Will Smith’s 1995 Interview Spotlights His Self Awareness About His Strengths As an Actor and Comedian
Will Smith wasn’t always an A-list Hollywood actor. He got his start in the entertainment industry as a Grammy award-winning rapper in West Philadelphia, which parlayed into his best-known role in the long-running comedy series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Many years later, Smith has starred in blockbuster movies such as Independence Day, Men in Black, Bad Boys, and much more. The I am Legend star has held a place among Hollywood’s elite for decades, attributing his success to his own self-awareness about his strengths as an actor and comedian.
In his early days of acting, Smith discussed these traits in an interview that may have predicted his fate in the industry.
Will Smith defines who he is and who he wants to be
In 2002, Smith received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his role in Ali. Several years later, he was nominated again for The Pursuit of Happyness. Throughout his career, the rapper turned actor received 200 music, film, and television award nominations, winning a total of 189.
An old video recently resurfaced of an interview Smith conducted with Charlie Rose, following his epic portrayal of Muhammad Ali. When asked about his strengths, The Suicide Squad star honestly replied, “Eddie Murphy is funnier than I’ll ever be. Denzel is more powerful than I’ll ever be. I think that my strength is I can do everything well. I can do a little bit of everything, and that’s what I concentrate on to be my strength.”
Smith talked about other actors such as Denzel Washington, Robin Williams, and Tom Hanks that have incredibly eclectic range. Inspired by Williams’s ability to go from Mork from Ork to Awakenings led Smith to say, “That’s where I want to be in my career.” Speaking of Washington, he said, “I’ll never be able to compete with Denzel. I would have to completely dedicate my life, to even come near, to compete on that level.”
Smith’s broad range as an actor and comedian
Taking over Williams’ iconic role in Disney’s Aladdin and making it his own in the live-action film proved that he has indeed reached the level that he spoke of so many years ago. He’s been able to achieve a broad range of work, going from action hero in Enemy of the State to a fun-loving comedian in Hitch to highly acclaimed voiceover work in Shark Tale.
At the time of the interview, Smith had just completed Ali. He told Rose that he had been given the opportunity to study greatness. Smith explained, “It becomes that much more clear who you are in comparison to the individual that you are playing. For me, it made it very clear who I am. I’ve been to my physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial ends with this film.” He continued saying, “The definition of who I am is very clear to me, and it also redefines who I want to be in that I know for a fact that I’m stronger than I thought I was.”
Smith has said some pretty strange things in his day
Despite Smith’s self-proclaimed strengths, he is still a pretty strange guy, even by Hollywood standards. Esquire magazine once referred to the rumored Scientologist as the “weirdest movie star in the world.”
They linked Smith’s “goofy demeanor” to when he claims Steven Spielberg told him, “You’re way too big for the movies I make.” Esquire referred to his “shamanic wisdom” when in 2008, Smith told Ebony magazine, “[My wife] Jada and I have connected to the purpose of our relationship to teach and continually learn about human interaction. Our marriage will have purpose for other married people.”
In 2013, Smith told New York Magazine, “I’m a student of patterns. At heart, I’m a physicist. I look at everything in my life as trying to find the single equation, the theory of everything.”
Smith may be strange, but he is an actor and comedian with staying power. He has been able to remain relevant for decades in an industry that is always changing. So, maybe his strengths really do outweigh his weirdness.