From 2002 to 2013, this famous actor has starred in eleven feature films, playing the lead character in most of them. Nine of these eleven films have grossed more than $100 million in North America (USA & Canada) itself! The actor with such an impeccable box-office track record is of course, Will Smith. And while the man can be part of any film, a biopic, an animated movie, a serious drama or an action/thriller, there is one category of films that he keeps coming back to. Science-fiction. Six of these eleven films that we are talking of have been sci-fi flicks. And there have been many more before too. But the latest one in which Will Smith played a legendary alien-fighting General has been some cause of concern. The movie in question was this summer’s much awaited and subsequently much criticized After Earth. The movie produced with a budget of $130 million, grossed a partly $61 million in the domestic market. But a better run in the foreign markets, which would have been on account of Will Smith’s global fame, resulted in a total worldwide revenues of $244 million. Even this would not be enough to get the production studios their investment back. While much of the blame has been rightly put on the director M. Night Shyamalan’s door, the movie surprisingly had one of the worst acting performances ever seen by Will Smith. The actor who could probably play anyone in front of the cameras, gave a very insipid performance as General Cypher Raige, uninspired and un-Will Smith like. Everyone has a bad day at work, and Will Smith can be forgiven for having one such time too, especially since his bad day has come after more than a decade of memorable performances. What we are more interested in is, where does Will Smith go next? With the desire to see the old Will Smith back in action again, we look at the upcoming movies of this former Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Will Smith will be seen next in 2014’s supernatural drama film Winter’s Tale which is based on the 1983 novel by Mark Helprin. Interestingly, Smith is not playing the lead guy here, but is a supporting cast member of an ensemble cast, something which he rarely does. The cast also includes Colin Farrell as the lead actor, along with Jennifer Connelly, Russell Crowe, Jessica Brown Findlay and William Hurt. The movie is a fantasy tale about a thief who falls in love with a dying girl, in which Smith’s character is called simply Judge. This is Akiva Goldsman’s directorial debut; he has previously worked with Smith as either a producer or a writer in I,Robot, I Am Legend and Hancock. Now Winter’s Tale is not a Will Smith movie and so its success or failure may not be a reflection of his appeal, but his mere presence along with Russell Crowe should get people interested in the movie. His contribution could be something similar to Johnny Depp’s performance in Alice in Wonderland, where even though Depp was put amongst a huge and talented cast and did not have the screen time he usually enjoys in a movie, his performance stood out. Needing to bounce back from After Earth, we hope that Smith dazzles in whatever minutes he gets in Winter’s Tale.
(Will Smith on the sets of his upcoming movie Focus)
From supernatural to comedy, that is the shift Will Smith will make in 2014. His next feature film Focus sees him take back the lead role of a professional con artist, who brings a young woman under his wing and then falls for her, complicating matters. Comedy is Will Smith’s forte (one of many fortes), his timing is impeccable and even his sci-fi films throw in a bit of it. His previous comedy film (with no aliens in it), a romcom infact, was the wonderfully made Hitch back in 2005. The story of Focus suggests a romcom too, with a bit of drama around the heists that the cons plan. It has been written and directed by the duo Glenn Ficarra and John Requa who have dealt in the world of comedy before with I Love You Phillip Morris (with Jim Carrey) and Crazy, Stupid, Love (with Steve Carell). So we cannot be blamed for having high expectations from Focus. Filming is set to conclude soon but a release date has not been announced yet. Whenever it may release in 2014, a comedy film with Will Smith cannot be missed.
(Will Smith may be depicting the heroics of John Keller (right) in The American Can)
Beyond this, the weather gets a bit foggy to see too clearly where Will Smith’s plane is flying to. His production company Overbook Entertainment has been working on getting things moving on The American Can for quite a few years, and as per latest reports, this movie may well be off the back burner now. At a time when biopics are becoming the much sought out flavour, this may indeed be a good time to get this movie into production mode. The American Can is based on true events, on the bravery of John Keller, an American Marine who risked his life in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for the safety and rescue of abot 250 people trapped in his apartment building. For five days after the storm, Keller is credited to have fended off looters, arranged food drops and acted as de facto mayor and caretaker, for hundreds of his neighbours, which included handicapped and elderly people. This seems like a story worth telling, and Will Smith has the knack to bring out the human emotions in an intense situation perfectly well. He connects with the audience, he can make them feel his struggle and pain, and he can deliver joy like not many can. Casing point being The Pursuit of Happyness. This was a biopic, and prior to that, Smith also starred in Ali playing Muhammad Ali. Both these movies earned him Academy Award nominations, and he is long overdue an Academy Award win. Can The American Can be the perfect platform to get the prefix “Oscar winner” before Will Smith’s name? If this movie does enter into production with Smith onboard, then you do get a feeling that it could be one for the awards season. Edward Zwick is currently attached as director, who has given some thought-provoking intense films like The Last Samurai, Glory, The Siege and Blood Diamond. You do get a good feeling about this project.
(Will Smith along with Jeff Goldblum in 1996’s Independence Day)
What’s beyond? TheWrap reports that Will Smith has been attached to a supernatural thriller Selling Time. The movie’s plot is about a man who is given a chance to relive the worst day of his life in exchange for seven years off his life expectancy. This does have the elements of a sci-fi that we know is Will Smith’s territory. But from the sounds of it, this is likely to have a lot of drama too. Still early days on this one though but sounds interesting enough to keep a track. Then there is the big one that many are talking about, Independence Day 2. Will he, won’t he? Will Smith may have grown out of playing a part in such high-budget extravagant films which come across as goofy fun flicks, while not really challenging his acting potential. Independence Day 2 is very much on the cards for Roland Emmerich but Will Smith has not yet signed on the dotted line to reprise his role of Captain Steven Hiller, one of his earliest roles in films. This is what the filmmaker had to say on Smith’s return for the sequel, “I sometimes say no, Will Smith will not be in it because he didn’t want to do it at first. Now we have a meeting planned, we want to talk about it again. Anything can happen.” So anything can indeed happen. And while Independence Day 2 would be more fun to watch with him than without him, it really ain’t the movie to go to for Will Smith alone. Emmerich is said to have had two scripts prepared for the sequel, one with and one without Smith’s character. So let’s see how the meeting goes.
A possible Hancock 2 or a Bad Boys 3 have been rumoured for quite some time, but they may not really interest Will Smith anymore. At the age of 45, Smith still has quite a few years to continue playing the lead actor and driving the movie with his sole presence, something which he should be doing in playing more challenging roles, ones that bring out the diversity in his acting skills. He’s been doing that in the past decade, and that is what we would love to see from him in the coming decade too. The line-up of movies as of now look appealing, with a variety befitting Will Smith’s acting prowess. Time to forget about After Earth… let’s see Will Smith dominating the box-office again, while winning over the hearts of his multitude of fans once again.