Will Smith is done trying to be perfect

The superpower of Will Smith as a performer – as a movie star – has always been his radiant charisma. Who else could have credibly por...


The superpower of Will Smith as a performer – as a movie star – has always been his radiant charisma. Who else could have credibly portrayed Muhammad Ali, most charismatic man of all time? In “King Richard”, Smith transmutes this gift into something more subtle but just as powerful in his portrayal of Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena. (Smith, as he was eager to acknowledge, was supported in the film by Saniyya Sidney as Venus, Demi Singleton as Serena, and Aunjanue Ellis as the mother of the daughters and wife of Williams at the time, Oracene Price.) Richard Williams, played by Smith, is a man who was physically tilted but not beaten. He limps because of a racist assault in his childhood; his car is tense, a little uncertain, as if he was still on alert for a blow from the suction cup. He is someone who has spent time under the underdog. And yet, when it comes to Williams’ daughters and his dreams of tennis greatness, Smith invests his character with his on-screen trademark. This 53-year-old Smith, who published a research paper this fall, “Will,” was able to express these disparate traits so effectively is something he attributes to the work, precipitated by this book, which he recently completed. put in itself. “I couldn’t have played Richard Williams that way,” says Smith, “until I looked at my life and understood so many aspects of my childhood and how it affected the decisions I made as a parent. “

There is a key scene in “King Richard” in which Richard Williams talks about being beaten up by a gang of white men as a child and seeing his father run away rather than help him. Not wanting to repeat this act of cowardice is apparently what motivated his behavior towards his daughters. In your book, you tell of your father hitting your mother and how the cowardice you felt for not intervening eventually resulted in your own behaviors. When it came time to play Richard Williams, did you make any connections between these situations? Absoutely. As an actor, you try to find the aspects of the character that you understand the most naturally. So I could identify with Richard Williams the same way I identified with my father. I could understand both their disrespect. They felt lacking in support and respect, and that was essential for both of them. I started to find all of these parallels, and also what happened was that I improved as an actor during that time. I was organizing my memories while I was working on “King Richard”. These two things went together. My abilities as an actor have developed over the past 18 months. It is one of the most exponential leaps in emotional understanding that I have ever had.

Good acting can be such an intangible thing. What do you see as evidence of improvement? Basically, acting is what you can understand emotionally. And when you understand him emotionally, do you understand him enough to feel it and create interesting behavior around him? So something like Richard Williams’ walk: now you can mimic someone’s walk and look authentic. It’s a completely thing different when you know why the person is bending over compared to the stand-up comedic version of it that just mimics him. Understanding that it was the jump that happened: when you know why Richard Williams’ left leg hurts, what happened with the peak that went through it, that is, as actor, the 90 percent of the iceberg that lies below the surface. When you’ve programmed it deeply, those things have corresponding vibrations to the audience that they don’t even realize.

What does your walk say about you? Ha! I suppose if you were to psychoanalyze my walk from eight years ago, it would be two things: my walk is very fast and it is high. I’m trying to create a cheerful character, and that’s because a long time ago I realized that the way you enter a space is going to determine how the space reacts to you. My walk is therefore joyful, but it is also a little performative and preventive. It’s like, I don’t want someone to feel like they have to hit me in the face. I want to walk into a room and have as many friends as possible as quickly as possible.

You said “eight years ago”. Does your walk say something different now? At this point in my life, I’m fine with my body. I am okay with things that are not perfect. I don’t need to take a good look. My mind no longer drifts to what people are thinking when I walk in. It is much less performative and conscious.

Being a parent and a husband involves its own kind of performance. How did you think about these identities for Richard Williams, and how could they be different from the way you, Will Smith, interpret them? Richard Williams wants to earn respect, but he’s not trying to get approval. There was a part of me when I first started that desperately needed the world’s approval. It bleeds into everything. I wanted my children line up to get approval from the world. Richard Williams: very different. He was teaching his children that they would most likely be brutalized by the world, and you don’t need their approval, but you are going to have their respect. Which made him much more insular, and his effort for the safety of the family was of greater value than introducing the family to the world. It was a serious difference between our parenthood.

Throughout your career, you have been strategic in choosing your roles. For a long time, you chose what you did based on the goal of wanting to be the greatest movie star in the world. What’s your plan now? And how did “King Richard” fit in? Strategizing To Be The World’s Greatest Movie Star – It’s all over. I realized that in order to use my time here and to be useful, this is much more of a matter of self-examination. I want to take roles where I can look at myself, where I can look at my family, I can look at ideas that are important to me. Everything in my life is more centered on spiritual growth and upliftment. So, for example, one of the most important things for me during this process is to make sure that Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya, and Demi are brought up and that the world sees their work. I’m not looking for people to applaud me. I have two young actresses for whom this is the first time at this level. I want them to feel loved and protected. I want Aunjanue to bring him flowers. This is where my focus is in this process versus my focus on the box office or the awards. I have a personal interest as close to zero as possible in this area.

What was the idea that Richard Williams represented that was important to you? Aunjanue referred to Richard and Oracene: she said they were co-conspirators in this crazy dream. For me, everyone wants to have a crazy dream. You have to have fun with the absolute craziness of what you want to create in your life, unite your family around it and go for it. It is the pleasure of life. We can’t all expect the Williams family to touch it, but I love shedding light on the idea of ​​a family going there.

You also have a new Disney + documentary series on planet Earth. What is the idea of ​​this series that made you vibrate? I’m starting to see how science and spirituality are a bit the same. Religion and science, definitely on a subatomic level – that’s the whole definition of God, isn’t it? Everyone is looking for the same thing. I grew up in a very religious home; my grandmother was Jesus’ whole housewife. My the mind has always been scientific. I’m starting to see how these things come together. When I go to stand next to a volcano and feel the pounding of that bass rocking my body – the fear I feel and the awe of nature is deeply spiritual. Exploration for me is linked to nature scientifically but also, as with the volcano, spiritually.

You seem so intentional about everything. Do you do stuff just for fun? Almost never. Maybe this is something I’ll have to start giving up. I gave up on the results. I used to be madly goal-oriented and target-oriented. But my intention is still very firm. My life is quite structured. I am always up from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. reading and meditating on specific things or dreams and ideas that I want to bring into the world. I am very organized that way. I guess the illusion of control is setting in my mind. I hope.


This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

David Marchese is a writer for the magazine and a columnist for Talk. He recently interviewed Brian Cox on the dirty rich, Dr Becky on the ultimate goal of parenthood and Tiffany Haddish on God’s sense of humor.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Will Smith is done trying to be perfect
Will Smith is done trying to be perfect
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