Will Smith: “Fear is a product of our imagination“Suicide Squad star Will Smith talks to us about the next phase in his career, tests of courage and the perils of being a father.
THE RED BULLETIN: You became a superstar through family-friendly action films and comedies. You’re now playing an antihero in the dark, politically incorrect superhero film Suicide Squad…
WILL SMITH: I know that this is a problem for a lot of my fans. If you grow up with a show or a film it becomes a piece of your life, and so does the actor. I have been blessed and lucky to have been in pieces that have marked parts of people’s lives. It can be difficult for them to see me go somewhere else and do something different. They go: ‘no, no, no, I want that. That relationship was great – why are you changing?’ It’s an absolute blessing, but it’s a bit of a curse as well.
What has driven you to make this change in direction?
I am 47, and I think I am becoming a better actor with age. I think the next five years in my career are going to be very important. I can deliver better things now as an actor and a producer than I have ever been able to. I am feeling the power of cinema more than ever. When you make a movie and you put images and music and ideas together, they become seeds inside people’s imagination. I am definitely looking forward to creating on a deeper and more responsible level in the future.
Are you not scared of losing your superstar status?
Not really. What I am terrified of, is being terrified of something. The thought of being scared of something makes me physically sick. If I am scared of something, then I have to deal with it today, right now. Fear is actually a product of our imagination, because it causes us to suffer things that don’t exist right now, and may not ever exist; yet we torture ourselves with the fear of what it is.
- FULL NAME: Willard Carroll Smith, Jr.
- BORN: September 25, 1968 (age 47) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
- SPOUSE: Jada Pinkett
- CHILDREN: 3
- FAMOUS FOR: Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Men in Black, Bad Boys, Ali, Independence Day
- UPCOMING ROLES: Suicide Squad, Collateral Beauty, Bad Boys 3 and 4, The American Can
- DID YOU KNOW: Won a Grammy Award for the song “Summertime” during his rap career
And you’re currently dealing with your fear by playing these roles?
Not just that. There have also been times where I have put myself in real physical danger.
There is a café on the coast of Jamaica where they have a cliff that you can jump off. I can’t swim though. I grew up in Philadelphia, and there wasn’t a lot of swimming pools in the inner cities in Philly!
So we were sitting there eating, and people kept jumping off the cliff, and it was a long way down into the water! I was absolutely terrified at the thought of doing it and I just hated being scared so badly. There was this Jamaican guy there who was a really great swimmer and I said, ‘look man, I need you to jump off, right, and then swim to the side. I’m going to jump off and then I need you to just swim me back.’ So he jumped off and he waited for me to get down to the bottom and I stood there and I was like: ‘this is really dumb’. But I jumped off and he came and got me and swam me back to the side. That’s how I live with fear. The moral of the story is: just do it. It’s never as bad in the middle as it is in your mind.
You have two children who are also active in show business. Have you taught them the same lesson?
Freedom is a big part of our parenting style. We want them to understand that this is their life and we are just helping them along the way by giving them the information they need. Once they have that information, they can make whatever decision they want to make with it. Like reminding them about the time they didn’t get enough sleep and got detention for falling asleep at school. That’s always a good motivator to help them make the right choice and go to bed earlier!
And if your children make the wrong decisions?
It is so painful! But there is nothing that is more liberating as a parent than when your kids prove you wrong. Our daughter Willow decided that she didn’t want to be famous because it is not the life she wants. She made the smash hit “Whip My Hair“ and she was in the middle of her Justin Bieber tour when she decided it wasn’t the life for her. I was shocked at first but then I realised I have to let her make her own decisions. As a parent it was deeply fulfilling that I got out of her way and let her do it the way she wanted to do it. We’re a lot closer for it as well.