×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Will Smith Focused on Career, Not Box Office Results

You might not be able to take the schadenfreude out of the town – some in Hollywood love to root for a competitor’s heartaches – but you can take a bit of the town out of the man.

Will Smith said he will emotionally, and even physically, remove himself this weekend from the chatter over box office results for “Focus,” his first star turn since critics scoffed and most fans dodged 2013’s “After Earth.”

“I’m probably going to leave town for a week or so, so I don’t get sucked back into the machine,” Smith said before the premiere of the grifter pic this week. “I can’t allow the box office success, or the lack thereof, to determine my self-image.”

That’s no commentary on his feelings for Warner Bros. release “Focus,” which Smith touts as a genre-busting romp, with humor, drama and multiple plot turns. Projections suggest a solid opening of $21 million on an estimated production budget of $50 million.

But Smith said he learned his lesson following “After Earth” that it’s not wise to rely on the bottom line for happiness. The sci-fi action film, co-starring Smith’s son Jaden, drew almost universal derision and made an anemic $60.5 million domestically on a $130 million budget. (It brought in a much healthier $183.3 million overseas.)

“I am probably going to get out and, you know, not get the hourly update from Cleveland…’It was up 10%!’ ” Smith said. “I am just going to completely stay away from it.”

Conveniently, Smith does not have to look far for a distraction. He has begun training for “Suicide Squad,” the David Ayer-helmed tentpole based on the DC comicbook. In the ensemble cast, Smith will play the Batman villain Deadshot and be reunited with “Focus” co-star Margot Robbie, who will play the Joker’s maniacal girlfriend Harley Quinn.

Coming soon for Smith is another star vehicle that could be in the awards conversation. Christmas Day release “Concussion” looks at the medical crisis facing pro football, with Smith as the steadfast brain specialist who refuses to bow to pressure that would bury findings about traumatic brain injuries.

Still, Smith can blame himself for the focus on his box office power. Few stars can approach the $2.7 billion his 21 films have accumulated. And the star admitted in a recent Esquire interview that he had made the bottom line the ultimate measure of his work.

“I think there is a real question as to who his audience is,” one top studio executive said this week, declining to be identified for fear of alienating Smith. “At one time he had a younger audience. They either mature with you, or you have to put yourself in big movies with a younger demographic.”

One of Smith’s earliest mentors cautions against such doubts. Andy Borowitz, the writer who created TV’s “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” recalled that Smith had hit big in the music business with hits like “Parents Just Don’t Understand.”  But at just 20, his happy brand of rap as half of “DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince” had been deemed “soft…and bubblegum and suburban,” Borowitz recalled.

Though barely out of his teens, some dubbed Smith a “has been,” Borowitz recalled, only to have his humor and charm help turn “Fresh Prince” into a long-running TV hit.

“We like to root against people and call ‘game over,’ ” said Borowitz, whose political satire is now featured in the New Yorker. “It was done once before. I am in the camp of ‘Don’t bet against Will Smith, because it has been a losing bet so far.’ ”

Smith laughed when he said he would steer clear of this weekend’s box office results. But he also said he meant what he said.

“My art has to be an offering,” he said. “It’s ideas and concepts and things I believe in that I want to offer for the possibility of improving lives. And I can’t allow the box office success, or lack thereof, to determine my self-image.”

More Film

  • promenade Cannes Croisette Cannes Placeholder

    Cannes Market Claims Record Visitor Numbers

    The Cannes Market, the Cannes Film Festival’s commercial wing, says that its 2019 edition welcomed a record number of participants. It reported 12,527 attendees. The largest group by nationality was from the U.S. with 2,264 participants, followed by France with 1,943 participants, and the U.K. 1,145. Comparable figures for 2018 were not available. The number [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    'Alien' at 40: Ridley Scott Explains Why 'You Don't Show the Monster Too Many Times'

    It’s difficult to imagine Ridley Scott’s sci-fi/horror classic “Alien” without the clear-minded, strong presence of Tom Skerritt as Dallas, the captain of the ill-fated Nostromo. But originally, the actor turned down “Alien,” which celebrates its 40th anniversary on May 25, though he thought Dan O’Bannon’s script read well. “There was nobody involved at the time [...]

  • The Poison Rose

    Film Review: 'The Poison Rose'

    It is 1978 in the City of Angels and the hard-drinking washed-up sleuth Carson Phillips is having another boozy day through its atmospheric streets. There is a hint of innate coolness and self-deprecation in his elongated voiceover intro — you might even briefly mistake Carson, played by a one-note John Travolta, for a Philip Marlowe [...]

  • 'On a Magical Night' Review: A

    Cannes Film Review: 'On a Magical Night'

    Most of us, in our romantic lives, meditate here and there on the other roads we might have traveled, and movies are uniquely equipped to channel those alternate-universe-of-love possibilities. That’s the idea at the (broken) heart of “Casablanca.” And the fantasy of getting to see the turns your life didn’t take play out right in [...]

  • Zach Galifianakis Jerry Seinfeld Netflix

    Film News Roundup: Zach Galifianakis' 'Between Two Ferns: The Movie' Coming to Netflix

    In today’s film news roundup, “Between Two Ferns: The Movie” is unveiled, “Friedkin Uncut” gets a fall release and Sony Classics buys “The Traitor” at Cannes. MOVIE RELEASES Netflix has set a Sept. 20 release date for Zach Galifianakis’ “Between Two Ferns: The Movie,” based on his 11-year-old talk show. Galifianakis made the announcement during [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content