Will Smith is on a high. A
purely natural high. After working his way through smaller films and getting
his break with Bad Boys back in 1996, hes now one of the top ten
Hollywood earners. And yet, he has his feet firmly planted on the ground by his
His latest movie, is the
revisionist Wild Wild West. Taking place at the end of the
last century, it shows a world where things have worked out a little
differently. Smith is James West, one of the best government agents in the
business. Hes called up by the US president to work with the inventor
Artemus Gordon (Kevin Kline). Its a reluctant partnership but they have
to stop the evil machinations of the wheelchair-bound Dr Arliss Loveless
(Kenneth Branagh), a twisted genius who will lead the two heroes into the
strangest perils ever witnessed on the big screen.
Smith was drawn to the movie,
firstly by the chance of working with his Men in Black director, Barry
Sonnenfeld and the script was really good. I was familiar with the
television show and people used to refer to it as like the James Bond of the
west. It had that type of vibe. Between Wild Wild West and Star
Trek, those two shows were really the predecessors for modern-day special
effects and science fiction films, he claims. And there
werent too many black cowboys that were on film. To show a new look at
cowboys felt good to me.
What weve seen of
cowboys and of the whole era is, generally, white people. Its always John
Wayne, so I wasnt a huge Western fan growing up. Looking back and finally
having and opportunity to be in a Western, you get more involved and you see
more things and you learn more things about Westerns. Its a great genre.
The time was hard. The life was hard [but] theres something sexy about
the wild Wild West.
And he loves working with
Sonnenfeld and the directors unique take on the world. Barry makes
me funny in a way that I could never be. The sense of humour and the way that
the comedy played out in Men in Black and, more seriously, in Wild
Wild West is distinctly a Barry Sonnenfeld point of view. In Wild Wild
West, the runs that I have with Arliss Loveless, the racial runs, those
politically incorrect runs that we have back and forth, is very distinctively
Smith notes that there is a
decidely un-PC tone to the movie, with jibes coming from both sides about
disability and colour. I read the script and I called [Barry] back and I
said, Barry, have you seen any episodes of the television
show? and he said, Oh, yeah, yeah and I said, Did you
notice any subtle differences between myself and Robert
Conrad? He said, Oh, yes. Youre a lot taller but I dont
think anyone is going to notice. Baz, Im a black dude and
Robert Conrad wasnt. Oh, no one knows that youre
black. Look, Barry, everybody knows Im black.
Just do the movie. Dont worry about it. Itll be fine.
Then he sent me copies of
the scenes that had the badinage between myself and Kenneth Branaghs
character, Loveless. When I read that first line when Loveless says,
Well, well, Mr West. Id like to thank you so much for adding
colour to these monochromatic proceedings, I just loved that.
I loved dealing with the issue of race in that way. We went out on a limb with
a couple of these scenes also like with the scene with the noose. I was looking
at that one and was, Wow, I sure hope people think this is funny.
Its one of those set-ups that can either be hilarious or it can be
something that people will hate for the rest of their lives. It had that
Blazing Saddles feel to it. I think, to me, its
If you think Will Smith
appearing in a politically incorrect movie is a bit of a surprise, wait until
you see the nude scene. I had to have a pee-pee pouch on, says the
six-foot actor delicately. It was a little pouch with duct-tape taped to
the inside of my legs. Putting that stuff on was the difficult part, it was the
taking it off that was the big problem. I was almost going to leave it on. I
said, You know what? Im going to leave it on there for six or seven
days. Go play some basketball and try sweat this thing off.' Trying to take it
off was the most horrible part of doing this movie.
Even though he seems to appear
on our screens in big-budget movies at least twice a year, Will is at heart, a
big soft family man. With two kids to care for, hes relishing the time he
spends with his family. Some of the best fun we have is right around this
time of year, with the kids, sitting out by the pool and playing. I never knew
how to swim. I learnt how to swim for Enemy of the State so its
like at 29 years old, finally learning how to swim. Were already putting
Jaden in the pool, hes 11 months. I just feel like Im doing my duty
as a Dad!"