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Willard Carroll Smith Jr. (born September 25, 1968) is an American actor, rapper, and film producer. Smith has been nominated for five Golden Globe Awards and two
Academy Awards The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are awards for artistic and technical merit in the film industry. They are regarded as the most famous and prestigious awards in the entertainment industry around the world. Given annually by ...
, and has won four Grammy Awards. During the late 1980s, he achieved modest fame as a rapper under the name The Fresh Prince. In 1990, his popularity increased dramatically when he began starring in the NBC television series '' The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'', which ran for six seasons until 1996. After the series ended, Smith transitioned from television to film and went on to star in numerous blockbuster films. He is the only actor to have starred in eight consecutive films which grossed over $100 million in the United States box office, eleven consecutive films which grossed over $150 million internationally, and eight consecutive films which opened at the number one spot in the US box office tally. Smith has been ranked as the most bankable star worldwide by ''Forbes''. In April 2007, ''Newsweek'' called him "the most powerful actor in Hollywood". As of 2014, 17 of the 21 films in which he has had leading roles have accumulated worldwide gross earnings of over $100 million each, with five taking in over $500 million each in global box office receipts. As of 2016, his films have grossed $7.5 billion at the global box office. For his performances as boxer Muhammad Ali in ''Ali (film), Ali'' (2001) and stockbroker Chris Gardner in ''The Pursuit of Happyness'' (2006), Smith received Academy Award for Best Actor, Academy Award nominations for Best Actor.


Early life

Smith was born on September 25, 1968, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Caroline (née Bright), a Philadelphia school board administrator, and Willard Carroll Smith Sr., a U.S. Air Force veteran and refrigeration engineer. He grew up in West Philadelphia's Wynnefield, Philadelphia, Wynnefield neighborhood, and was raised Baptist. He has an elder sister named Pamela and two younger siblings, twins Harry and Ellen. Smith attended Our Lady of Lourdes, a private Catholic elementary school in Philadelphia. His parents separated when he was 13, but did not actually divorce until around 2000. Smith attended Overbrook High School (Philadelphia), Overbrook High School. While it has been widely reported that Smith turned down a scholarship to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), he never applied to college because he "wanted to rap." Smith says he was admitted to a "pre-engineering [summer] program" at MIT for high school students, but he did not attend. According to Smith, "My mother, who worked for the School District of Philadelphia, School Board of Philadelphia, had a friend who was the admissions officer at MIT. I had pretty high SAT scores and Affirmative action in the United States, they needed black kids, so I probably could have gotten in. But I had no intention of going to college."


Career


1985–1992: The Fresh Prince

Smith started as the MC#Hip hop, MC of the hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, with his childhood friend DJ Jazzy Jeff, Jeffrey "DJ Jazzy Jeff" Townes as turntablist and producer.Stated on ''Inside the Actors Studio'', 2002 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 join forces. Smith enlisted a friend to join as the beatboxer of the group, Clarence Holmes (Ready Rock C), making them a trio. Philadelphia-based Word Up Records released their first single in late 1985 to 1986 when A&R man Paul Oakenfold introduced them to Word Up 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." Smith became known for light-hearted story-telling raps and capable, though profanity-free, "battle" rhymes. 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 (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 (DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince song), Summertime" (1991), which earned the group their second Grammy and peaked at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, ''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 garnishment, 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 List of highest-grossing films, box office successes' common characteristics. In 1989, Smith was arrested in relation to an alleged assault on his record promoter, William Hendricks, but all charges were dismissed.


1993–1997: Solo music and film breakthrough

Smith's first major roles were in the drama ''Six Degrees of Separation (film), Six Degrees of Separation'' (1993) and the action film ''Bad Boys (1995 film), Bad Boys'' (1995) in which he starred opposite Martin Lawrence. The latter film was commercially successful, grossing $141,407,024 worldwide – $65,807,024 in North America and $75,600,000 overseas. However, critical reception was generally mixed. In 1996, Smith starred as part of an ensemble cast in Roland Emmerich's ''Independence Day (1996 film), 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 (1997 film), 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 worldwide acclaim, with critics highly praising its humor, as well as Jones and Smith's performances. During the summer of 1997, Smith also began his solo music career with the release of "Men in Black (song), 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, ''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, ''Billboard'' Hot 100 number one when it was released in 1998.


1998–2013: Leading man status

file:Will Smith (32335923807).jpg, upSmith in 1999 In 1998, Smith starred with Gene Hackman in ''Enemy of the State (film), Enemy of the State''. The following year he turned down the role of Neo (The Matrix), Neo in ''The Matrix'' in favor of ''Wild Wild West'' (1999). Despite the disappointment of ''Wild Wild West'', Smith has said that he harbors no regrets about his decision, asserting that Keanu Reeves's performance as Neo was superior to what Smith himself would have achieved, although in interviews subsequent to the release of ''Wild Wild West'' he stated 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 (Will Smith song), 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 Video Charts, UK Music Video Chart. The same year, the rapper 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 and Albums Charts, UK R&B Singles Chart. Smith portrayed heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali in the 2001 biopic ''Ali (film), 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 (Will Smith 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''; the film follows detectives Burnett and Lowrey investigating the flow of MDMA, ecstasy into Miami. Despite receiving generally negative reviews, the film was a box office success, grossing $270 million worldwide. In the following year, he starred in the animated film ''Shark Tale'' and the science fiction film ''I, Robot (film), I, Robot''; both films were box office successes despite mixed reviews. Smith's latest album ''Lost and Found (Will Smith album), Lost and Found'' was released in 2005, peaking at number six on the ''Billboard'' 200. Lead single "Switch (Will Smith song), 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 Smith, 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 (U.S. TV series), 20/20'' and connected with him during production. The film, along with Smith's performance, received praise. 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 (film), I Am Legend'', released 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 American Broadcasting Company, ABC special that aired on December 4, 2008. 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 (film), 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 had 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.


2015–present: mixed success and re-emergence in music

Smith starred opposite Margot Robbie in the romance drama ''Focus (2015 film), 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 (film), Jurassic Park'' writer David Koepp, but he left the project to work on the Ridley Scott-produced sports drama ''Concussion (2015 film), 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 (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." 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." His film ''Bright (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. That month, Smith launched his own YouTube channel, which as of July 2019 has over 6 million subscribers and 294 million total views. Also in 2017, Smith released the song "Get Lit" a collaboration between him and his former group mate Jazzy Jeff. Smith performed the official song "Live It Up (Nicky Jam 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 Genie (Disney character), The Genie (originally voiced by Robin Williams) in the Aladdin (2019 film), live-action adaptation of Disney's ''Aladdin (1992 Disney film), 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 (film), Gemini Man'', released on October 11, 2019. Later that year, Smith had his second starring role in an animated film, in ''Spies in Disguise'', opposite Tom Holland (actor), Tom Holland. Smith voiced Lance Sterling, a spy who teams up with the nerdy inventor who creates his gadgets (Holland). The film was released on December 25, 2019. In 2020, he reteamed with Martin Lawrence for the third film in their franchise, ''Bad Boys for Life''. As of June 17, 2020, it was announced that Smith will star in ''Emancipation'' directed by Antoine Fuqua, in which he will portray Peter, a runaway slave, who outsmarts hunters and the Louisiana swamp on a journey to the Union Army.


Personal life

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 (Will Smith song), 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. Smith married actress Jada Pinkett Smith, Jada Koren Pinkett in 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 Smith, Jaden Christopher Syre Smith (born 1998), his co-star in ''The Pursuit of Happyness'' and ''After Earth''; and Willow Smith, Willow Camille Reign Smith (born 2000), who appeared as his daughter in ''I Am Legend (film), I Am Legend''. Smith and his brother Harry own Treyball Development Inc., a Beverly Hills, California, Beverly Hills-based company named after Trey Smith, and his family reside 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. In an interview with ''The Guardian'' in 2012, he said that he is fluent in Spanish, owing to his time backpacking through Guadalajara, Mexico in his youth.


Religious views

Smith was raised in a Baptist household and attended a Catholic school and church. In a 2013 interview, 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 his role as Bennet Omalu in ''Concussion (2015 film), 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 Lord Shiva at Haridwar, India. He also performed an Aarti of the holy river Ganga. He said that he felt a deep connection with Hindu spirituality and Indian astrology.


Philanthropy

Smith gave $1.3 million to charities in 2007, of which $450,000 went to two Christian ministries, and $122,500 went to three Scientology organizations; the remaining beneficiaries included "a Los Angeles mosque, other Christian-based schools and churches, and ... the Yitzhak Rabin Center, Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Center in Israel." Smith and his wife have also founded a private elementary school in Calabasas, California, the New Village Leadership Academy. Federal tax filing showed that Smith donated $1.2 million to the school in 2010.


Political views

Smith donated $4,600 to the 2008 United States presidential election, 2008 presidential campaign of Democratic Party (United States), 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 stated he supported legalizing same-sex marriage. In 2021, Smith announced that production of his upcoming film, ''Emancipation'', is being pulled from Georgia (U.S. state), Georgia because of the recent passage of the Election Integrity Act of 2021, which critics view as a Election Integrity Act of 2021, restrictive voting law. 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".


Filmography


Discography

* ''Big Willie Style'' (1997) * ''Willennium'' (1999) * ''Born to Reign'' (2002) * ''Lost and Found (Will Smith album), Lost and Found'' (2005)


See also

*


References


Further reading

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External links

* * * {{DEFAULTSORT:Smith, Will Will Smith, 1968 births Living people 20th-century American male actors 20th-century American rappers 20th-century American singers 21st-century American male actors 21st-century American rappers 21st-century American singers African-American businesspeople African-American film producers African-American male actors African-American male rappers African-American record producers African-American songwriters African-American sports executives and administrators American beatboxers American film producers American male film actors American male rappers American male television actors American male voice actors American philanthropists American sports executives and administrators César Honorary Award recipients Columbia Records artists East Coast hip hop musicians Grammy Award winners for rap music Interscope Records artists Male actors from Philadelphia MTV Europe Music Award winners Philadelphia 76ers owners Pop rappers Rappers from Philadelphia Record producers from Pennsylvania Songwriters from Pennsylvania Television producers from Pennsylvania World Music Awards winners