July 2003
Bad Boys II : An Interview with Will Smith

Interviewed by Wilson Morales

Bad Boys II: An Interview with Will Smith

Sequels have been the theme of the summer. Everyone is flocking to see their favorite characters back on the screen. With the exception of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, most of the films that are sequels this summer are to films which came out within the last few years. Well, Arnold has some company as far as films standing the test of time and coming back to the screen. Eight years ago, Bad Boys came out featuring two actors who were just starting to break out in Hollywood. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence were already established stars but they were as big then as they are now, which each of them making around $20M per film. Bad Boys, believe it or not, became the highest grossing film for Sony Pictures in 1995 with $68M. After branching out and getting an Oscar nomination for his role in Ali and doing the sequel to Men in Black last year, Will Smith has gotten together with Martin Lawrence once again to reprise his role as Mike Lowrey in Bad Boys II. In an interview with blackfilm.com, Will Smith talks about the jokes and violence in this film thatís different from the original film.

WM: What are your thoughts after seeing this film with an audience and seeing them leave with jubilee?

WS: That was beautiful. Anytime that the crowd responds like that at a screening before the print is done that's always a pretty good sign. There's a real connection that I think a lot of it comes from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, that there's something about TV on a sitcom people really connect to the characters. It's almost like people feel like they've watched me grow up. They've watched me get married and then get divorced and then get re-married and then be happy and have kids and all of that and so people because of the television show there was a connection that was created and it's almost like we're friends more than watching a celebrity or watching someone that you don't know make a movie.

WM: When you look back at your career, was it an easier transition going from hip hop to acting?

WS: For me as far as being able to move between careers and between genres I guess the big thing is to always start at zero. Like when I came from rap music I wasn't trying to use the fact that I was a rapper to an actor. I started at zero as an actor. Even like with 'The Fresh Prince' I'm not rappin' on the show. They talked me into the opening credits but I'm not rappin' on the show. When I do this show I'm strictly an actor. Then when I moved into the movie world I didn't want to use the persona that I created in the television world. I wanted something completely different to start over at zero which is the reason to choose films like Six Degrees of Separation; try to do something that's completely different. I guess in a nutshell is complete respect for every genre. I'm not going in and trying to be a superstar in something that I'm doing for the first time. I humble myself and take it back to zero.

WM: What do you think about the foul language used in the film and do you think itís too excessive?

WS: Trust me it's exactly what my mom's gonna ask me. We're playing narcotics agents in Miami so that's a really dark, grungy world and I wanted to commit to it. Even on the set I was struggling a little bit with the foul language but I decided if you're gonna play this character you just gotta close your eyes and one hundred percent commit to it. It's definitely rated 'R'. The only way I could do justice to that is it had to be raw. I couldn't 'PG-13' it; it's rated 'R' meaning no one under 17 will be admitted without parents! Trey and I have already had that discussion and he's gonna have to wait on this one.

WM: What about using the ďNĒ word?

WS: I've never used it but as an actor I was having to tell myself to commit to the moment. That was really hard for me to not think about you know my mother's gonna see it and what are people gonna say. I had to commit to the reality of the scene and here's a 15 year old boy coming to take my niece out on her first date and we can not allow this boy to walk away from this door thinking that he is gonna have sex with this girl! The character that I went into was the drunk uncle with a pistol. The entire scene is adlibbed so when you cut to the little boy's face that's real fear. I just had to commit to the reality of the dialogue of that character. Every father wishes that he could do and say exactly that so I hope I get a reality pass on that one.

WM: Because of the graphic violence, do you think kids should see it?

WS: Hopefully kids aren't gonna see the movie if you're doing your job as a parent. Hopefully once someone is 17 or 18 years old they can tell the difference between fantasy and reality. Again make no mistake about it this is a hard 'R' and it's a dark comedy, and there are some things that are really dark in this film. I've never been one that felt that material in music and television can make someone do something. My choices in the past weren't based on not trying to influence kids to do or to not do things. It's really more of a personal decision because I didn't want my grandmother to be mad at me, but I think that the movie is clearly fantasy and hopefully the parents will make the right decision.

WM: So do you think that there some comedy in the violence?

WS: Comedy has always been such that the more people get hurt the funnier that it is. You take it back to the banana peel, when somebody slips and falls on a banana peel the closer they get to being hurt without dying the funnier it is. It's one of those weird human reactions to violence. It's definitely a dark comedy and we are pushing the envelope of that comedy, tragedy concept.

WM: You speak with such confidence. Were did that energy come from?

WS: From the time I was young as I can remember four or five years old my grandmother always had us reading bible verses in church. My introduction to spirituality was through my grandmother and she's always been a very calm, peaceful, centered woman that was something that I admired and aspired to. I've created my own concept that differed from my grandmother's but it's a concept of the basic elements of treating people nice and the metaphysics of karma; if you do something good then something good will happen to you. If you do something bad, probably something bad is gonna happen. There's certain rules of the universe that intuitively I always felt really in tune with.

WM: With so much positive energy, why havenít we seen you do more to spread the love like in commercial or joining certain awareness groups?

WS: It's kind of tricky for me. When you're in my position there's always people that want you to say things and do things and be a part of things. It's something that is difficult for me if it's not something that I truly am believing in and something that I truly follow. I struggle with that. For example on this film there was an animal activist group that were trying to protect the manatees, the waters off of Miami. It's not that I don't care; it's just that I can't stand up in front of people and say, 'protect the manatees' when I don't even barely know what a manatee is! It's something that I struggle with to try to find the balance of using the strength of whatever celebrity I've created to do the quote unquote right thing. It has to be really personal to me.

WM: Are you aware that most females loved the part when you ran with your shirt off in the film and that your sex symbol status went off the charts there? Some want to see if you do it again in this film?

WS: Michael Bay (the director) shot the scene in the first film with me running with my shirt open which made one scene change the entire future of my career. Up until that point nobody looked at me sexually. I mean I'm 6 foot 2, I'm 200 pounds now, but I've been 6 foot 2 since eighth grade when I was 6 foot 2 and 150 pounds so I've always been a little goofy. I sat in the back of a movie theater and I just heard this woman just go, 'Mmmm.' I was like, 'wow.' I was sitting a couple of rows behind her and I was like, 'wow she wants to do it with me!' That was a shock because I've always attracted women with comedy. If you could make a woman laugh the underwear tend to get looser. You can make 'em laugh you can get it. But then to be able to make 'em laugh and for them to think I'm sexy, I was like, 'it's about to be on.'

WM: Thanks.

WS: Thank you.