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Variety's Peter Bart says Will shouldn't get too arrogant


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The Seven Pounds film isn't doing so well, box office wise in North America, so Mr. Bart may have a point.

December 29, 2008.

The Art of Being Will Smith.


TO: Will Smith. FROM: Peter Bart.

I have an oddball question to ask you Will : Have you been reading too much Malcolm Gladwell lately?

Gladwell as you know, is the young guy with the big hair whose new book, Outliers: The Story of Success,

sits atop best seller lists. His basic precept isn't exactly original, about 'innate talent' not being the pivotal contributor to success ; rather effort and sheer determination are the keys. In his book, what we think of as 'aptitude' really boils down to dogged pursuit of a goal. I wish I could agree with Gladwell (I'd like

selling that many books), but I think he's goofy. Anyone who goes to films, plays or concerts Will, knows what it's like being blown away by a mega-talent and I've known enough amazing talents to identify those who are anything but dogged – they're downright lazy. Reading the interview with you in Variety’s 'Showman of the Year' issue however, leads me to believe you've bought into the Gladwell doctrine and watching Seven

Pounds, your latest, reinforces that suspicion.

According to your interview Will, your imperative in selecting roles is to find characters 'completely at the other end of the spectrum' from who you are and what you've done. Hence you decided to do Six Degrees of Separation'. right in the middle of Fresh Prince. James Lassiter, your business partner, says you refuse to play by other people's 'rules', so when studio heads told you movies starring black actors don't play overseas, you made it your mission to travel country-to-country to sell your films and disprove the so-called 'rule'.

You sure as hell succeeded Will, which brings us to Seven Pounds. In most of your recent films you're the winner, so apparently you decided to make yourself the ultimate loser in this story. The protagonist commits a dreadful deed, then goes on a Messiah-like crusade to give away all his possessions, including his body parts. And that theoretically, transforms him from a loser into a winner. The movie doesn't really work Will. It's a lot of effort in search of a theme, which brings us back to the writer with the big hair Will. Your career provides testimony to my theory that 'innate talent' wins the day, but you're beginning to negate that talent by trying too goddamn hard. Give it a rest Will, just be a movie star. Find some charismatic roles. You have your choice of subjects, so cast yourself as a lover, or a bad guy. Enjoy yourself a bit and stop giving away your body parts.

Edited by BDuncan
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The problem with Will is that he's not so much an actor as a movie star.

Sure, his "first" movies aren't masterpieces, but it's just something that I think is better about them. I'm not sure if I'm right on all of this, but from "Where the Day Takes You" to "ALI" most of the directors chose Will for the part, and they were the ones responsible for the movie, and Will of course, but he had less (sometimes nothing) to do with the production, editing, script, direction and so on... Now he's this huge movie star that picks his own projects, and get's his pals to work on a new script or edit the original. I mean, we all know that Will can be a good actor, and he is in most of his movies, but the fact that the movie often isn't very good is really annoying. Especially when It's mostly Will's fault. I mean, Hancock could have been a great drama & action/(dark)comedy, but Will wanted Vince Gilligan and Akiva Goldsman to change the script and they totally f*cked that up, I am Legend could have been a cinematic masterpiece, but once again Akiva Goldsman totally ruined the final act. And seriously, if Will tried to use his brain, he must have realised that I am Legend would be so much better if it would have been more like the book, and if they didn't put some girl and her kid in the movie... If I was to play the main part in a adaptation of a (for many people) masterpeice, I would insist that the ending stays the same...

Something that really bugged me about a Hancock preview was that Will and James felt it was nessesary to point out that Hancock can't get drunk, when there was no mentioning of that in the movie. It's like they need to make sure everyone like's Will and his characters.

I think Will should stop to be such a huge part of the production of the movie's he's in, and let producers and directors come to him, not the other way around. And If Will want's to be taken seriously as an actor, and make good movies he needs to work with better people. And he shouldn't "play with some ideas" with Steven Spielberg about the adaption of the Oldboy series, he shouldn't be talking with Akiva about the stories to Hancock 2 and the I am Legend prequel. He should be offered scripts or movie ideas and let the directors, producers and writers do their job, without interfering to much.

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