Thursday, January 17, 2013
Doc Hollywood: Will Smith
Come in, Will. Have a seat on the table.
People like you. You are an actor that moviegoers root for. We want you to make good movies, but I can’t help but notice that you’ve become really lazy recently. I also think a little humility might do the trick. And stop being so sullen all the time...but we’ll get to that.
Good news is you don’t NEED a comeback. This is a preventative measure more than anything. Back in the '90s, you were the IT guy. Ask anyone under the age of 25 and they'll say Will Smith was one of their favorite actors. More importantly, you were cool and funny. Unfortunately for some, it’s not the '90s anymore, and I fear the ‘too cool for school’ act expired by the time you felt the need to tell The Legend of Bagger Vance.
So what happened? I’m not going to say you haven’t made a good movie since the '90s, because that’s just not true. I, Robot, I Am Legend and The Pursuit of Happyness were all solid movies -- nothing for the ages, just solid programmers, and that’s ok. And though the movies are a bit wonky, you acquitted yourself in Hitch and Ali. Bottom line is, you grew up and so did your audience, but where we used to walk on the same side of the road, you took a bit of a divergent path. You became Will the Saint, Will the Grouch, Will the Cynical Box Office Chaser. I don’t want to get jiggy with anyone of your characters besides Hitch after Enemy of the State.
I might be wrong, but I think you really got spooked around 2008 with the release of Hancock. You were never the guy to take many risks; you’ve always played it safe. Hell, you were even quoted as saying that back when you started out, you wanted to be the biggest movie star in the world, so you and your producing partner looked at the top 10 movies of all time and boxed yourself into a formula of making special effects movies.
Men in Black 3...you got lucky more than anything. The movie's heart and Josh Brolin were what saved it, and you seemed at sea. Did you forget how to be the Will Smith we all know and love?
So, what’s coming up for you? Ok, After Earth. Did you lose a bet? Please don’t tell me you bought into an M. Night vision? And Jaden’s doing fine; you don’t need to ease him along. Plus, you’re the grumpy Sci-Fi guy again. But it’s in the can, so whatever. What’s after that? Hancock 2? I, Robot Too? Bad Boys 3? Will, buddy, no one is asking for these sequels.
If you insist on one of them, do Bad Boys 3. But there’s a catch. You can only do it if you make it the closing chapter in a trilogy about the fall of King Dingaling, Mike Lowrey. You can validate an entire series by making Mike Lowrey into Denzel from Training Day. And your best friend Marcus Burnett has to take you down. That’s DRAMA. You boxed yourself in, buddy, with Bad Boys 2, where you really are a monster that’s just as bad as the villains (including Cuban John Stamos). Mike Bay might not want to do that, so I’m going to need you to use your clout and maybe wrestle this franchise away to another director. See if Joe Carnahan is available.
And what’s this about you turning down a role that Quentin Tarantino actually wrote with you mind (Django Unchained)? Even your agents and manager wanted you to accept it! You did a crazy thing there, ok? After you leave my office today, call Quentin and apologize. Do what DiCaprio did: get a hold of QT’s future scripts and call him to say you’ll take any role. You don’t have enough movies that will stand the test of time. So let’s focus a little on that, mid-career.
While you wait for QT, here are a few other ideas based on what I learned about you from your file. Just food for thought.
1. You’re a huge Star Wars fan and you’ve said your entire career you have been trying to make people feel like Star Wars made you feel. Do you want to have a go at the next Star Wars movie? With your passion, it could just be what that franchise needs.
2. I loved this: supposedly you’re a huge fan of a melodic Swedish heavy metal band called Soilwork? Do you have an indie in you? I want to see this movie. Go WAY outside the box. Let’s explore you in this world.
3. Your favorite movie is Bridge On The River Kwai. I could see you in a war movie. A big epic. Again, let’s find some projects that will surprise movie audiences, but also work to what you like. You have the clout, might as well use it.
4. Your fans from the '90s are mostly parents now. Make a family comedy to remind them of your charms and introduce you to a new generation of youngsters. How about an old school Disney sports comedy?
5. Think Harrison Ford in his Jack Ryan phase. Mid-career buddy!
Ok, I think that’s about all I have for you my friend.
And don’t forget…say "Aw, hell no!" in every movie. Work that in. That’s your trademark. We need to hear it!
Take care, Will, and good luck. My office is open for you anytime.