July 2002
The Man In Black : An Interview with Will Smith

Interviewed by Wilson Morales

The Man In Black : An Interview with Will Smith

On the heels of achieving his nearly capturing the biggest prize an actor can get (the Oscar), Will Smith is back on the big screen reprising a role he created about 5 years ago. Smith has pretty much owned the 4th of July weekend since ďIndependence DayĒ came out a few years ago. In an interview with blackfilm.com, Mr. Smith talks about Men in Black 2, his career, his music, and Michael Jackson.

WM: Whatís this about Michael wanting to be apart of the movie?

WS: Michael called after the first film. He said he saw the first film in Paris and he said, ďLook, Will, I donít care what happens, if you ever make a part two of this film, Iím in this film.Ē Michaelís a real movie buff, so he said when he saw this; it was the most creative thing he had ever seen. He just couldnít compare it to any other film it was different. He was absolutely apart of it; he didnít care what we said.

WM: And even though you know heís going to be there, youíre still surprised when he does show up on that screen.

WS: The thing is, he plays an alien, he plays Michael Jackson who is an undercover Man In Black. And, heís an alien, so he only has partial MIB status; heís in on the alien affirmative action program. So, heís only there for part time, but heís demanding his full MIB status. He thinks heís put in enough of his time that he can be a full MIB status. But you know, Men In Black, we donít do that.

WM: Itís a real tribute to him that he can laugh at his imageÖ

WS: Absolutely. He, I think that this will go a long way. When he comes on the screen, people are really happy. Itís like, its as if Michael is really saying to the world, okay, alright, Iím human just like everyone else, I appreciate a good joke just like everyone else does, but the thing I love so much is he kept wanting to play it serious. Iím a Man In Black; I just want to be really serious. So, you know, heís actually dealing with the Drelons, I think or the people that he was up there dealing with.

WM: With the Oscar nomination does that change the way you look at the roles youíre considering or do you still want to be a crowd pleaser?

WS: Iím searching for the number one answer. The film that does both. There are a couple of films historically that I think do both things. The film that is a crowd pleaser and can garner some critical acclaim. Itís rare to hit that mark, but there are some films that do it and thatís really what I look for, but more than anything, I want to do different types of films. I enjoy being able to go from ďALIĒ to Men In Black II, that kinda range just, the actors that I admire most have that kind of range.

WM: This is the first time youíve come back to a character on film. Were there any second thoughts about that? It is nice when a film is over you can leave it behind, or is the franchise takes on a life of itís own?

WS: I love having the franchise film. What a franchise film does, it lets you flop three or four in the middle and then you can go head back and you try your artistic pieces, you do three or four of Ďem and you say I was just playing yaíll I was just playing, hereís Men In Black 3, I was just joking.

WM: So much of the humor was just from you and Tommy, but in this film, the dog, stole the film by the worm, by everything. Can you read that humor seeing the script? Did you know it was going to come off as well as it did?

WS: No, we, what we knew is that the film had to be funny. And, no matter what, we were not coming off of this set without this film being funny; and there were characters that were established in the first film that got one or two laughs that we wanted to expand. Frank the Pug, just hands down hilarious. One of the biggest laughs in the entire film is ďWho Let the Dogs OutĒ? Iím talking about him like heÖ Frankís a wonderful actor. This little dog, just for some reason, I donít if itís how he looks or the actorís voice that does it but every single thing that comes out of his mouth is hilarious and we knew that on the set and that was something we pushed for and we were like, listen, I have no ego about that. I want the scene to be funny no matter what. And, if itís the dog or some worms, or anything that will make people laugh in that movie theatre, thatís what I want to do.

WM: Can you talk about the music?

WS: Iíve got my new album is coming out. Itís called ďBorn to ReignĒ. It came out June 25 and if I can say it humbly, I think itís one of the best albums youíre going to hear this year. It may sound like Iím gassiní it up right now, but, you know, as a fan of music, this album is like, no songs youíre going to skip on it. Itís like the bottom line; itís the truth.

WM: Is it hard to customize a song for a film?

WS: When youíre starting from day one on a film, itís not difficult because you know the vibe of the film, you know how it looks, you know how it feels, I was writing during the film, when Iím in a scene that inspires me to write something. What I was trying to do with ďBlack Suits ComingĒ is essentially roll the creative dice, just do something thatís different. I think that people can hate a record or people can hate a movie, but as long as they respect the creative attempt, you give yourself life to try it again. Whereas, I think if you do the same thing, if you do something youíre supposed to be good at and it doesnít work, then I think thatís when you really shoot yourself in the foot. So, I push the creative limits on that song and I push the creative limits on this album.

WM: Musically it seems like it kinda gives a nod to the rap/rock. Like the Lincoln Parks that are out there. Is that something you were conscious of doing?

WS: What I wanted to really do was take it. I used a 60-piece orchestra on that record. I wanted to do something you hadnít heard in a long time. People arenít making records with 40-piece string sections any more. 12 piece horn sections. People arenít doing that anymore. What I wanted to do was to just create a sound and to be able to make a record that win, lose or draw was absolutely different sounding, different feeling and somewhat revolutionary in its retro-nature.

WM: What are you listening to now? Whatís inspiring you, whatís been capturing your imagination?

WS: Iíve been traveling a lot, so Iíve been listening to everything. We were in Mozambique shooting ďALIĒ and there are these Portuguese rappers. Iíve got about three CDís of these guys rapping in Portuguese. Itís just crazy how people outside of the United States are just really so open to expand and do other things and put any kind of sound on the record. It doesnít even matter what it is. The choices of drums, and the things that they make. Somebodyíll make something in their yard and use it on a record. Itís a lot more musical and creative freedom around the world and thatís kinda of what Iíve been trying to capture; a little bit of that essence on my record.

WM: How was it working with Tommy Lee again? Was it like riding a horse, or did you guys like hang out off set?

WS: Tommy and I have a really brilliant relationship. I just think that everything that comes out of that manís mouth is hilarious. A lot of times the press doesnít get to experience that side of Tommy Lee Jones, but for me just spending three, four months with him; he is a machine that does these hilarious. We were in Seoul, Korea doing an interview together. We have an unspoken kind of rule; when we interview together, I take all the dumb questions, so, an interviewer asked what was it like working with Frank the Pug, the little dog. So, I said Frank is a really wonderful actor and he has brilliant comedic timing. I said, but you know sometimes, he can be a bit of an asshole, you know, he wonít come out of his trailer and stuff like that and completely straight faced, nothing. Tommy says ďyeah, Franksí had a bit of an identify crisis ever since the castrationĒ. I was screaming. Stuff like that comes out of his mouth every single second of the day and I love that dude with all my heart.

WM: There is something iconic about seeing the two of you there in the suits, when it first comes on the screen itís like, Ohh!

WS: I think with the first film, it was just so revolutionary and so bizarre and different; it just really sticks with people. That Black suit, with the white shirt with the Black tie and the sunglasses just throughout American cinema, that look for whatever reason, works. It worked for the Blues Brothers, just something about the Black suit with the sunglasses just screams American cool.

WM: Whatís up with DJ Jeff. There has been talk of a reunion tour. Is that ever going to happen?

WS: Jeff and I still doing work together. He has an album coming out also called ďThe MagnificentĒ so Jeff has been doing some work on his album and I think that would be perfect now Iíve got my album coming out so if we can have some time to get out there. We just did the MTV Beach House together. So weíre definitely looking forward to having some time to get out there and perform a little bit.

WM: What are you doing next?

WS: Martin and I are in Miami doing ďBad Boys IIĒ. We start shooting like the middle of August and the script is very brilliant. Martin and I are ready to go, Michael Bay is back, Jerry Brockheimer so, you know, next summer maybe comeback at you again on Big Willie Weekend.