Smith is ‘Prince’ of screens

Will Smith never knew how prophetic his words would be in megapic “Independence Day,” when as Captain Steven Hiller, he proclaimed, “I’m just a little anxious to get up there and whup E.T.’s ass.”

Indeed the king of the ’96 film crop became the second-highest grossing film of all time in the global marketplace, pulling in $789 million, and zapping Steven Spielberg’s friendly alien by $88 million. (Spielberg doesn’t have to worry too much, though: All-time worldwide honors remain with “Jurassic Park” at $913.1 million.)

With only four bigscreen outings under his belt, Smith has managed to push three pics over the international $100 million mark, including “Bad Boys” and “Made in America.” Upcoming release “Men in Black” is expecting similar numbers.

Smith first entered national prominence as Grammy-winning musician the “Fresh Prince” in 1987, teaming with Jeff Townes (Jazzy Jeff) to record teen favorites “Girls Ain’t Nothing but Trouble,” and “Parents Just Don’t Under-stand.”

Smith’s performances caught the eye of Warner Bros. exec Bunny Medina, who was pitching a modern-day “Beverly Hillbillies” called “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” which debuted on NBC in 1990, and ran for six years.

Smith’s critical acclaim landed him the role of a young gay con man in “Six Degrees of Separation” (1993) and, because of general praise for his performance, managed to avoid criticism for refusing to kiss another man on-screen despite the wishes of director Fred Schepsi.

Smith said at the time that Denzel Washington conferred with him on the situation and advised him, “Don’t be kissing no man.” The onscreen kiss was then faked.

The same year, Smith drew heated praise for his role in “Made in America” with Whoopi Goldberg and Ted Dan-son. This was his first film to break the international $100 million barrier.

Soon, with his television series winding down, Smith showed he could carry a movie teaming with fellow televi-sion star Martin Lawrence in the 1995 buddy pic “Bad Boys.” Again the movie was received strongly both domes-tically and in global markets. Subsequently, Smith’s asking price rose to $5 million a movie and he opted for the role of a heroic fighter pilot in “Independence Day.”

Already Columbia Pictures is pressing forward with a massive marketing campaign in Smith’s upcoming release “Men in Black,” launching with a spot during the Super Bowl (where “Independence Day” began its campaign) and Smith is reportedly slated to star in the next “Ghostbusters” film, due out in 1998.

The world awaits.

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