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There are only a few actors who can charm any room they walk into. Having worked in the industry for years, I've seen it first hand. You may dislike their movie, performance or find their personal life distasteful, but somehow they have a natural charisma that has helped turn them survive the ups and downs of superstardom. Currently, that list includes names such as, yes, John Travolta, George Clooney, Sandra Bullock, Robert Downey, Jr., Reese Witherspoon, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Among those eight actors only one has found themselves on the cinematic sidelines for the past three years. That changes today when Will Smith returns to the big screen in "Men in Black 3."
Shockingly, Smith's last feature was 2008's "Seven Pounds." The drams is best known for ending an amazing string of eight straight $100 million plus grossing releases. Why he took three years to pick another project is still unclear, but he'll easily get back in the winner's column after "Men in Black 3" finds at least $80 million just this weekend. In his downtime, Smith put his Midas touch on his kids' efforts. Son Jaden Smith's remake of "The Karate Kid" was a global blockbuster and daughter Willow Smith has her name etched in pop culture history for 2010's one hit wonder "Whip My Hair" which peaked at no. 11 on the Billboard singles chart. Still, with Smith attaching himself to so many projects after "Pounds" and then not moving forward with any of them, you have to wonder what his mindset would be as he began his worldwide publicity tour to open "MIB3."
First, Smith put on some humble charm I haven't seen in quite sometime. The 43-year-old graciously got out of his chair and met every reporter - including myself - at the door of the interview room to shake their hand. You may think that's just being polite, but that's not how normal video interviews work. And, as you can tell in our interview embedded above, Smith was more than self-deprecating about his long break. And, the fact this is the first "Men in Black" in a decade. And, the fact he didn't "love" "Men in Black 2."
"I wanted to make a kid friendly movie. Willow is 11 and Jaden is 13. My oldest is 19, but he wanted me to make 'Bad Boys'" Smith says laughing. "I've been really in a family mindset. And coming off 'Seven Pounds' I wanted to be somewhere that was fun. And with Barry Sonnenfeld and Tommy Lee Jones we have fun. I wanted to make a movie I would enjoy the process."
A constant theme you'll hear from critics and moviegoers is how remarkable co-star Josh Brolin is playing Tommy Lee Jones' Agent K in the film's time traveling sequences. It was a performance the rest of the cast and crew immediately realized was going to be something special.
"It was genius. The first day he steps on the set and he does his thing he gets a standing ovation," Smith recalls. "The real testament is that people forget. Five minutes into his performance you're going along. It's Agent K. You believe it totally and absolutely. If Agent K was a real character, Josh would get nominated."
Lastly, like his popular peers, Smith is known for his honesty when speaking to the press. Currently, he's working on "After Earth," the new Sci-Fi film from director M. Night Shyamalan. A man who stands next to Steven Spielberg, James Cameron and Christopher Nolan in demanding absolute secrecy on his projects.
"Night is great. It's funny because part of his secrecy is he's so nervous that he wants everything to be perfect. He doesn't want them to see anything until it's exactly how he wants it to be," Smith explains. "It's fun and I'll be talking too much anyways."
You've been warned Night. If Smith reaches Comic-Con this summer to promote "Earth"? Who knows what he'll let out.
"Men in Black 3" is now playing nationwide.