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Where There's a Will, There's a Way Part Two

The former Fresh Prince, Will Smith, on MEN IN BLACK II, his family, and how he turned down THE MATRIX

By Pamela Harland     July 07, 2002


Will Smith at the SHOWTIME premiere
© Sue Schneider
It's been five years, but we've finally got a sequel to the 1997 blockbuster MEN IN BLACK. MIIB, as the second film is called, stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones once again as Agents J and K Earth-bound saviors and all around good guys. In this installment, Smith's J must seek out Agent K and restore his memory (which was erased at the end of the first film) in order to save the planet once again. Just another day at the office for Will Smith whom we continue our chat with today.

Will Smith at the SHOWTIME premiere



Smith, whose new album BORN TO REIGN was just released, also did the title song for MIIB, "Nod Ya Head." But the experience of performing a song in front of a live audience doesn't even compete with acting.

"There is nothing in the world that compares to being on stage with a hit record," says Smith. "There's nothing that compares to standing on the middle of a stage and when that first two or three seconds of the record starts and people recognize what the song is and they start screaming, 'AWWWW!' There's something that music does to people that... no other form of entertainment can get that kind of reaction."

What caused a big reaction in March was Smith leaving the Academy Awards before his category was even called due to his and wife Jada's baby daughter Willow being sick (she had a fever). She was fine but he says the decision at the time was a no-brainer. What kind of father would he have been if he stayed at the awards and then something serious had happened to her, he asks.

"Jada and I are always talking about, 'You can't wait until the heat of the moment to try and decide who you are,'" says Smith. "You've got to know ahead of time. You've got to decide what kind of person you are when things are calm. You have to decide your priorities when things are calm. That's the kind of mentality of that situation."

Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith in MEN IN BLACK



Also the father of 9-year-old Trey, who makes a cameo in MIIB, from a first marriage, and 4-year-old Jaden, Smith says his priority is always his family. And keeping a positive outlook on life is right up there with having a healthy, happy family environment.

"My mind zeroes in on bad moods," says Smith. "It tugs on me when someone in my immediate vicinity isn't in a good positive state of mind. So I take it upon myself to lighten people up, loosen it up and get people in a positive state of mind. It seems like this wonderful, selfless act but it's actually kind of selfish."

Which explains why his wife Jada calls him "creatively co-dependent." In other words, he cannot function properly unless people surrounding him are in a good mood. That can be tough to accomplish given he is constantly surrounded by tons of people when in public. And Smith admits he has his bad days, but that doesn't change his outlook on life or his need for that next quality project, something he doesn't always recognize. In fact, he was offered the first THE MATRIX, which just wrapped shooting for two sequels, but turned it down to do WILD, WILD WEST.

MEN IN BLACK II



"It was just one of those concepts that was really hard to pitch," explains Smith. "I mean with THE MATRIX for someone to say, 'OK, listen, there's this whole other world and the computers have taken over...' You are like, 'O-K? I think I better go straight to the WILD, WILD WEST.'"

One family member knew better than to turn down the soon-to-be highly successful franchise. Jada just completed her work on THE MATRIX RELOADED and REVOLUTIONS, but don't look for a cameo from her famous hubby - he lost his chance.

"Jada said, 'You stay the hell away from this movie,'" laughs Smith.

Questions? Comments? Let us know what you think at feedback@cinescape.com.

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