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Will Smith to attend movie premiere in Minn.

Associated Press - December 7, 2008 12:24 PM ET

EDINA, Minn. (AP) - Actor Will Smith will walk the red carpet at a Twin Cities premiere of his new movie, "Seven Pounds."

Smith will appear Friday at AMC Southdale 16 in Edina. At the premiere, he'll donate 300 turkeys to Second Harvest Heartland, a hunger-relief organization serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

Minnesota Viking Bernard Berrian, who recently pledged to donate up to $10,000 to Second Harvest Heartland, will join Smith.

The red-carpet presentation begins at 6 p.m. and is open to the public. Starting at 4 p.m., the first 250 people to bring a non-breakable, non-perishable food item will have the chance to receive a screening pass to the movie.

In "Seven Pounds," Smith portrays an IRS agent with a secret who tries to redeem himself by helping seven strangers. It opens Dec. 19.


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Kyle Smith's top ten movies of 2008

1. "Slumdog Millionaire"

2. "Man On Wire"

3. "Seven Pounds"

4. "The Dark Knight"

5. "Four Months, Three Weeks And Two Days"

6. "The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button"

7. "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"

8. "Doubt"

9. "Rachel Getting Married"

10. "Funny Games"


To me, "Seven Pounds" is simple but perfect, so classically structured that, except for the modern technology in it, it's like a redemption fable handed down from the ancients.



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Will Smith Talks Love-Scene Nerves in New Movie!



Will Smith plays a conflicted man with a mysterious secret who decides to help seven strangers in the dramatic love story 'Seven Pounds.' Now, ET's Kevin Frazier gets the dish from Will and co-star Rosario Dawson about their love scene in the film together -- and Will's nervousness about going through with it!

Rosario tells Kevin she saw a different side of Will while filming the love scenes.

"He was very gentle and very sweet but I had to be extremely gentle with him," she says. "He was very nervous and very shy."

The actor shares his own feelings about working so closely with his co-star.

"I think women, they can kind of separate stuff," he says. "But for me, I'm lying in the bed with Rosario Dawson. It was throwing me off a little bit."

In the film, Will plays Ben Thomas, an IRS agent who embarks on an extraordinary journey of redemption by forever changing the lives of seven strangers, including Woody Harrelson as a blind man and Rosario as a woman with a failing heart.

Catch Will and Rosario in '7 Pounds,' in theaters Dec. 19.

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Will Smith Seeks Redemption

By Michael White

Dec. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Will Smith’s charm has made him one of the world’s biggest movie stars. Don’t look for that charismatic personality in “Seven Pounds,” the story of a man who tries to atone for his mistakes by helping seven strangers.

“That Will Smith persona, he had to bury all that for this performance,” screenwriter Grant Nieporte said in an interview. “You forget that you’re watching Will Smith.”

Smith plays an Internal Revenue Service agent with a tragic past. Nieporte said the film, which opens Dec. 19, raises important questions.

“If you felt responsible for the loss of life, what lengths would you go to make amends?” Nieporte said. “What about a guy who pulled out all the stops, what would that journey look like?”

“Seven Pounds” was Nieporte’s seventh screenplay, but the first he considered good enough to show to producers. Escape Artists, one of the companies that produced Smith’s “The Pursuit of Happyness,” was the first to make an offer.

Nieporte, who has written for TV shows including “8 Simple Rules ... for Dating My Teenage Daughter, wouldn’t say exactly how much he got for the movie script, preferring to describe it as the “lowest six-figure you could possibly imagine.” He said acceptance was more important than the money.

“After 10 years, a lot of writers’ assistant work and a lot of long hours of television work, it was amazing to get validated for my own voice,” he said.


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Will Smith Interview, Seven Pounds

MoviesOnline sat down with two-time Academy Award nominee Will Smith to talk about his new film, “Seven Pounds,” a gripping mystery and surprising love story directed by Gabriele Muccino (“The Pursuit of Happyness”).

“Seven Pounds” is a stirring and emotionally suspenseful tale about a man with a haunting secret who sets out to redeem himself by drastically changing the lives of seven total strangers. Once his plan is set in motion, nothing can alter it. Or so he thinks. But what Ben Thomas (Smith) never expects is that he will fall in love with one of the strangers, Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson) – and that it is she who will start to change him.

Will Smith has enjoyed success in a career encompassing hit films, his own television series and multi-platinum records. He earned his first Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of boxing legend Muhammad Ali in Michael Mann’s acclaimed biopic "Ali.” Smith more recently starred in and produced the critically acclaimed, true-life drama “The Pursuit of Happyness.” His performance brought him his second Academy Award nomination, his fourth Golden Globe nomination and a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award nomination for Best Actor.

Smith most recently starred in the blockbuster “Hancock,” which earned over $600,000,000 worldwide, and “I Am Legend,” directed by Francis Lawrence. In 2005, Smith starred in and produced the hit romantic comedy "Hitch,” directed by Andy Tennant. The year prior, he starred in and executive produced the sci-fi smash "I, Robot,” adapted from the book by Isaac Asimov and directed by Alex Proyas. Also that year, he voiced the central character of Oscar in the blockbuster animated feature "Shark Tale,” opposite Renee Zellweger, Angelina Jolie and Robert De Niro.

In 2003, he reunited with Martin Lawrence for "Bad Boys II,” the sequel to their 1995 hit "Bad Boys.” Smith had earlier starred in two blockbusters that topped the box office in back-to-back summers. In 1996, he took on alien invaders in Roland Emmerich’s science fiction actioner "Independence Day.” The following year, he starred with Tommy Lee Jones in Barry Sonnenfeld’s sci-fi comedy "Men in Black,” for which Smith also recorded the Grammy-winning title song. In 2002, Smith, Jones and Sonnenfeld reteamed for the sequel "Men in Black II.”

Will Smith is a fabulous person and we really appreciated his time. Here’s what he had to tell us about his new film, “Seven Pounds”:

MoviesOnline: You know you’ve been referred to a lot in the past year as the biggest movie star on planet Earth…


MoviesOnline: …so how does the view look from there?

WILL SMITH: (laughs) I read…I wish I could remember. You know my wife always remembers where she read stuff and it sounds cool when you can say the author and stuff, but I read somebody said he was a mountain climber and he set his mind, I want to climb Everest. I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it. And he climbed and he got to the top and realized he couldn’t breathe, all right? And the only thought that he had was how the hell can I get down off of here as fast as I can? And it’s like this weird thing that kicks in your mind like be careful what you wish for, you know? You go and you fight and go and fight to get there and there’s this discomfort that sets in. And it’s really the last probably year and a half have been kind of scary and a little bit frustrating for me.

I had an epiphany after working on “Seven Pounds.” I realized that part of that feeling was that I was looking at my life and I was looking at myself and my future too much around these movies. And after “Seven Pounds” l just had this huge epiphany of how much more I want to be, how much more I want to do, and the idea of living in service to humanity vs. living in service to the commerce of my movies. And that explosion just totally washed away that sort of scary uncomfortable feeling. It’s like however people look at me as a movie star or not, I want to be remembered as a man who cared about people and dedicated his life to making the world better, so with that I went from thinking of myself in this high place to damn, I’ve got so much to do, I need to get to work. And that’s so much better a place for me emotionally.

MoviesOnline: Aren’t you just Willow and Jaden’s daddy though?

WILL SMITH: I know, right. I’m just some dude at the dinner table, you know?

MoviesOnline: Does this mean you want to make message movies from now on?

WILL SMITH: Well not message movies…it’s like with “Seven Pounds” I was attracted to “Seven Pounds” not because there was a fantastic one-liner that I could sell around the world very easily, you know? I was attracted to “Seven Pounds” because there were ideas. There were emotions. There were parts of this character that I was hiding myself from. I took “Seven Pounds” almost as a self-examination--as a self-exploration and Jada said something to me a few months ago. She said, you know, it’s funny how much I was rejecting this character. And she was saying “It’s funny how you’re doing that.” She’s like “You know that you are Ben, right?” I was like “What?” She was like, “The reason you’re so nice and the reason you fight so hard to be up tone is because you’re at war with that guy inside of you.” You know? I was like damn deep lady! That’s what I realized. It’s like the projects I was choosing and all like everything had to be okay in the end or it emotionally hurt me, right?

So now my sensibilities are becoming slightly less delicate and I may be able to venture out a little bit more into the world of emotional and artistic ambiguity in a way that it strikes me as more authentic but it’s terrifying for me just as a child growing up. It’s like I needed to know and my grandmother made sure I knew and God is going to make everything okay. So, however scary you get, however bad life is, just know that there’s somebody in a high place that’s on your side. So, to play a character who doesn’t necessarily believe that—to feel like he has to fix it, God made a mistake and it’s his responsibility to fix it, and how to carry that emotional weight, is a terrifying space for me emotionally and artistically.

MoviesOnline: What did it for you?

WILL SMITH: Yeah, you know. “Seven Pounds.” I’ve been exploring the idea of trauma and the relationship between trauma and continuing life, right? So with “I Am Legend” and then into “Hancock” and now with “Seven Pounds,” I’m starting the character on trauma, right? And then I was asking the question, “Well, what’s the difference between someone who falls into depression and someone like Nelson Mandela or Muhammad Ali or Gandhi or Mother Theresa?” They just keep going in the face of, you know, the ultimate weight of humanity and life. And the thing that I discovered on “Seven Pounds” is its purpose. When you have a purpose, when you wake up and you’ve dedicated your life to something beyond yourself, all is bearable, right? And it just so exploded in my mind with this movie and with this character and if there’s been a movie in my career that I would say changed my life, it’s “Seven Pounds.”

MoviesOnline: Not “Independence Day”?

WILL SMITH: Not “Independence Day,” you know? When I punched that alien and said, “Welcome to Earth,” that was a huge moment, you know?

MoviesOnline: Now Rosario said that you were kind of shy about the love scenes and that you may have put them off a little bit. Was that the case?

WILL SMITH: See with the love…like for me, my grandmother was really firm and…my mother and grandmother…about how men are supposed to treat women. My grandmother…you know I started driving and you know when you start driving you’re excited. I run down and go hop in the car and start it and I’m ready and my grandmother would just stand outside. And she would just stand…oh sorry grandma. I’d get out and run around and open the door, you know so she could get in and close the door. So, for me, my worst nightmare is for an actress to come on my set and feel like I’m taking this as an opportunity to get a little quickie feel, you know, some legal cheating going on. I just need, specifically, women to be comfortable around me. I just don’t want to feel like I’m that dude and doing a love scene and her clothes are off and all of that. It just puts me in my defensive space but it also hurts the acting if I’m in that space. You’ve got to find a comfortable space to feel free and your hand can brush up against her and all of that and it’s not “Oh, excuse me,” you know?

MoviesOnline: How was Jada about all that? Was she cool?

WILL SMITH: Oh, Jada said “Listen, I know you are uncomfortable but you better not embarrass me.” She was like, “When you do that love scene, you better show them what you’re working with.”

MoviesOnline: She didn’t come to the set that day?

WILL SMITH: No, no she didn’t come to the set. I asked her to come to the set and she was like “Are you stupid?”

MoviesOnline: Will, when you were a kid or even as an adult, did anybody ever do some random act of kindness for you that was unexpected that made you stop and say “Wow”?

WILL SMITH: I always go to my grandmother. She was that lady. My grandmother was the woman who, you know, you come home from school and there’s just 4 homeless people in the living room. You’re like, “Oh gee!” “Oh, we’re just going to give them a bath. Go do your homework.” You know? I was like wow. There was always…my grandmother was the random…and the more random the better it made her feel. So I sort of grew up with the comprehension of what that is. It’s almost like it was her responsibility. She felt like it was her responsibility because of what she had been blessed with. It wasn’t a choice she was making to do nice things for people. It was a responsibility. It was things she had to do.

MoviesOnline: There are all these reports about how easy and grounded you are to work with. How do you manage to stay so humble amidst all of your success?

WILL SMITH: I think because I’m scared. It’s like I’m so grateful to be in a position that I’m in, to have been blessed with the things I’ve been blessed with, and it’s like I was with Redman the other day in Chicago. You know, he came up and we were sitting down and he said, “Man, listen.” He said “Now I’ve got this relationship that I’m trying to make work, man. I’m telling you. If you and Jada don’t work, I’m done.” And it was like wow. And he meant it, you know? He was like the only reason that he’s even going to try is because of what he saw with Jada and I, and he’s believing that there might be a possibility so he’s going to give it a shot. And for me that so terrifies me that there’s people’s lives that I can affect like that just with little stuff like not even having to do anything big. So it’s like I don’t want to break that. I don’t want to damage other people’s lives in that way, so I think it really keeps me humble and grounded because I don’t totally feel like I’ve got it. Shoot, I got this. It’s like, you know, I might mess something up and it sort of keeps me in a place where I’m really focused and paying attention and I just don’t want to step wrongly.

MoviesOnline: On the Fascinating People interview with Barbara Walters, you talked about the only racism you could think about in modern times that you felt was the racism in Hollywood in regards to casting you opposite a black woman. Now that you’re also producing films, what steps are you taking to assure that some of your black counterparts are working along side you and other black actors?

WILL SMITH: I think it’s something that…and it’s interesting. I’ve never liked the word racism because there’s so many other connotations that go with it, but it’s like the idea is if you put 10 black artists in a room and we sit down and we come up with something, it’s going to be about black people, right? Because that’s what we know, that’s what we’re going to come up with. So it’s not necessarily racism with studios and things like that. It’s just the majority of the creative people are of a certain background so that’s what gets produced. It’s more our responsibility to be able to display and be able to show how it could be different. To show how “Set It Off” could work for a mass audience. To show how “Bad Boys” could work or “The Secret Life of Bees.” We’ve got to be able to display how that could work. We can’t expect other people to write and produce and create our stories. So at Overbrook we did “The Secret Life of Bees” this year and with Sam Jackson we did “Lakeview Terrace” and so, you know, we have a black President now so we have no more excuses.

MoviesOnline: Are you going to the Inauguration to meet him?

WILL SMITH: Yes, yes. Absolutely.

MoviesOnline: Do you have front-row seats or anything?

WILL SMITH: It’s hard to get a front-row seat to that one, you know? I don’t know. Whatever our Commander-In-Chief asks of me I will humbly serve.

MoviesOnline: Maybe not in a cabinet position, but as some sort of emissary or good will ambassador or something…?

WILL SMITH: Good Will. I like that. You know, I am…Barack being elected did something, like I was crying uncontrollably. What I’m saying is when Barack was elected, it’s like it so validated something that I believed for a long time. It’s like a black man in America—I’ve never been allowed to say out loud you know, you all, I don’t think America’s a racist nation. I think there are racist people who live here but I just don’t see America as a racist nation, right? And it’s like Barack being elected, it so validated something inside of me that now I’m allowed to say out loud, like for so many years I’ve been wanting to say, you know, just let’s create our own movies. It’s like yes, it was written for a white character. Yes, they wanted to put a white character, but you take the responsibility and show how it can be something else. And it’s like you’re like Uncle Tom if you said that. You know the white man got you brain-washed and it’s like now I just feel so free. It’s like I’ve been unleashed to say things and do things the way that I felt for such a long time and it’s like America to me is the most fantastic nation that has ever existed in the history of this planet. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. There’s nothing ever been written better than that ever. And now we just have to live up to it. It’s like a cycle of African-American citizenship has been completed with this. So I’m just hyped. I just want to….I’m hyped you know? My company—we just made a deal in the UAE so I think that for…

MoviesOnline: To distribute your movies or make movies there?

WILL SMITH: Well, for me it’ll be laying a conduit, you know, between the Muslim world and the West. I mean, it’s a perfect opportunity. I truly believe a large part of why Barack is in office has to do—and they’re not getting credit—has to do with MTV. What MTV did is lay conduit between the inner city, the suburbs and between American kids and the world. You can’t tell a 15-year old white kid a lie about black people. They know it’s not true. Whereas their parents and grandparents, you could feed any kind of misinformation that you wanted to because they didn’t have the connectivity and the artistry. What MTV was able to create in connecting kids just of all races, creeds and colors, was able to release and relieve the fear that comes when you don’t know. So, for me, in my mind the deal that we’re making in the UAE is going to lay that type of artistic conduit between the West and the Muslim world.

MoviesOnline: Are you going to play him in a bio-pic?

WILL SMITH: Am I going to play him? You know, I would love to. He just wrote a fantastic end to the first movie at least, so I’ll be looking to do it when he’s out of office in 8 years.

MoviesOnline: The transformative power of love is a theme that runs throughout the film. Can you talk about that?

WILL SMITH: There’s an idea that was one of the central concepts that I fell in love with in this movie. We talked about trauma and there’s an idea that in the West we think about things in straight lines, okay? There’s birth, there’s life, and then there’s death. And at death, there’s a cliff and it’s the end of the world and everything’s over. And that’s not really how things work and if you take the ends of that line and bend it into a circle, there’s birth, life, death and then re-birth. Re-birth is inevitable. There’s nothing that can happen. There’s no literal or figurative death. You lose your job, you get divorced, anything like that. When it’s winter, everything dies. The spring is always coming. That’s just the way that it works, right? And this is a character who didn’t realize that. He didn’t realize that the spring and the metaphor of the spring being new love, right? He didn’t know that he could fall in love again. He didn’t know that what got broken could be repaired.

And I loved that transformative power of love and that idea that you can’t destroy the crops just because it’s winter, right? You’ve got to stay prepared. Yes, your partner died or you lost your job, you lost your house, you didn’t graduate when you were supposed to graduate, but relax, relax. Please just pay attention. Stay focused because the spring is coming but you’ve got to be there and be prepared to catch the wave of new life and this movie is almost a cautionary tale because Ben Thomas realized it too late. He didn’t know and he set this thing in motion. He did this. He was trying to fix it and he set this thing in motion and he missed the natural tide, you know? I don’t know. I could do that for hours but I just love that concept.

MoviesOnline: Have you ever had one of those moments, you know, those winters when you didn’t think or know that spring would come or were you always a positive person?

WILL SMITH: For me, it was probably my divorce was one of the most emotionally devastating things I’ve ever experienced just for a lot of reasons. I had a 2-year old and the whole idea of failure. That idea that I was too weak to make something work was just devastating for me. The idea that somebody could not love me anymore and all of those things were going through my head and I really just gave up and I think that was the most devastating part. It’s like I don’t mind if Mike Tyson knocks me clean the hell out and I get hit when I’m swinging, but you can’t be cowering in the corner and get knocked out, you know? I just hated that feeling.

MoviesOnline: Did you take this character home with you because he’s so different than your own personality?


MoviesOnline: And did Jada comment that you were too much of a downer for a little while?

WILL SMITH: No, you know what? It’s crazy. When you start to program a character, you don’t realize that when it’s sinking in, it’s such a slow process. You know, you’re working on it every day but you don’t realize the adjustment. I remember one night we were sitting at dinner and Jaden is Mr. Reality. He keeps me really informed about what’s going on in the house and he tells me the truth all the time. So we’re sitting at dinner, you know family dinner is a big thing in our house and it’s really quiet. So I lean over to Jaden—he’s my man. I say, “Hey Jaden.” I was like “Why is it so quiet?” He said, “Cos you look crazy!” And it was like I had no idea because we had worked on this thing—one of the ideas with the character is that he’s trying to determine if someone’s a good person.

So we talked about people all wear masks. You wear your sensitive lover mask, you know, when it’s one of those special nights. You wear your disciplinarian mask when you’re dealing with your kids. You wear your law abiding citizen mask when you get pulled over by the police. And people have all these masks that they put on, so we developed this thing where my character is trying to look under people’s masks, right? It’s a figurative idea, but we said that he’s literally trying to look under the mask, right? So he’s literally trying to see if he can see around and under people’s masks but while he’s keeping his on. So I developed this really bizarre kind of behavior, you know, and if somebody would turn their eyes away, I would look. And I programmed it so much, and I didn’t realize, so I’m sitting at the dinner table, you know? And I’m looking and Jaden’s like… and I hadn’t even noticed that I had gotten to that place.

MoviesOnline: Has any role ever affected you this much?

WILL SMITH: No. On “Six Degrees of Separation” I got really messed up for awhile because I wasn’t aware. I didn’t know that when you reprogram your instincts that way, you really are changing yourself, right? And I didn’t know that. And the movie was over and I just needed to talk to Stockard Channing and I was like why do I need to call Stockard? And I call and say “Hey Stockard, how you doing?” and she’s like “Hey, Will.” I’m like “Hey” and I’m just like oh my God, I’m falling in love with Stockard Channing and I didn’t realize that. At least this time, I was prepared for the potential of it so it took me about 4 to 6 weeks to really just get back and remember who I was but it changes everything. Like for “Ali” it was great because it was like I was in shape and I was strong and it sort of changed things with Jada and I for “Ali,” you know?

MoviesOnline: Will, did you have to do any physical preparations for this?

WILL SMITH: Well, I lost about 15 pounds. I just wanted to have that really sort of more sunken in look.

MoviesOnline: So you stopped going to the gym?

WILL SMITH: No, you actually have to go to the gym more. So I actually spent more time in the gym. I just changed what the work was. I was doing 2 a day cardio, so you just, you know…?

MoviesOnline: What’s your normal regimen now that you’re not on a movie?

WILL SMITH: I just eat now. Oh now, it’s not pretty under here right now. It’s so not “I Am Legend” right now. It’s “I Am Luggage” right here.

MoviesOnline: Speaking of Robert Neville and “I Am Legend,” there’s been a lot of talk about you possibly doing a prequel or a sequel to that film. Could you tell us what it is and what excites you about going back to that character?

WILL SMITH: We have a fantastic prequel idea. We’re still trying to work through a couple of bumps in the story, but it’s the idea….it’s essentially the fall of the last city, the last stand of Manhattan. And the movie would be about, within the body of the movie, D.C. and then Manhattan would fall as the last city, so it’s a really cool idea trying to figure it out and there’s a reason why we have to take a small band and we have to get into D.C. So we have to make our way from New York to D.C. and then back to New York.

MoviesOnline: Will the cool dog be back in it?

WILL SMITH: Yes, the dog will be a puppy. The dog will be a puppy, yes.

MoviesOnline: And I have to ask you about “The Karate Kid.”

WILL SMITH: Yes, my son, yes. We’re working on “The Karate Kid.” We’re doing that with the China Film Group, so we’re looking….it’s difficult in China because they actually approve every word of every script, you know? I’m sort of offended by that but we’re going to try to work it out. We’re working it out with the China Film Group.

MoviesOnline: What are your holiday plans?

WILL SMITH: Holiday plans. For probably the 3 months before Christmas, Jada is always looking at wherever the maximum snowfall is and she holds off until the last couple of weeks and then chooses the place based on snowfall. So it’s Utah or Montana or someplace like that.

MoviesOnline: During our last interview, Gabriele (Muccino) said that when something’s brilliant, he tells you it’s brilliant and you believe him, and when something’s bad, he just straight out tells you it’s bad?

WILL SMITH: Yeah, Gabriele will say, “That was awful. There’s nothing I could use. It was so bad I turned my eyes away. It’s so bad I don’t know what to tell you. Please just do it again.”

MoviesOnline: What’s your next movie?

WILL SMITH: I’m currently unemployed. I’m developing a lot of things. I have no idea.

MoviesOnline: Do you have any New Year’s resolutions for the family?

WILL SMITH: You know, I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions.

MoviesOnline: Thanks, Will.

Thank you, guys.


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