Will Smith Opens Up About His Regrets Making Wild Wild West
Riding high off “Independence Day” and “Men in Black,” Will Smith was determined to become nothing less than “the biggest movie star.”
Instead he committed what he called his biggest mistake.
Speaking at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity on Tuesday, Smith expressed profound regret about starring in 1999’s “Wild Wild West,” the big-screen remake of an old TV show.
“I had so much success that I started to taste global blood,” he says (see video below). “My focus shifted from my artistry to winning. I wanted to win and be the biggest movie star. What happened was there was a lag. Around ‘Wild Wild West’ time, I found myself promoting something because I wanted to win versus promoting something because I believed in it.”
“Wild Wild West” got ravaged by critics (“Exhausting, utterly without feeling, and pointless,” said The New Yorker, in a typical example) and got a lackluster reception at the box office. Smith himself now reduces the film to an expletive, saying there’s no way he could sell a movie like that in today’s social media era.
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“I have to be in tune with [fans’] needs and not trick them into going to see ‘Wild Wild West,'” he said. “Back in the ’80s and ’90s, [if] you had a piece of crap movie, you put a trailer with a lot of explosions and it was Wednesday before people knew your movie was s–t.”
Of course, Smith soon recovered creatively, scoring a Best Actor Oscar nomination for “Ali” two years later, though it’s been a mixed bag ever since with sequels to “Bad Boys” and “Men in Black” and another Oscar nod for “The Pursuit of Happyness” offset by “Hitch,” “I Am Legend” and the mega-dud “After Earth.” He’s back on a roll now following the critically acclaimed (if financially underachieving) “Concussion” and the upcoming blockbuster-in-waiting “Suicide Squad.”
Smith said he took a lesson from the late Muhammad Ali, whose funeral the actor recently attended.
“It was really beautiful for me to see how profoundly happy people were at his memorial and that’s a result of him living his life with a purpose,” says Smith. “If someone stands at your funeral and says, ‘His ROI [return on investment] was ridiculous,’ you’ve failed.”