Willard Carroll Smith II (born September 25, 1968) is an American actor and rapper. In West Philadelphia born and raised, on the playground is where he spent most of his days, chillin' out, maxin', relaxin' all cool, until Smith first entered the public eye as part of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, a lighthearted hip-hop duo with hits including "Parents Just Don't Understand" and "Summertime". He really came to fame with the NBC series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, a relatively successful Sitcom that he only signed onto because most of his possessions were taken by the IRS as punishment for tax evasion.
He moved on into what has become a very successful acting career. While initially focused on lighthearted comedies and popcorn action, his Uncle Tomfoolery days are pretty much gone, with Smith playing semi-serious or serious roles most of the time now and his comedic acting not being race-based. It also helps that he is the undisputed lead in any movie he's in, one of the few Black actors who regularly does this. His most famous roles... well, the list is sort of legendary. Just have a look at his IMDB profile. Adding to this, even his stinkers tend to suck in tons of money. The failure of Wild Wild West prompted Smith to observe, "That's how big I am. I bomb over $100 million." Of all the films Smith has been the star of, only three (all biopics) have failed to make over their budgets: the Muhammad Ali biopic Ali (which was still a critical if not financial success), Concussion, and King Richard — Smith is that much of a box office draw. He's also one of the best-paid actors, pulling salaries estimated at $20 million per movie.
Smith has been married to Jada Pinkett Smith since 1997, and they have two children who are also in the acting and music business: Jaden and Willow. He is also the founder of Overbrook Entertainment (named after the high school in Philly he attended), whose films he produces.
Two decades after his first nomination, Smith finally won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in King Richard in 2022. Unfortunately for him, this was after he controversially slapped Chris Rock for making a joke about his wife during the ceremony, which significantly overshadowed both his win and the ceremony as a whole in media coverage. He subsequently publicly apologized to Rock and resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and eventually received a ten-year ban from attending the Academy Awards and affiliated ceremonies.
Not to be confused with legendary tough-guy actor William Smith. Or Will Smith of Whiskey Media's "Tested" site (as much as they like to joke he's the same person).
Also, tropes that specifically pertain to his years with DJ Jazzy Jeff should be put on their own page.
- Where The Day Takes You (1992) - Manny
- Made in America (1993) - Tea Cake Walters
- Six Degrees of Separation (1993) - Paul
- Bad Boys (1995) - Mike Lowrey
- Independence Day (1996) - Capt. Steven Hillard
- Men in Black - Agent J/James Darrell Edwards III
- Enemy of the State (1998) - Robert Clayton Dean
- Wild Wild West (1999) - Captain James West
- The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000) - Bagger Vance
- Ali (2001) - Muhammad Ali — Academy Award nomination for Best Actor
- I, Robot (2004) - Detective Del Spooner
- Shark Tale (2004) - Oscar, who has his own self-demonstrating page.
- Hitch (2005) - Alex "Hitch" Hitchens
- The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) - Chris Gardner — Academy Award nomination for Best Actor
- I Am Legend (2007) - Robert Neville
- Hancock (2008) - John Hancock
- Seven Pounds (2008) - Tim Thomas
- After Earth (2013) - Cypher Raige
- Focus (2015) - Nicky Spurgeon
- Concussion (2015) - Bennet Omalu
- Collateral Beauty (2016) - Howard Inlet
- Suicide Squad (2016) - Floyd Lawton/Deadshot
- Bright (2017) - Daryl Ward
- Aladdin (2019) - Genie
- Gemini Man (2019) - Henry Brogan/Junior
- Spies in Disguise (2019) - Lance Sterling
- King Richard (2021) - Richard Williams — Academy Award winner for Best Actor and nominee for Best Picture (as producer)
DiscographyWith DJ Jazzy Jeff
- Rock the House (1987)
- He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper (1988)
- And in This Corner... (1989)
- Homebase (1991)
- Code Red (1993)
- Big Willie Style (1997)
- Willennium (1999)
- Born to Reign (2002)
- Lost and Found (2005)
- Buddy Cop Show: Plays one member of the pair of protagonists in several movies belonging to this subgenre, notably the Bad Boys and Men in Black series.
- "Aw, hell naw!", usually uttered in a This Is Gonna Suck moment.
- "Day-um" drawn out into two syllables, as an expression of shock.
- The Cover Changes the Meaning:
- The Danza: "Will Smith" in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Smith has stated in multiple interviews that co-star Alfonso Ribeiro advised him to do this as people would spend the rest of his life calling him by his character's name, so he may as well get them to yell his real name. He was quickly proven right whenver they went out together and had people yelling "Will!" and "Hey, Carlton!" at them.
- "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: Not surprising given that he was a rapper before he was an actor, he did the themes for a number of his movies. "Men in Black" and "Wild Wild West", and became radio hits. He did all the songs for the Genie in 2019's Aladdin as well as "Arabian Nights".
- Doing It for the Art: After the failure of After Earth, Smith has taken to doing roles for the hell of it rather than for the blockbuster revenue, thus his willingness to do sequels to Suicide Squad (2016) and Bright in spite of them also being critical failures.note
- Gratuitous Spanish: Since he was a featured artist on the Marc Anthony and Bad Bunny song "Esta Rico", this was bound to happen.Will Smith: (spoken) Haciendo historia!Sacude tu cadera, always taking pictures, laughing, blowing kisses...
- Hotter and Sexier: Will has bulked up a lot as he has got older and strips off much more than he did in his younger days.
- I Am Not Leonard Nimoy: It's much easier to think of his character as "Will Smith". Turned out he was straight out invoking this with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He choose to go by his actual name so that he would never be "associated" with the character's name, supposedly on the advice of Alfonso Ribeiro (who already struggled to leave behind his Silver Spoons character, and will be Carlton for the rest of his life).
- It Will Never Catch On:
- Roughly a year after splitting from DJ Jazzy Jeff, Will approached Jive Records with the "Men In Black" song. The executives at Jive rejected it, saying it wouldn't be a hit. Two years later, after the success of the movie and the song, Jive, who had tried to sue both Will and Jeff for allegedly breaching their contract after their split, was forced to include both "Men In Black" and "Just Crusin'" on their "Greatest Hits" compilation as a part of a settlement.
- He discussed in a YouTube video that this is why he turned down Neo in The Matrix and made Wild Wild West instead, as the pitch meeting emphasized the Bullet Time effects rather than anything about the story and characters.
- Large Ham: In his earlier days he was this, especially on the Fresh Prince.
- Mid-Vid Skit: The "Wild Wild West" music video is a Talky Bookend in which Will's character from said film, Jim West, wakes up from a nightmare involving the movie's villain Dr. Loveless. Salma Hayek's Rita Escobar comforts him, goes to get him something and is promptly kidnapped by Loveless' henchwomen. Just after the last third of the song starts up, a chandelier comes crashing down, kicking off a scene where Jim rescues Rita.
- Mr. Fanservice: He often gets shirtless scenes, and it's taken even further in I, Robot, wherein he's shown completely naked and showering at one point and in Wild Wild West.
- Older Than They Look: He's aged extremely well—seriously, he's in his 50s and yet he doesn't look much older than he did in the first Men in Black-movie.note
- Persona Non Grata: Has been barred from attending the Oscars for ten years for slapping Chris Rock.
- Playing Against Type: The titular Hancock of Hancock and Deadshot in Suicide Squad (2016) are angry assholes with just enough heart to make them likable, in contrast with his usually cool and charm characters.
- Shout-Out: He got one from Eminem in "The Real Slim Shady" (responds to a line "All you rappers yellin' bout who you put in a hearse, do me a favor, write one verse without a curse" from Will's "Freakin' it"). Will Smith don't gotta cuss in his raps to sell records / Well, I do / So fuck him and fuck you too! Ironically, Eminem and Dr. Dre appeared on the Wild Wild West soundtrack.
- Star-Making Role:
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air made him famous on the small screen. "Now this is the story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down, and I'd like to take a minute, just sit right there; I'll tell you how I became the Prince of a town Called Bel Air."
- In Hollywood, Independence Day was his big box-office launch.
- Tom Hanks Syndrome: Started off as a comical coming actor, now he is becoming more of a drama actor taking on more serious roles, eventually winning an Academy Award for King Richard.
- Transatlantic Equivalent: He was the American equivalent to Slick Rick during his early "Fresh Prince" days, with Will debuting just slightly after Rick did, and having used a similar narrative style in his songs. However, facing declining record sales in 1991, Will would eventually move away from Slick Rick's style, and develop what would eventually become his "Big Willie" style of rapping.
- Uncle Tomfoolery: Started his career like this especially as Will in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Agent J in the first Men in Black and Oscar the fish in Shark Tale the animated movie fit as well.
- Urban Legend: No, he never got into MIT as widely believed. He never even applied to any universities coming out of high school because he wanted to rap. He went to a summer program at the school before he made his mind up to not to go to college to see if he liked engineering but decided it wasnt for him. He says that he had a really high grade point average and SAT scores, his parents had a friend who worked there, and they were actively looking for more black kids at the time, so he probably could have gotten in but hell never know for sure.
- Verbal Tic: "Ha-ha!", 'WOOO!", Whaaat whaaat", and "Uuhhh" (that last one was actually a song title on Willenium).
- What Could Have Been:
- Was the original first choice to play Neo in The Matrix but passed up on it to be in Wild Wild West (though amusingly enough, his wife was cast in the sequels as Niobe). Smith is philosophical about it though, saying the casting of Neo and Morpheus was perfect and he would probably have messed the film up if hed taken the role.
- Was also Tarantino's first choice for the lead in Django Unchained, but Smith pulled out of that project after realizing how Out of Focus Django would be for the first half of the movie.