Will Smith, who has jumped to the top rung of the thesp market with roles in “Men in Black” and “Independence Day,” is now in final talks to become a producer with an overall first-look term deal at Universal Pictures, sources said Tuesday.
Smith’s pact would cover motion pictures, TV and music. James Lassiter, Smith’s current manager at Handprint, will become a producing partner in the U company.
People close to Smith said the music end of the deal will be set up through Interscope Records, which is half-owned by Universal Music Group.
Sony already has a music deal with Smith as a solo artist. Insiders said that the obligations of that deal will be satisfied, though not timed to a specific date.
While the U agreement will not guarantee that Smith will star in the projects he develops, sources said Smith will certainly lean toward toplining his own self-produced pics.
The negotiations are said to be quite lucrative for Smith, though he and U refrained from comment on the talks until a deal is struck.
The securing of Smith is a coup for Universal. Sony Pictures Entertainment was hot to sign the Fresh Prince, especially after “Men in Black” grossed nearly $250 million domestically.
Several studios were interested in Smith until he decided to negotiate exclusively with U. He has already set up “Love for Hire” with Jada Pinkett at the Universal-based Imagine Entertainment.
For Lassiter, the deal will mean walking a bit of a tightrope, as his Handprint Management company (with Betty Medina and director Jeff Pollack) already has a production deal with 20th Century Fox.
Sources said Lassiter’s relationship with Handprint will continue, but it was unclear in what role.
Attorney Ken Hertz of Hansen, Jacobson, Teller & Hoberman is brokering the deal for Smith with U.
The star is also repped by Ken Stovitz and Richard Lovett of CAA.