Now this is a story all about how a TV standout became a mega movie star.
While it hasn’t always been box office glory for Will Smith, the charismatic star went from being a small screen celebrity to a household name and despite his latest film “After Earth” opening to horrific reviews today, the “Fresh Prince” still holds court as one of the industry’s most profitable stars. Here’s a look back Will Smith’s most memorable roles in this week’s Flicks Flashback.
“Bad Boys” (1995)
While summer box office legend Michael Bay and Smith have only worked together twice, their friendship is about as well-known as the films they’ve collaborated on. The “Bad Boys” franchise is a proven money maker for Columbia and marked Smith’s first foray as a movie headliner. Along with on-screen partner Martin Lawrence, the movie put Smith in the public eye in a big way and set the stage for a string of successful hits.
“Independence Day” (1996)
Smith cemented his fame the following year with “Independence Day,” which despite being a true ensemble is mostly now remembered for the actor’s breakout performance. The numbers speak for themselves…$75 million budget, $305 million domestic gross and $817 million earned worldwide.
Men In Black
“Men In Black” (1997)
Smith hit the hat trick the next year with his third straight hit courtesy of Sony’s “Men In Black.” Co-starring Tommy Lee Jones, the “MIB” franchise gave the actor his second franchise in just a three year period and continued to remind audiences Smith had arrived.
While franchises are nice it’s Oscars that in many cases define a career. Smith’s first real dramatic turn (forgetting about the misfire that was “The Legend of Bagger Vance”) was 2001’s “Ali,” in which the actor portrayed his idol; boxing legend Muhammad Ali. While the movie didn’t set the box office on fire, it did earn Smith his first Academy Award nomination and a heap of critical praise.
The Pursuit of Happyness
“The Pursuit of Happyness” (2006)
Five years (and two sequels) later Smith returned to the Oscar race with 2006’s “The Pursuit Of Happyness,” in which he portrayed another real-life personality. Chris Gardner’s inspiring story about overcoming the odds proved Smith’s first nomination wasn’t a fluke and while he didn’t win, he continued to show his breath as an actor.
“After Earth” (2013)
And that takes us to today where he re-teams with his son Jayden (who was also in “Happyness”) for “After Earth,” a costly summer tentpole that Smith sees as his “Avatar.” Critics on the other hand have been merciless in their reviews and been feasting on everything from him casting his son in the lead role to selecting M. Night Shyamalan as the director. Regardless Smith is still a big bold face name and that’s not going to change, which means even if “Earth” bombs, there will be no shortage of studios ready to enlist the action star for their next big budget blockbuster.