Will Smith really is our last movie star.
Sure, there are people who audiences enjoy watching, actors who are a draw for one crowd or another, but that's not a movie star. A movie star is someone who audiences will go see in anything, someone whose personal charisma is so strong, so recognizable, that they sell tickets simply by being named on a poster. Tom Cruise probably counts, but he's taken some big hits in the last few years, and until we see how "Knight and Day" opens, I'm not sure I can say he's still the movie star he once was.
Will Smith, though? There's no one bigger. And Sony has got to be hoping that's as true today as it's been in the past, because it looks like he's the focus of two megamovies that the studio hopes to greenlight in the very near future.
They've got to be praying that all the stars align for "Men In Black 3-D," which may reunite Smith with Tommy Lee Jones and director Barry Sonnenfeld. It sounds like if they do it, they're going to have to do it fast, since they need a movie for Summer 2011. Roger Friedman is reporting that Sonnenfeld says all the deals are done and both Smith and Jones are onboard for this new installment in the SF/comedy franchise. Rumors have been brewing for a while now about this film, including one that Sacha Baron Cohen and Jemaine Clement are competing for a featured role in the film. Either one would be a nice catch for Sonnenfeld. Just adding 3D isn't enough to make me think this is a film worth seeing, but who am I kidding? This thing will be omnipresent if it does get made, unavoidable. And I have a feeling if it's happening, it'll happen very very soon.
And after that? Well, Martin Lawrence seems to think Michael Bay is going to be stepping up to direct "Bad Boys 3," with both Lawrence and Smith returning. I know lots of critics who love to sneer at the "Bad Boys" films, but the second one is a huge, sinister, mean-spirited hoot, and one of the most over-the-top action films I've ever seen. I love it. It is the closest thing I have to a full-blown guilty pleasure, only it's so well-built as pure kinetic thrill that I have trouble feeling guilty about it. If both Lawrence and Smith are back and it really is Michael Bay directing again, then this is a slamdunk. It'll be a nice release for Bay, who has been working in the PG-13 realm for his last few "Transformers " films, and I'll bet he's got a major itch to cut loose. This is the perfect way to do it, too.
In both cases, there's a lot of hedging built into the stories, so if they don't come together, Friedman and MTV can claim that they never said it was a sure thing. Whatever the final case, though, I'll bet Smith is considering that next film long and hard, determined to get everything just right
After all, he's not a movie star by accident.
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