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Will Smith
TechCrunch Disrupt 2019 (48834434641) (cropped).jpg
Smith in 2019
Born
Willard Carroll Smith II

(1968-09-25) September 25, 1968 (age 55)
Other names The Fresh Prince
Occupation
  • Actor
  • rapper
  • film producer
Years active 1985–present
Works
  • Filmography
  • discography
Spouse(s)
  • Sheree Zampino
    (m. 1992; div. 1995)
  • (m. 1997; sep. 2016)
Children 3, including Jaden and Willow
Awards Full list
Musical career
Genres Pop rap
Labels
Signature
Will Smith's signature.svg

Willard Carroll Smith II (born September 25, 1968) is an American actor, rapper and film producer. He has received multiple accolades, including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, a BAFTA Award, and four Grammy Awards. As of 2024, his films have grossed over .3 billion globally, making him one of Hollywood's most bankable stars.

Smith began his acting career starring as a fictionalized version of himself on the NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990–1996), for which he was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy in 1993 and 1994. He first gained recognition as part of a hip hop duo with DJ Jazzy Jeff, with whom he released five studio albums which contained five Billboard Hot 100-top 20 singles—"Parents Just Don't Understand", "A Nightmare on My Street", "Summertime", "Ring My Bell", and "Boom! Shake the Room"—from 1984 to 1994. He released the solo albums Big Willie Style (1997), Willennium (1999), Born to Reign (2002), and Lost and Found (2005), which spawned the US number-one singles "Gettin' Jiggy wit It" and "Wild Wild West" (featuring Dru Hill and Kool Moe Dee). He has won four Grammy Awards for his recording career.

Smith achieved wider fame as a leading man for the action film Bad Boys (1995), and the science fiction comedy Men in Black (1997); he later reprised both roles in several sequels. After starring in the thrillers Independence Day (1996) and Enemy of the State (1998), he received Academy Award for Best Actor nominations for his portrayals of Muhammad Ali in Ali (2001), and Chris Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness (2006). He starred in the commercially successful films I, Robot (2004), Shark Tale (2004), Hitch (2005), I Am Legend (2007), Hancock (2008), Seven Pounds (2008), Suicide Squad (2016), and Aladdin (2019).

For his portrayal of Richard Williams in the biographical sports drama King Richard (2021), Smith won the Academy Award for Best Actor. At the 2022 ceremony, shortly before winning, Smith slapped presenter Chris Rock after Rock made an unscripted joke referencing Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. The controversial event earned substantial media coverage and criticism, with Smith ultimately resigning from the Academy along with being banned from attending all their events for ten years.

Early life

Smith was born Willard Carroll Smith II on September 25, 1968, in Philadelphia, to Caroline (née Bright), a school board administrator, and Willard Carroll Smith Sr., a US Air Force veteran and refrigeration engineer. His mother graduated from Carnegie Mellon University.

He grew up in West Philadelphia's Wynnefield neighborhood and was raised Baptist. He has an elder sister named Pamela and two younger siblings, twins Harry and Ellen. He attended Our Lady of Lourdes, a private Catholic elementary school in Philadelphia, and Overbrook High School. His parents separated when he was 13 and divorced around the year 2000.

Smith began rapping at age 12.

Career

1985–1992: DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince

Will Smith - Emmy Awards 1993
Smith at the Emmy Awards 1993

Smith started as the MC of the hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, with his childhood friend Jeffrey "DJ Jazzy Jeff" Townes as turntablist and producer. Townes and Smith were introduced to each other by chance in 1985, as Townes was performing at a house party only a few doors down from Smith's residence, and he was missing his hype man. Smith decided to fill in. They both felt strong chemistry, and Townes was upset when his hype man finally made it to the party.

Soon after, the two decided to collaborate. Smith enlisted a friend to join as the beatboxer of the group, Clarence Holmes aka Ready Rock C, making them a trio. Philadelphia-based Word Records released their first single in 1986 when A&R man Paul Oakenfold introduced them to Champion Records with their single "Girls Ain't Nothing but Trouble," a tale of funny misadventures that landed Smith and his former DJ and rap partner Mark Forrest (Lord Supreme) in trouble. The song sampled the theme song of "I Dream of Jeannie." The single became a hit a month before Smith graduated from high school.

Based on this success, the duo were brought to the attention of Jive Records and Russell Simmons. The duo's first album, Rock the House, which was first released on Word Up in 1986 debuted on Jive in March 1987. The group received the first Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance in 1989 for "Parents Just Don't Understand" (1988), though their most successful single was "Summertime" (1991), which earned the group their second Grammy and peaked at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Smith and Townes are still friends and claim that they never split up, having made songs under Smith's solo performer credit.

Smith spent money freely around 1988 and 1989 and underpaid his income taxes. The Internal Revenue Service eventually assessed a $2.8 million tax debt against Smith, took many of his possessions, and garnished his income. Smith was struggling financially in 1990 when the NBC television network signed him to a contract and built a sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, around him. The show was successful and began his acting career. Smith set for himself the goal of becoming "the biggest movie star in the world", studying box office successes' common characteristics. In 1989, Smith was arrested in relation to an alleged assault on his record promoter, William Hendricks; the charges were later dismissed.

1993–1997: Solo music and film breakthrough

Smith's first major roles were in the drama Six Degrees of Separation (1993) and the action film Bad Boys (1995) in which he starred opposite Martin Lawrence. The latter film was commercially successful, grossing $141.4 million worldwide. However, critical reception was generally mixed. In 1996, Smith starred as part of an ensemble cast in Roland Emmerich's Independence Day. The film was a massive blockbuster, becoming the second highest-grossing film in history at the time and establishing Smith as a prime box office draw.

In the summer of 1997, he starred alongside Tommy Lee Jones in the hit Men in Black, playing Agent J. The film was released on July 2 by Columbia Pictures and grossed over $589.3 million worldwide against a $90 million budget, becoming the year's third highest-grossing film, with an estimated 54,616,700 tickets sold in the US. It received positive reviews, with critics praising its humor, as well as Jones's and Smith's performances.

During the summer of 1997, Smith also began his solo music career with the release of "Men in Black", the theme song for the film, which topped singles charts in several regions across the world, including the UK. "Men in Black" (and second single "Just Cruisin'") was later included on Smith's debut solo album Big Willie Style, which reached the top ten of the US Billboard 200 and was certified nine times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The third single from the album, "Gettin' Jiggy wit It", became Smith's first Billboard Hot 100 number one when it was released in 1998.

1998–2007: Leading man status

Will Smith (32335923807)
Smith in March 1999

In 1998, Smith starred with Gene Hackman in Enemy of the State. The following year he turned down the role of Neo in The Matrix in favor of Wild Wild West (1999). Despite the disappointment of Wild Wild West, Smith said that he has no regrets about his decision, asserting that Keanu Reeves' performance as Neo was superior to what Smith himself would have achieved, although in interviews subsequent to the release of Wild Wild West he said that he "made a mistake on Wild Wild West. That could have been better."

Smith's second album was again supported by the release of a film theme song as the lead single: "Wild Wild West", featuring Dru Hill and Kool Moe Dee, topped the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified gold by the RIAA. The album in question, Willennium, reached number five on the Billboard 200 and was certified double platinum by the RIAA. "Will 2K", the second single from the album, reached number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100. Before the end of 1999, a video album was released featuring Smith's seven music videos released to date, which reached number 25 on the UK Music Video Chart. The same year, he was also featured on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air co-star Tatyana Ali's single "Boy You Knock Me Out", which reached number three on the UK Singles Chart and topped the UK R&B Singles Chart.

Smith portrayed heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali in the 2001 biopic Ali. For his performance he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor, and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama. In 2002, following a four-year musical hiatus, Smith returned with his third album Born to Reign, which reached number 13 on the Billboard 200 and was certified gold by the RIAA. The album's lead single was the theme song from Smith's film Men in Black II, called "Black Suits Comin' (Nod Ya Head)", which reached number three on the UK Singles Chart. Later in the year, Smith's first compilation album Greatest Hits was released, featuring songs from his three solo albums as well as those produced with DJ Jazzy Jeff.

2003 saw Smith return for Bad Boys II, the sequel to the 1995 film Bad Boys. Despite receiving generally negative reviews, the film was a box office success, grossing $270 million worldwide. In the following year, he starred in the science fiction film I, Robot and the animated film Shark Tale; both films were box office successes despite mixed reviews. Smith's latest album Lost and Found was released in 2005, peaking at number six on the Billboard 200. Lead single "Switch" reached the top ten of both the Billboard Hot 100 and the UK Singles Chart. In 2005, Smith was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records for attending three premieres in a 24-hour time span. Smith and his son Jaden played father and son in the 2006 biographical drama The Pursuit of Happyness. In the film Smith portrays Chris Gardner. Smith first became interested in making a film about Gardner after seeing him on 20/20 and connected with him during production. The film, along with Smith's performance, received praise.

Will Smith 2011
Smith hosting the 2011 Walmart Shareholders Meeting

On December 10, 2007, Smith was honored at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. Smith left an imprint of his hands and feet outside the theater in front of many fans. Later that month, Smith starred in the film I Am Legend, released on December 14, 2007. Alongside marginally positive reviews, its opening was the largest ever for a film released in the United States during December. Smith himself has said that he considers the film to be "aggressively unique". A reviewer said that the film's commercial success "cemented [Smith's] standing as the number one box office draw in Hollywood." On December 1, 2008, TV Guide reported that Smith was selected as one of America's top ten most fascinating people of 2008 for a Barbara Walters ABC special that aired on December 4, 2008.

2008–2022: Blockbusters, critical disappointments, and King Richard

In 2008, Smith was reported to be developing a film entitled The Last Pharaoh, in which he would be starring as Taharqa. Smith later starred in the superhero movie Hancock, which grossed $227,946,274 in the United States and Canada and had a worldwide total of $624,386,746. On August 19, 2011, it was announced that Smith returned to the studio with producer La Mar Edwards to work on his fifth studio album.

Smith again reprised his role as Agent J with Men in Black 3, which opened on May 25, 2012, his first major starring role in four years. After the release of the film, Smith was content with ending his work with the franchise, saying, "I think three is enough for me. Three of anything is enough for me. We'll look at it and we'll consider it, but it feels like that it might be time to let someone else do that." Men in Black 3, released ten years after Men in Black II (2002), grossed over $624 million worldwide. Unadjusted for inflation, it is the highest-grossing film in the series.

In 2013, Smith starred in After Earth with his son Jaden. The film was a disappointment at the domestic box office and was panned critically. Calling the film "the most painful failure in my career", Smith ended up taking a year and a half break as a result.

Smith starred opposite Margot Robbie in the romance drama Focus, released on February 27, 2015. He played Nicky Spurgeon, a veteran con artist who takes a young, attractive woman under his wing. Smith was set to star in the sci-fi thriller Brilliance, an adaptation of Marcus Sakey's novel of the same name scripted by Jurassic Park writer David Koepp, but he left the project to work on the Ridley Scott-produced sports drama Concussion.

In Concussion, Smith played Dr. Bennet Omalu of the Brain Injury Research Institute, the first to discover chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Smith reported he had doubts about the film early in the production, saying, "some of my happiest memories are of watching my son catch and throw a football. I didn't want to be the guy who did a movie saying football could be dangerous." These views subsided when he met Omalu, whose words about American ideals resonated with Smith. Smith's performance was praised for being "sensitive [and] understated".

In 2016, Smith played Deadshot in the supervillain team-up action film Suicide Squad. Smith's participation in the film meant choosing it over a role in Independence Day: Resurgence, which he said would be like "clinging and clawing backwards." While Suicide Squad was a massive financial success, earning over $700 million at the box office, the film received negative reviews from critics. Christopher Orr, film critic from The Atlantic wrote that "the latest offering from the DC Comics superhero universe may be the most disastrous yet". Later that year, Smith starred in director David Frankel's drama Collateral Beauty, playing a New York advertising executive who succumbs to a deep depression after a personal tragedy. Weeks after signing Smith onto the film, his father was diagnosed with cancer, from which he died in 2016. As part of his role required him to read about religion and the afterlife, he was brought closer to the elder Smith, calling the experience "a beautiful way to prepare for a movie and an even more majestic way to say goodbye to my father." The film marked the lowest box office opening of Will Smith's career. The film also received near universal negative reviews from film critics. Hollywood Reporter critic David Rooney criticized Smith's performance writing as "the least interesting component in a madly overqualified cast".

His film Bright was distributed via Netflix on December 22, 2017. An urban fantasy, it was the most expensive film for Netflix to date. Smith collaborated with his director from Suicide Squad, David Ayer. This would also be another critical disappointment for Smith, with critics panning the movie. Richard Roeper of The Chicago Sun-Times criticized the film and Smith's performance writing, "By the time Will Smith barks [the line, "Dude, you can't go through elf town!"] with 100 percent urgency and sincerity in the mindboggling mess that is "Bright," it's clear we are watching a truly terrible, mountainous pile of genre-blending garbage."

Also in 2017, Smith released the song "Get Lit" a collaboration between him and his former group mate Jazzy Jeff and launched his own YouTube channel, which as of July 2019 has over 6 million subscribers and 294 million total views.

Will Smith at the close of the 2018 Soccer World Cup
Smith performed the soccer 2018 World Cup's official song "Live It Up".

Smith performed the official song "Live It Up" alongside American singer Nicky Jam and Kosovar singer Era Istrefi at the closing ceremony of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Moscow, Russia. That September, Smith appeared, alongside Bad Bunny, on the Marc Anthony song "Está Rico".

Smith portrayed The Genie (originally voiced by Robin Williams) in the live-action adaptation of Disney's Aladdin, directed by Guy Ritchie. He also participated in the soundtracks by recording singles: "Arabian Nights (2019)", "Friend Like Me" and "Prince Ali". The film was released on May 24, 2019. Aladdin grossed over $1 billion worldwide to become Smith's highest-grossing film, surpassing Independence Day. Smith was also featured on rapper Logic's song "Don't Be Afraid To Be Different" (2019), from his fifth studio album Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.

Smith appeared as an assassin who faces off against a younger clone of himself in Ang Lee's Gemini Man, released on October 11, 2019. The film was a box office bomb and received negative reviews from critics. Variety's Peter DeBruge called the film "a high-concept misfire" and wrote: "In practice, it's been a nearly impossible project to get made, passing through the hands of countless actors and falling through multiple times because the technology wasn't there yet. At least, that's been the excuse, although judging by the finished product, it was the script that never lived up to the promise of its premise."

Later that year, Smith had his second starring role in an animated film, in Spies in Disguise, opposite Tom Holland. Smith voiced Lance Sterling, a spy who teams up with the nerdy inventor who creates his gadgets (Holland). In 2020, he reteamed with Martin Lawrence for the third film in their franchise, Bad Boys for Life. In 2019, Smith and Keisuke Honda led a $46 million investment round in esports organization Gen.G. In June 2020, it was announced that Smith would star in Emancipation, directed by Antoine Fuqua, in which he portrays Peter, a runaway slave, who outsmarts hunters and the Louisiana swamp on a journey to the Union Army.

Smith's memoir Will, which was written with Mark Manson, the author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, was published on November 9, 2021, and promoted with a tour. The book is a journey of self-knowledge recalling childhood traumas, his relationship with his father, and his experiences with ayahuasca. In the same year, he and his Westbrook Studios company signed a deal with National Geographic.

Smith portrayed Richard Williams, father and coach of tennis players Venus and Serena Williams, in the 2021 film King Richard. For his performance, he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role.

On February 7, 2022, National Geographic announced that Smith would star in a series titled Pole to Pole, which will stream on Disney+. The show will follow Smith and his film crew as they go on a 26,000-mile (42,000 km) trek from the South Pole to the North Pole, crossing all of Earth's biomes and spending time in communities along the way. Part of the filming took place during an expedition in the Ecuadorian Amazon which helped discover the northern green anaconda.

2022 Oscars incident

During the 94th Academy Awards on March 27, 2022, Smith walked onstage and slapped presenter and comedian Chris Rock who had made a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith's shaved head with a reference to the main protagonist in the film G.I. Jane. ..... Pinkett Smith had been diagnosed with alopecia areata in 2018 and would later shave her head due to the condition. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) said that Smith was asked to leave the ceremony but he refused. Later in the night, Smith was named Best Actor for King Richard and apologized to the Academy and the other nominees, but not to Rock, in his acceptance speech. Following public backlash, Smith issued a formal apology via a public Instagram post. ABC, AMPAS, and the Screen Actors Guild condemned Smith following the incident, prompting an investigation by the Academy's Board of Governors. Rock declined to press charges against Smith, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

The AMPAS President David Rubin accepted the resignation in an official statement but said they would continue their investigation. Smith's resignation means he is no longer able to vote on Oscar nominations as a member of the Academy. Commentators have speculated that Smith's resignation from the Academy and other related fallout from the slap would damage his "family brand".

On April 8, 2022, the Academy announced its decision to ban Smith from future Oscars galas and associated events for a period of 10 years. Several film projects that Smith had been involved in were put on hold as a result of the controversy. In a statement to CNN, Smith stated: "I accept and respect the Academy's decision." Smith offered an on camera apology on July 29, saying he was "deeply remorseful" for his actions.

As a result of the incident, Netflix cancelled production on an action film that was set to star Smith titled Fast and Loose. In December 2022, Emancipation was released and was a critical and commercial failure. Producer Todd Black partially attributed the failure to Smith's involvement following the Oscar incident.

2023–present

In 2023, it was announced that Smith would co-star in Bad Boys: Ride or Die, the fourth installment in the Bad Boys film series. The film includes a comedic moment inspired by the Oscars incident.

Smith is set to co-star with Michael B. Jordan in a sequel to his 2007 hit I Am Legend. The film is in active development. Additionally, Smith is attached to star in crime thriller Sugar Bandits and science fiction film Brilliance.

Personal life

Relationships and family

Nobel Peace Price Concert 2009 Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith with children1
Smith at the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway with his family (left to right: son Jaden, wife Jada, Smith, daughter Willow)

Smith married Sheree Zampino in 1992. Their son Willard Carroll "Trey" Smith III was born on November 11, 1992. The two divorced in 1995. Trey appeared in his father's music video for the 1998 single "Just the Two of Us". He also acted in two episodes of the sitcom All of Us, and has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and the David Blaine: Real or Magic TV special.

During the late-1980s, Smith confirmed he briefly dated Sandra Denton, better known as Pepa of the hip-hop group Salt-N-Pepa.

Smith married actress Jada Koren Pinkett on December 31, 1997. They met when Pinkett auditioned for a role as Smith's character's girlfriend in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The pair produce films through their joint production company Overbrook Entertainment and Westbrook Inc. Together they have two children: Jaden Christopher Syre Smith (born 1998), his co-star in The Pursuit of Happyness and After Earth; and Willow Camille Reign Smith (born 2000), who appeared as his daughter in I Am Legend.

Smith and his wife Jada have expressed unconventional practices in their marriage, jokingly calling their commitment "bad marriage for life". Both he and Pinkett Smith have admitted to having extramarital relationships and believing in the freedom to pursue them. .....

In October 2023, Pinkett Smith stated that she and Smith had been separated since 2016, though they have no intention to legally divorce.

Business

Smith and his brother Harry own Treyball Development Inc., a Beverly Hills–based company named after Trey Smith, and his family resides in Los Angeles, California. In 2018, Smith celebrated his 50th birthday by performing a bungee jump from a helicopter in the Grand Canyon. Smith was insured by Lloyd's of London for $200 million for the jump, which raised money for the charity Global Citizen.

Religious and political views

Smith was raised in a Baptist household and attended a Baptist church and Catholic school. In a 2013 interview, he said he did not identify as religious. In 2015, Smith said in an interview with The Christian Post that his Christian faith, which was instilled in him by his grandmother, helped him to accurately portray Bennet Omalu in Concussion, saying: "She was my spiritual teacher, she was that grandmother at the church, the one having the kids doing the Easter presentations and putting on the Christmas plays and her kids and grandkids had to be first. She was the most spiritually certain person that I had ever met in my entire life. Even to the point that when she was dying she was happy, like she was really excited about going to heaven." In 2018, Smith performed the Hindu rite of abhisheka of Shiva at Haridwar, India. He also performed an arti of the holy river Ganga. He has said that he feels a deep connection to Hindu spirituality and Indian astrology. Smith and his family also met and spent time with the Indian spiritual leader Sadhguru, stating that he enjoyed the heartfelt conversations between them.

Smith donated $4,600 to the 2008 presidential campaign of Democrat Barack Obama. On December 11, 2009, Smith and his wife hosted the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway, to celebrate Obama's winning of the prize. In 2012, Smith said he supported legalizing same-sex marriage. In 2021, Smith announced that production of his upcoming film, Emancipation, was being pulled from the U.S. state of Georgia because of the recent passage of the Election Integrity Act of 2021, which critics viewed as a restrictive voting law, negatively impacting non-white voters. Smith and director Antoine Fuqua released a joint statement: "We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access".

Discography

  • Big Willie Style (1997)
  • Willennium (1999)
  • Born to Reign (2002)
  • Lost and Found (2005)

Filmography

Awards and nominations

Smith has received multiple awards throughout his career, including an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Richard Williams, the prolific father and coach to championship tennis players Venus and Serena Williams, in the biopic King Richard (2021)—a role that also won him a Golden Globe Award, BAFTA Award and Screen Actors Guild Award in the same category; he also received a producer nomination for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Prior to this award, he had been nominated several times for the Academy Award (2; for Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness), the Golden Globe Award (5; for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Ali, The Pursuit of Happyness and Concussion), and the Screen Actors Guild Award (once for The Pursuit of Happyness). In 2005, he received the honorary César Award; that same year, he was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Musical for Fela!; and in 2021, he was nominated as a producer of Cobra Kai for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series.

Aside from acting and behind-the-scenes work on screen and stage, Smith has made ventures into hip hop with the release of several songs, four of which won him Grammy Awards—one for Best Rap Performance (for "Parents Just Don't Understand"), one for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group (for "Summertime"), and two for Best Rap Solo Performance (for "Men in Black" and "Gettin' Jiggy wit It"); the former two of which he won as a member of the duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.

His Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award nominations make him one of few black actors to be nominated for all four major entertainment awards in the US.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Will Smith para niños

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