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"Seven Pounds" is next.


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Mr. Smith Busts In

Will Smith crashed Carlos Diaz's interview with Adam Sandler for his new flick "Bedtime Stories." Smith was in the hotel doing interviews for his upcoming film "7 Pounds," but took a detour to see Sandler. Check out this "Extra" Raw interview with the two funnymen!


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'Seven Pounds' relies on Will Smith power

It's been almost a month since Will Smith took Cleveland by storm for a whirlwind not-much-more-than-24-hours. The visit was partly to promote his Oscar-hopeful "Seven Pounds," opening Dec. 19 on area screens, and partly to raise awareness for the Cleveland Food Bank. Smith himself donated 200 turkeys to area families needing a Thanksgiving hand, while urging generosity, particularly at the holidays, prior to a red-carpet preview screening at Cinemark Theaters in Valley View.

Between appearances, the gregarious, affable and just-turned-40 Smith engaged a conference room of inquisitive journalists at the InterContinental Hotel.

It's subzero outside. Like the weather?

I've definitely been "re-sensitized" to the cold. Part of the planning for this trip was going back to places where (DJ Jazzy) Jeff and I had performed, where my films had been successful, but I must've missed the sign that said it was 25 degrees here.

How did this idea for "Seven Pounds" come about?

I personally am fascinated with the idea of emotional trauma, and then re-creation of life after that trauma, of the recovery from loss. It's such a defining development of character. When I was 15 and I discovered my first girlfriend cheated on me, it totally destroyed my concept of cause and effect. You think you do certain things and then reap certain rewards, but that's not really true.

I also came to this wonderful script by Grant Nieporte. He employed all the "seven" numerology and unfolded the dramatic elements, but there was something missing. We messed around with it for about a year or so before (director) Gabriele Muccino came up with the element of trauma that proves so important.

There's such intensity in your face in this role.

Yeah, I didn't like that (laughs, heartily). Remember that this guy wants to know if people are good; he wants to look in their eyes, under the mask everyone wears. At the same time, he's keeping on his own mask. It develops into a guy so drastically different from Will Smith that I'm able to deliver that intensity, that darkness, almost naturally.

That's a far cry from the Fresh Prince. What changed you?

I've found people stay interested when they can't say exactly what you're going to do or how you're going to do it. To me, it's so much more safe career-wise. If I'd do "Men in Black 3" after "Hancock," it's less interesting. I'm trying to expand the range, create something with different colors and centers and shapes . . .

. . . but isn't something like "Hancock" safer than "Seven Pounds"?

I think not. Because I'm "supposed" to make the big movie, everyone thinks the next one better be the biggest of my career. Five days into "Hancock," (with business) at $100 million, there were rumblings that "It's not gonna do what 'Transformers' did." The degree of difficulty with "Seven Pounds" is that there's only a win in store. "Ali" was a box-office failure, but people remember that I was nominated for an Academy Award. Something like that or "Seven Pounds," I get a pass, an OK for trying. I wouldn't be getting a pass for "Men in Black 3."

You're with Gabriele again after "The Pursuit of Happyness."

An actor has to trust the director; it's the kiss of death if you don't believe the person knows what they're talking about. Gabriele has such powerful insight into who I am. When I'm trying to make faces instead of really feeling it, he'll furrow his bow and (using Spanish accent) say, "Do not pose for my camera. You are looking angry, but you are not really angry. Go back to your trailer, get angry and then come back." He and Michael Mann ("Ali"), for whatever reasons, can see through me, can help me create characters I know I could not do on my own.

This fellow doesn't say much . . .

. . . yeah, and neither did Hancock. It's funny how I started my career doing everything as big and loud as I could. Hancock was extremely difficult because I had to change the sense of humor. Robert Downey Jr. in "Tropic Thunder" does genius work to make that adjustment; same for Eddie Murphy in "The Klumps." Me going straight with drama is much easier than going the other way in comedy, where I really have to pull it back.

What's next?

Absolutely nothing; I am currently unemployed. A lot of things are in development, but nothing I'm committed to. I'd say it looks like I probably won't have a movie next year.

Are you satisfied that you're a good person?

A "good" person? (Laughs) Well, I feel like I'm successful right now, but I haven't reached the level of being as good a person as I want to be, or that my grandmother dreamed for me. But, I consider myself on the road.


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Richard "At the Movies with Ebert & Roeper" Roeper's top 25 movies of 2008

1. "Slumdog Millionaire"

2. "The Dark Knight"

3. "The Wrestler"

4. "In Bruges"

5. "I've Loved You So Long"

6. "Gran Torino"

7. "Milk"

8. "The Visitor"

9. "Forgetting Sarah Marshall"

10. "Frozen River"

11. "Doubt"

12. "Snow Angels"

13. "Frost/Nixon"

14. "The Reader"

15. "Seven Pounds"

16. "Iron Man"

17. "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"

18. "W."

19. "Henry Poole Is Here"

20. "Burn After Reading"

21. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

22. "WALL-E"

23. "The Bank Job"

24. "Tropic Thunder"

25. "Che"


Edited by viber_91
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