Will Smith Once Revealed the Movie That Took Him From ‘Fresh Prince’ to ‘Mr. Smith’

More people might know Will Smith more as an actor than a music artist. But back before his rise through Hollywood, Smith was still largely known as the Fresh Prince. But there was one major blockbuster he starred in that had people referring to him as Mr. Smith almost right after its release.

How ‘Independence Day’ took Will Smith from the Fresh Prince to Mr. Smith

Will Smith smiling in a suit.
Will Smith | Matthias Nareyek/Getty Images

The blockbuster megastar mostly credits the film Independence Day for his recognition as Mr. Smith rather than Fresh Prince. For so long the rap superstar was labeled as the latter, but soon after Independence Day, things started to shift.

“As far as Fresh Prince, it’s interesting. On July 6, 1996 ‘Fresh Prince’ stopped. After Independence Day, that Monday, after Independence Day was the first time that anyone called me Mr. Smith. I was like, ‘What the hell,’” Smith told Collider.

Smith recalled he was being labeled the Fresh Prince thanks to his sitcom and music. But it seemed Independence Day had audiences buying into more than just Will Smith the rapper.

“All through The Fresh Prince, all through the music, it was ‘Fresh Prince, Fresh Prince.’ And that morning, when the box office numbers came out, after Independence Day, it was ‘Good morning Mr. Smith.’ It was so bizarre,” Smith recalled. “I specifically remember that morning is when people started calling me Mr. Smith.”

Ethan Hawke was originally supposed to be in ‘Independence Day’

As some may know, Ethan Hawke was the actor who was originally set to star in Independence Day. The then-young actor at the time was given the script for the movie but confided on Conan that he turned down the role.

“I’m driving cross-country with a friend of mine. I got the script to Independence Day, and there’s like dollar bills attached to it,” Hawke said. “And I’m reading it to my buddy in the car like, ‘Isn’t this a bad line? E.T. phone home, that’s stupid.’ And I’m going through it to the point where I literally throw it out onto the Texas highway.”

But the Predestination actor realized he might have made a mistake when he saw the film in theaters.

“Everyone wants to go see Independence Day and I’m like, ‘Alright, this’ll be amusing to see how bad it is,’” he shared. “I walk into the theater, it’s obviously sold out. Will Smith says, ‘E.T. phone home,’ and the place roars. I mean they basically give a standing ovation in the movie. And I’m sitting there going, ‘Oh my god.’ I really didn’t get the joke!”

How Will Smith not coming back for ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ doomed the sequel

Roland Emmerich revealed that he wished he didn’t make the second Independence Day film without Will Smith. In an interview with Yahoo, Emmerich revealed why the actor didn’t return for the blockbuster sequel.

“I just wanted to make a movie exactly like the first,” Emmerich said. “But then in the middle of the production, Will opted out because he wanted to do Suicide Squad.

This forced a bit of a rewrite of the film’s script, which Emmerich believes led to its downfall.

“I should have stopped making the movie because we had a much better script, then I had to really fast, cobble another script together,” he said. “I should have just said no because all of a sudden I was making something I criticized myself: a sequel.”

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