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A 'legend' in his time


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In his latest film, Will Smith tries to save mankind

By DAVID GERMAIN, Associated Press

Posted Sunday, December 16, 2007


Will Smith stars in the new film, "I Am Legend," based on Richard Matheson's 1954 book of the same name, which previously was filmed as Vincent Price's "The Last Man on Earth" and Charlton Heston's "The Omega Man."

LOS ANGELES -- Will Smith already has it all: the picture-perfect family, a film career that blends commercial hits with artistic acclaim, the occasional foray into music, where he scored his first success.

Now Smith even gets to outlive us all.

In his latest film, "I Am Legend," one of Hollywood's most consistent box-office draws plays the man who may be the sole human survivor of a global plague. The 39-year-old's golden touch would be vexing, if he weren't such a nice guy.

"Until I met him, I've always believed that there are balances in people. That you really can't be smart, handsome, charismatic, happy. You can't be all of that," said "Legend" director Francis Lawrence.

"He's one of the only people that I can truly say kind of has all of that. He's funny, he's charming, he's smart, he's handsome, he's happy, he's got a great marriage, he's a great father, he's great at what he does, he's happy at what he does. It's sort of disgusting. So if anybody would be the last man standing, it's Will."

How lucky is he? Here's how the past year has gone for Smith, who made the leap to the big screen after rising to TV stardom with "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air."

After a string of hits such as the romance "Hitch," the cartoon comedy "Shark Tale" and the sci-fi saga "I, Robot," Smith put out last December's smaller, riskier "The Pursuit of Happyness," the story of a struggling single dad who ends up homeless along with his young son.

Not necessarily the feel-good film of the holiday season, and topping things off, the boy was played by Jaden Smith, his 9-year-old son with actress Jada Pinkett Smith.

That could have spelled dreary ego project, but the film caught on with audiences, becoming Smith's latest $100 million smash and earning him his second Academy Award nomination as best actor, following a previous honor for the title role in 2001's "Ali."

Now he's back with an apocalyptic tale for the holidays, when people generally have things on their minds other than the end of mankind. If anyone can turn "I Am Legend" into a hit, though, it has to be Smith.

Oh, and he gets to work with one of his kids again. This time, it was take-Will's-daughter-to-work day, with his and Pinkett Smith's 7-year-old girl, Willow Smith, playing his daughter in flashback scenes.

With mom and dad in show business, the children seem to have acting bred in the bone, Smith said.

"Jaden always likes the scripts for some reason. He likes having scripts read to him. He likes the idea of maybe the shorter pages of reading than actually a book," Smith told the Associated Press in an interview. "So he from 4 years old has always said, 'Acting's easy. I don't know why it's such a big deal. What you do, Daddy, I can do that easy.'

"He looks at the 'Fresh Prince' and he's like, 'That's not even good acting, Daddy.' "

Jaden and Willow already have very different acting approaches, Smith said. His son is an emotional sponge, absorbing the moods of those around him, reacting with authentic, visceral feeling to others, even in make-believe acting situations.

On the other hand, Willow is Teflon, taking things in and making conscious choices over how to react in her performance, Smith said.

Smith's own style comes closer to his son's.

"I need everyone to be in a good mood in order to be able to perform well," Smith said. "I need the set to be comfortable. I need the emotion or the mood of the set to lend itself to the mood of the scene. Those types of things are a real necessity for me."

"I Am Legend" is the third adaptation of Richard Matheson's 1954 book of the same name, which previously was filmed as Vincent Price's "The Last Man on Earth" and Charlton Heston's "The Omega Man."

This version has Smith alone with a dog for much of the movie, scrounging supplies in New York City and trying to find a cure for a disease that has wiped out most of humanity and turned the rest into ravenous, vampire-like creatures.

Besides the dog, Smith interacts mainly with mannequins for the first hour, so the role required someone with huge charisma to hold audiences' attention.

Smith's infectious personality turns movie sets often overloaded with egos and prima donnas into truly pleasant workplaces, colleagues say.

"Will comes in every day as if it is his job to be generous. It's so extraordinary. It engenders this work environment where you feel safe and you get to play around. There's nothing worse than a movie set where there are eggshells on the floor," said Akiva Goldsman, whose credits include the screenplays for "I Am Legend," "I, Robot" and next summer's "Hancock," in which Smith plays an alcoholic superhero opposite Charlize Theron.

For Smith, work choices come down to stories and filmmakers.

"It's all material and team. It's that simple," Smith said. "My experience has been that a lot of actors start with a good role that they would want to play. I never start with the role. I start with, is this a movie that people would want to see?"


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  • 6 months later...

lol, how could somebody expect me not to laugh when Tiger says stuff like this all the time! I know we have had our differences, but u the man.

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