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Will Smith raps about busting bot outlaws, his secret geek past, and the future of thinking Machines.
By Jennifer Hillner

Will Smith is science fiction's leading man. He kicked extraterrestrial ass in Men in Black and Men in Black, dodged satellite surveillance in Enemy of the State, and crushed a giant mecha-tarantula in Wild Wild West. In July, the high tech bad boy goes back to the future in I, Robot as a police detective investigating a murder allegedly committed by a bot. Driving through Manhattan's West Village in his black SUV, the former Fresh Prince admits he's all about getting geeky with it.

WIRED: Are science fiction fans going to like this adaptation of Isaac Asimov's classic?
SMITH: This movie has a twist at the end that is the science fiction fan's wet dream. Like in all Asimov's stories, the robots do something that seems to go against one of the Three Laws of Robotics, and then you figure out: No, it fits into the logical paradigm of the laws. What I love about I, Robot is how the concept of "human logic" is almost an oxymoron.

That's pretty deep for an action movie.
[Director] Alex Proyas and [screenwriter] Akiva Goldsman - no thanks to me, of course - have made a movie that would work without an action sequence or a special effect. This is a horror film, a suspense thriller, a murder mystery, a romance. I think it's going to revolutionize how people make action movies.

What was it like to have an all-CG costar?
The process we used was like for Gollum [in The Lord of the Rings], where there's actually an actor on set. Alan Tudyk played Sonny, so he was there but had the tight green suit on. We kept calling him - and all the robots who had green suits on - the Irish speed-skating team.

This is the most f/x-laden movie you've worked on. Did you change your acting style?
It was just a really extended process. You do one take with Alan Tudyk actually sitting there, like real actors are supposed to work. Then they put in a green pole with a small monitor. Alan goes into the other room and he looks into the camera, so I can still look at his face on the monitor and get the eye line right. And then they take everything out, and I've got to do the scene a third time with nothing. So it's three times as long for every scene. And I didn't realize that there were going to be so many robot shots. In the script, the scene reads: "I did not murder him." You forget that a robot's saying that. So when I went into it, I was thinking there'd be real performance-driven scenes. And then it's like, "Oh ****, it's a robot."

You turned down the part of Neo in The Matrix - any regrets?
You know, The Matrix is a difficult concept to pitch. In the pitch, I just didn't see it. I watched Keanu's performance - and very rarely do I say this - but I would have messed it up. I would have absolutely messed up The Matrix. At that point I wasn't smart enough as an actor to let the movie be. Whereas Keanu was smart enough to just let it be. Let the movie and the director tell the story, and don't try and perform every moment.

What gadget would you like to take from one of the movies you've acted in?
I, Robot has the ultimate home entertainment robot. It can read your vital signs, can tell you when it's time to have a checkup. Your robot can cook, clean, drive, take care of the children.

Sounds like your real-life butler.
Yeah, right. Carlos is very close.

What don't you want from one of these futures?
One drawback to the world of I, Robot is that humankind has gotten to a place where we don't get our hands dirty anymore. Part of the purest connection with the universe is working the land. The robots in this future, they're working the mines, delivering the trash, doing the farming. They're doing the grunt work, which allows humans to embrace higher intellectual endeavors, but there's a connection that gets lost.

What grunt work have you done in your life?
When I was growing up, I installed refrigerators in supermarkets. My father was an electrical engineer. Those big freezer cases you see in supermarkets - we would install those. A supermarket basement is the individual nastiest place on the face of the earth. Ketchup bottles busted open from 30 years ago, rats, mice. You know when you go to a really dirty movie theater, and it has that gunk on the floor? There are three or four inches of that. My father started taking us to work when I was about 6 years old, so I got a few years of grunt work in.

What did that teach you?
My father always said, "No plan B. It distracts from plan A." Life is lived on the edge. You definitely gotta have the balls for it. We were raised with the concept of trying to save money, and I'm telling you, no, spend every dime on whatever your dream is. Don't have a dime in the bank. Whatever your dream is, every extra penny you have needs to be going to that.

Like when you were recruited by MIT, but didn't apply.
Yeah. I never had any intention of going. My mother graduated from Carnegie Mellon. She was very serious about college, but I wanted to rap.

Can you imagine what your life would have been like if you had gone?
I would have made a billion dollars and been broke by now. I've always dreamed of a computerized classroom. You'd come in and the teacher wouldn't have to take roll - every desk would have fingerprint roll. They could track you from one class to the other. Computer engineering would've been the only way for me to go.

I understand Proyas asked the entire cast to read Ray Kurzweil's The Age of Spiritual Machines. What did you think of the book?
Actually, the Wachowski brothers turned me onto it first. Kurzweil has an interesting, kind of twisted look at the potentiality of the future. I love how he captures the scientific elements and gives you all the real science you need to get on board but also extrapolates the potentiality, taking it to the ends of your imagination.

Where do you think robotics is headed?
I think that machines will definitely get to the point that they become intuitive. Or they become what appears to be intuitive. In some 7-Elevens, they have intuitive programming for the surveillance cameras. They recognize the mannerisms of people who steal and become intuitive with who they follow. That's very scary. Some people could say, That's not intuition, that's programming. But at some point, after it catches nine out of ten people who are stealing, something works.

Do you worry about Big Brother watching you?
I don't concern myself with people spying because the energy I put into the universe will find a good balance and deliver me from that kind of evil. You gotta surf the wave of the Tao.

You've played a lot of secret agents with covert identities. Are you hiding something?
I'm an open-book kind of dude. I don't have much of a secret life. There's probably a more aggressive side that I haven't really played in a movie, but for the most part, the characters I've played in the big summer movies have had a piece of me. And if it's not a piece of who I am, it's a piece of who I wish I was.

You play a technophobe in I, Robot - are you a Luddite?
No, I'm not like that at all. This guy is the opposite of me. He had a bad experience with technology, which changed his life. Del Spooner understands the three laws, and it makes sense to him logically, but intuitively he also understands that you can't legislate choice. So if you create an intuitive machine that's going to make choices, it's going to stand directly opposed to the logic you want to confine it to.

What's your technological soft spot?
The iPod is the gadget of the century. I have every model. My CD collection from my entire life is on them. I probably have 52,000 songs.

You had your hands on some cool tech in this movie, too.
Yeah. They took a hand mold to create my weapon. It's touch-sensitive and all of that. I keep that stuff. That's part of the deal. If I touch it on camera, it's mine. I have a couple of noisy crickets from Men in Black. I have all my suits. I have my flight suit from Men in Black. I tell my kids, "You know the difference between you and me? I make this look good."

You save the world in a lot of your movies. Can we expect that this time around

It's a city that is doomed. It's not the whole world. I can save a city in my sleep.
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Great interview!!! Thanx alot for that Tim!!!

Its interesting to read stuff like this and figure out where Will gets some of the lyrics for his songs!!!

[quote]No plan B. It distracts from plan A[/quote]

I personally don't think Will would have ruined Matrix!! Yea it would have been very different with him starring in it but I believe he would have been extremely dedicated to portraying the role in the right way!! I mean look at 'Ali'! He spent so long researching and really getting into the role!
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Cool interview! :rock:
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