Will Smith on Men in Black 3 and Jay Pharoah

Why he's loyal to franchises, when we'll see Karate Kid Part 2 and what he really thinks SNL's impressions.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


With a celebrity as major as Will Smith, we’re lucky to even get access to him in a roundtable setting. Some stars lesser than him don’t even talk to people but Smith is a consummate professional, and a charmer. As you’ll see with the questions we asked him at the Men in Black 3 junket, he gave us personal interaction and humor, and thoughtful answers to questions.


A lot of actors stay away from their franchises after they reach a certain point.

What you mean about "certain point," man? Usually once you become a really old man, you stop making the young ones.


Actually, I mean once you’ve gotten Oscar nominations and done serious movies, but you stood by Men In Black, Bad Boys and even remained open to Independence Day 2. So what is it about the franchises that you decided to stick with them?

You know, the greatest experience I ever had in a movie theater was Star Wars. It shaped how I looked at the world. My imagination was so small before I went in that movie theater and there was an explosion that I had. I just couldn't figure out how somebody came up with that. And how they could make me feel like that watching it. So for me, there's nothing more valuable to me than how people feel in a movie theater about a movie, right? So even more than awards, that's never been important to me. That's what a small group of people think. It's more about the maximum amount of people that could have an experience that will give them some little germ of something to think about or talk about is all that's important to me in making movies. So I like big movies and the adjustment that I'm making in my career right now is the clarity of what we're saying with the movie. Like there has to be an idea, there has to be some message or statement. For me, with Men in Black 3, we connected to the destructive nature of secrets, right? And that idea, whether you get that or not, you look at it and think about that's what we're displaying and then how our relationship can get repaired and goes to another level through the exposure of a secret. So all of those producers are looking and trying to make it happen and I'd be surprised if all those movies happen, but you know, Bad Boys 3 has a really solid idea behind it right now, so who knows with that? For the most part, I'm just looking for material that resonates and why I love science fiction so much. I think the closest I've ever been is I Am Legend, where you can sit a performance and a serious idea at the center and then you have the blockbuster wrapping all around it. That's my flavor, that's what I like to play. I like that big landscape.


You'll be working on the next Karate Kid for Jaden soon. Will you be taking anything from the first Karate Kid Part II?

We're looking into that, we're probably not going back to that in the next couple of years. He has ideas and things. He's very specific about what he wants to do. In Karate Kid, he's just getting beat up all the time and we're working together now on a movie called After Earth and it's like post-apocalyptic and he's like, "I want to make a comedy." He's like, "Please, let me make something funny."


What do you think of Jay Pharoah's impression of you?

See, he's got Denzel, but he doesn't really have me perfect. He has me saying "Whooh!" You know, I don't do that.


But you like his Denzel?

Oh no, his Denzel's really good. His Denzel is. Denzel might not think so.