical how Will Smith would do as successor to the iconic, late Robin Williams. Aladdin ended up becoming the second most successful Disney remake, with Beauty and the Beast taking the top spot. Will Smith’s films Independence Day and Suicide Squad follow this success respectively.
Unknown and Unsuccessful
One of the first movies Will Smith ever appeared in was Six Degrees of Separation. Despite being his first feature film, Smith was just known for starring in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
The film was not a success and was basically forgotten in the actor’s movie portfolio. However, the movie was released around the same time as blockbusters including Jurassic Park and Mrs. Doubtfire. Going up against huge actors and big budgets was never going to be positive for an up and coming actor.
Here come the Men In Black
However, things turned around later in 1997 as Will Smith brought us Men In Black. The movie ended up being a smash hit at the box office and grossed $589.3 million worldwide against a $90 million budget.
That summer, Smith also began his solo music career with the release of “Men in Black”, the theme song for the film. Adding to Smith’s success, the song ended up topping music charts around the world.
The rapping begins
The song Men In Black wasn’t Will Smith’s first time rapping and his musical talents date back years. Smith started rapping as part of the West Philadelphia hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.
Their first album Rock The House debuted in 1987 which kicked off a total of five albums between 1987 to 1993. Their success wasn’t just in the numbers and the rap duo won multiple awards including winning two Grammys. Between rapping and acting, Will Smith’s career had really taken off.
From West Philadelphia born and raised…
Even today, Will Smith is best known for his starring role in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. It portrayed a fictional Will Smith and his big move into the affluent and exclusive area of Bel-Air, California.
The show was immediately a knock-out success. It ended up running for six seasons and being nominated for two Golden Globes, and a Primetime Emmy Award. It became a staple for 90s kids and there was even speculation of a reboot in 2016, but Smith quickly shot down rumors.
Moving on up
After Will’s first movie, Six Degrees of Separation bombed, he really needed something to pick up his career and move on. In 1995, Will starred in Bad Boys with Martin Lawrence which ended up being a great success, bringing in $141 million at the box office.
In fact, it was such a hit that a sequel was made in 2003 and 2020 will see the third movie released from the franchise. Filming reportedly began at the beginning of this year so we can expect some trailer in the next coming months.
After starring in Men In Black, producers believed that Will Smith would be a great choice to play Neo in the highly anticipated The Matrix franchise but the actor ended up turning down the opportunity.
Of course, the films went on to gross $592.2 million at the box office, making it one of the most successful franchises. It wasn’t until 2019 that Smith addressed why he turned it down explaining he didn’t understand the concept of the movie. He also admitted he believed it wouldn’t have been such a success with him in a starring role.
On the back of the success of Bad Boys, Will Smith found himself on a roll with blockbuster movies, and becoming one of the most celebrated and talked-about actors.
During the winning streak, Smith starred in Independence Day which, before Aladdin, was his most successful movie to date. The film made $817.4 million at the worldwide box office and received rave reviews from critics and fans. The 2016 sequel to the film flopped at the box office and Will Smith was not a part of it.
A little bit of luck goes a long way
In many cases, when the creative process is quick and the ideas just flow, you know you have something good on your hands. With Independence Day, director Roland Emmerich and writer Dean Delvin only took around one month to write the whole script and complete the screenplay in its entirety.
In the end, Will Smith was lucky to get the role as it was offered Ethan Hawke first, but the actor hated the script and passed on it. What a mistake that was!
Wild Wild what was he thinking?
Despite having a strong cast complete with Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh and Salma Hayek, Wild Wild West ended up being a total flop of a movie. The 1999 film had a decent concept, but the outcome really wasn’t up to Will Smith’s standard.
Rotten Tomatoes called it a “bizarre misfire in which greater care was lavished upon the special effects than on the script”. The film was nominated for eight Golden Raspberry Awards and won five, including Worst Picture and Worst Original Song.
Will Smith and Jada are one of Hollywood’s most loved couples. The two met when Will was starring on The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air and Jada came to try out for the role of Will’s girlfriend.
Ironically, she didn’t get the part, but Will was besotted with her and he won her heart in real life. Later on, Will admitted that he fell for Jada after seeing her on the college-themed TV series, A Different World. It wasn’t until Will’s first marriage ended that the two began dating.
Lucky number four
Ironically, Will Smith had multiple successful movies whose opening weekends all fell over fourth of July weekend. Due to this, Smith earned the nickname “The King Of The Fourth”. Men In Black and Independence Day had July 4th openings, as did both films’ sequels.
In later years, I Am Legend and Hancock both followed the same pattern, opening on American Independence Day and seeing huge success worldwide. Perhaps Will Smith began asking for his movies to open on that particular weekend for a sure success.
The first Oscar nomination
Despite the success of Will Smith’s prior films, it wasn’t until 2001 when the actor was finally recognized by the Academy and was nominated for an Oscar. The nomination was for his film Ali which was a biopic of one of the greatest boxers of all time, Muhammad Ali.
Acting as Ali, Smith received rave reviews from critics who claimed the actor did the greatest sportsman justice in his portrayal. Smith ended up losing the Oscar to Denzel Washington for Training Day.
After a string of action movies, Will go the opportunity to star in a kids film. In 2004, Will Smith was cast in his first animated movie Shark Tale as the main role, Oscar. The Dreamworks animation featured an all-star cast of Robert De Niro, Renée Zellweger, Angelina Jolie, Jack Black, and Martin Scorsese.
The movie opened at number one with $47.6 million which was the second-highest opening for a DreamWorks Animation to date. It was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
A successful romcom
Romantic comedies aren’t usually received too well by critics and can often become to cringe worthy than cute. However, Will Smith managed to turn this around with Hitch in 2005, starring alongside Kevin James and Eva Mendes.
James and Smith became the dream team in this movie, with Smith acting as the “date doctor” while James was his awkward student looking for love. The movie ended up making a total of $368.1 million at the worldwide box office.
Oscars round two
Five-years later in 2006, Will Smith got a second shot at winning an Academy Award as he was nominated for Best Actor for the film The Pursuit of Happyness. Unfortunately, Smith lost out again and the Oscar was won by Forest Whitaker.
The film was also nominated for a Golden Globe in the category “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama.” Ironically, Forest Whitaker beat him for a second time with The Last King of Scotland.
Despite Will Smith losing the biggest awards to other movies, The Pursuit Of Happyness ended up being a monumental role and moment in Smith’s life and career. Firstly, Will was able to act with his young son Jaden, a first for the father.
In addition, Smith won over a different audience as most of his other films were action and comedy. This role showed Smith in an emotional, raw and empathetic performance, for which he was hailed but critics and fans alike.
A different role
Many actors are afraid of being typecast into a certain role and Will Smith was at risk of going down this route with action comedies. However he turned this all around in 2008 when he was cast in a role that was completely different from anything he had done before.
Smith played an unlikable and troubled character in Seven Pounds. The film did not resonate well with critics but Will’s performance assured everyone that he had become a versatile and talented actor.
Keep it in the family
The first time Will had starred in a movie with a family member was with his son, Jayden, in The Pursuit Of Happyness in 2004 when Jayden was a young child. 9-years later in 2013, Jayden and Will starred in After Earth.
Will conceived the story, then convinced M. Night Shyamalan to co-write, direct and cast his son in the lead role. While it wasn’t received well by critics, it was a great moment in Will’s career to share with his son and help him grow and develop as a young actor.
Despite usually being billed as the leading actor, Will Smith has been eager to take on different roles in his career, all with different weight. In 2013, Will Smith was asked to take on a short cameo role in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.
The sequel to Anchorman was littered with celebrities and actors appearing in the Will Ferrell movie, including Drake, Kanye West, Tina Fey, Sacha Baron Cohen and Jim Carey to name a few. How could Will say no to that lineup?
In 2015, Will Smith was set to star opposite Australian actress Margot Robbie in Focus. As one of the most beautiful actresses in Hollywood, many expected Jada to get a little competitive.
However, it was revealed when finding out about the casting, Jada ordered Will to get in the best shape, saying “Boy don’t embarrass me. Get in shape now!” The two played con artists who ultimately fell in love after scamming the rich out of their millions.
Smith turns to streaming
2017 saw a departure from Will Smith’s typical blockbuster movies as he went to star in a Netflix original, Bright. The sci-fi/fantasy movie featured Will Smith as Daryl Ward, a human LAPD officer in a world where humans coexisted with nine other sentient races and magic was known to be real.
The Netflix movie was panned by critics, but was an absolute hit with viewers and became one of the site’s most streamed programs ever.
Strong work ethic
Despite being one of the most successful actors in the business, Will Smith made a surprise confession about his talent as an actor. He said “I’ve never really viewed myself as particularly talented.
I’ve viewed myself as slightly above average in talent. And where I excel is ridiculous, sickening, work ethic. You know, while the other guy’s sleeping? I’m working. While the other guy’s eatin’? I’m working.” Many of his fans and critics would disagree with his personal stance as some of his performances have been outstanding.
Actor turned producers
Will Smith didn’t just stop at acting and singing in his career, he has been a big part of a number of TV shows as a producer. Smith started producing back in his Fresh Prince days, acting as an executive producer on 24 episodes of the series.
In addition, he is the co-owner of production company Overbook Entertainment with wife Jada, producing films including The Karate Kid, Annie and The Secret Life of Bees among other films and TV shows.
Break the box office
The success of Will Smith’s career is most evident through the numbers. He is the only actor to have eight consecutive films gross over $100 million at the domestic box office. Starting with Men In Black II up until Hancock, it is an incredible feat for the actor.
The only other individual who comes close is Tom Cruise with five consecutive movies earning over $100 million, starting with A Few Good Men all the way until Jerry Maguire.
Smashing the Suicide Squad
Will Smith’s portrayal of Deadshot in comic book movie Suicide Squad earned a spot in his top five most successful movies. Smith fully committed to his character Deadshot and went through extensive firearm training, instead of relying on a stunt double.
It was reported he trained with Navy SEALs and Army Rangers to prepare. Despite less than positive reviews from critics, the 2016 movie brought in a huge $746.8 million at the international box office.
Jumping ship on the sequel
Despite the success of the first movie, it was confirmed that Will Smith wouldn’t be reprising his role as Deadshot in the Suicide Squad sequel. It was said that Smith had to bow out due to scheduling issues, even though there didn’t seem to be anything in the pipeline for the actor then.
With the film due for release in 2021, it was confirmed that Deadshot would not be included and that the expected replacement, Idris Elba, would have a new character.
In 2019, it was reported that Will and Jada were set to launch new media venture Westbrook Inc. The cross-platform holding company would aim to take charge of Smith Family’s global content and commerce business strategy.
This would also include Overbrook Entertainment and Red Table Talk Enterprises, both companies that Will and Jada previously co-owned, but the couple decided to bring in a new team to make up the company. The new venture looked to considerably increase the Smith’s net worth.
Big boots to fill
When it was announced that Will Smith was cast as the genie in the live-action remake of Aladdin, the appointment was met with a mixed reaction from fans, questioning if it was the right decision from Guy Richie.
It wasn’t just fans that were skeptical, Will Smith also voiced his worries about the role, saying “Whenever you’re doing things that are iconic, it’s always terrifying, The question is always: Where was there meat left on the bone? Robin didn’t leave a lot of meat on the bone with the character.”
Part of the reason Will Smith has had such a successful career is due to the fact that beneath the professional actor, he is a truly likeable person and throughout his time in the spotlight, he has always been considered genuine, compassionate and a friend to so many.
Instead of trying to separate his private and public life, he has always appeared as approachable to fans. Will Smith’s infectious personality has resonated with fans and they are always delighted to see him off-camera, just being himself.
Instead of complaining about the perils of fame and the hurdles in life, Will Smith told CBS how much he appreciates and loves life. He added that he believes the reason he has such a loyal fanbase is due to the fact they can feel his positive energy and passion for living life to the fullest.
He said “I love living, I think that’s infectious. It’s somethin’ that you can’t fake. And I think that the camera can feel that I’m happy doin’ what I do. And it’s somethin’ that gets inside of people.”
Young Will forever
In Gemini Man, Will’s appearance was turned back in time and he appeared as a younger version of himself thanks to visual effects. Will embraced the use of this technology and joked “What I’m excited about is now there’s a completely digital 23-year-old version of myself that I can make movies with now.
I was like, ‘Oh man, I’m going butt and gut on them.’ I’m gonna get really fat and really overweight … use the ‘Gemini’ Junior”. He added he was looking forward to being able to appear on-screen completely digitally and take it easy in life.
Supporting in spirit
Will Smith has always been incredibly supportive of wife, Jada, and his kids, always showing up to support whatever they appear in or any work they are taking on. When Jada started her Facebook show Red Table Talk, Will admitted he was very proud of her, he just didn’t want to watch it.
When asked by Jimmy Kimmel why he didn’t want to listen to Jada’s controversial topics, he put it simply saying, “No, I don’t watch it. They’re tellin’ all our business”.
Will Smith’s youngest two children Jaden and Willow are both very into fashion and have appeared in many campaigns for international fashion designers.
However, in 2019, Will Smith appeared in his first ever fashion campaign for Italian brand Moncler, called ““Genius Is Born Crazy”, a campaign celebrating out-of-the-box thinking and individuals who define this. In his career spanning over 20-years, this is one of the only times we have seen Will Smith appear in a campaign that is not movie related.
Return to animation
In 2019, it was announced that Will Smith would return to lending his voice in an animation for Fox. Smith was said to be playing Lance Sterling, billed as “the world’s most awesome spy.”
Making up the impressive cast is Ben Mendelsohn, Karen Gillan, Rashida Jones, DJ Khaled and Masi Oka. Considering Will Smith’s last animated movie Shark Tale was a smash hit, Fox could be projecting big things for their new project due for release around Christmas.
While most actors may see dollar signs and awards when cast in big movies, Will Smith is just all about the concept behind the movie. He admitted “I’m obsessed with trying to put small character dramas into the middle of blockbuster packages, the most successful I’ve ever been with that concept is I Am Legend.”
He went on to say that the movie could have easily been a one man stage play, but with all the moving parts and solid acting skills, it became one of his highest grossing films at the box office.
In his illustrious career, Will Smith has grown and developed as an actor, learning so much about the industry and how to present himself on screen. When asked about the best advice he could give to those who intended to follow in his footsteps, he said “You [can] act so much that you turn people off, or you [can] put so many creatures in it that now people don’t take the acting seriously.”
Watching his earlier films to his recent ones, Will Smith has refined his acting down to a tee, making him one of the best in the business.
After the smash-hit success of playing the Genie in Aladdin in 2019, Will Smith shows no signs of slowing down in his career. In the next year-and-a-half he has films including Bad Boys for Life, Gemini Man, and King Richard expected for release.
October 2019 will see the release of Gemini Man, featuring Will Smith fighting a CGI-created younger version of himself. This movie will be Smith’s return to action-sci-fi, and we will see if he has still got it!