I was on Will Smith’s IMDB page today, because I felt like being there, and after seeing Bad Boys 3 and Hancock 2 “announced” near the top, then scrolling through the last few years of his film career, I got really depressed. So naturally I scrolled even further down to the glory days of The Legend of Bagger Vance, the original Men In Black, and Independence Day, and was surprised to find myself shedding a tear for a glorious career that may have already ended far too soon.
You see, Will Smith is an American hero. It was basically solidified when he capped off a six year run in the 90s as the centerpiece of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air with Bad Boys (shout out Martin Lawrence) and just a couple years later dropped his debut solo album, Big Willie Style. Try to think of a life without Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It and Miami. It’s worse than what the real world looks like in The Matrix (which, little known fact, almost starred our boy Will as Neo. No joke).
Call me a romantic, but I miss our Will as a smug, confident ladies man in over his head a la Wild Wild West (yeah, very average movie, but remember how much fun it was?) and Men In Black. And what about the me-against-the-world Will as seen in Enemy of the State and Ali? Shit, I even miss man-meat-for-everyone-but-Eva-Mendes Will from Hitch. These are the performances that led Newsweek to call him Hollywood’s most powerful actor in 2007. Granted, the article quoted “one studio head” as saying “there’s Will Smith, and then there are the mortals,” which was almost laughable, but you know what? He was the man in 2007. There’s no two ways about it.
So here we are seven years later, and that quote really is laughable now. What the hell happened, Will? Where’d you go? Could anyone have predicted that you’d follow up The Pursuit of Happyness and I Am Legend with Hancock, Seven Pounds, and then a four year break from Hollywood? Yeah, you came back with Men In Black III, but right after that dropped an ugly father-son tilt in After Earth. No offense to the outspoken Jaden, but let’s not see another film like that again unless all he’s asked to do is be five years old like in Pursuit of Happyness. It just doesn’t work anymore.
Look, I get it. Things changed when you started dabbling in Scientology and Willow and Jaden started getting older. It’s weird when your baby girl becomes famous for whipping her hair back and forth. I just hate seeing a talented actor go off the rails well before he’s in the twilight of his or her career. To be honest, Will turning down Jamie Foxx’s role in Django Unchained because it wasn’t “the lead?” We all need to sit down and talk. That was a big mistake. Please don’t get bigheaded on us Will, because we still need you out here.
The American Can, which centers on the true story of a New Orleans native and Marine who risks his life to rescue 244 people trapped in his apartment building in the aftermath of Katrina, announced for next year, is a potential return to glory for Will. I’m pulling for it just as hard as I’m pulling for this year’s Yankees to make the playoffs so Derek Jeter can keep playing just a little longer. The thing is, once an actor goes on the decline in Hollywood, it’s hard to climb back up. The McConaissance taught us that it’s possible, but it really does take some hard work.
So here’s to Will, aka the Fresh Prince, aka Jay, aka Captain Steven Miller, aka Bagger Vance, aka Ali, riding the inevitable earnings of Bad Boys 3 and Hancock 2 to better, more original stories and roles. We all need it, especially in this economy.
Na na na na na nana, Will. Na na na na na nana.