How Will presents Will
Have you read The Hollywood Reporter Actors Roundtable transcript that I mentioned this morning yet? Beyond the humour courtesy of Sam Jackson, there’s a lot of insight here, specifically from Will Smith, about Will Smith. It’s in his answer to being asked why he decided not to be in Django Unchained. He starts with this:
“It was about the creative direction of the story. To me, it’s as perfect a story as you could ever want: a guy that learns how to kill to retrieve his wife that has been taken as a slave. That idea is perfect. And it was just that Quentin [Tarantino] and I couldn’t see [eye to eye]. I wanted to make the greatest love story that African-Americans had ever seen…”
And then Sam Jackson interrupts him, again. Hilariously, again.
“They did that already. It’s Love Jones.”
That’s what makes Sam’s input in all of this even funnier. Because he’s not wrong. When he checks Will – and he keeps f-cking checking him – he’s never wrong.
But Will continues:
“(Quentin Tarantino and I) talked, we met, we sat for hours and hours about it. I wanted to make that movie so badly, but I felt the only way was, it had to be a love story, not a vengeance story. I don’t believe in violence as the reaction to violence. So when I’m looking at that, it’s like: “No, no, no. It has to be for love.” We can’t look at what happens in Paris [the terrorist attacks] and want to f— somebody up for that. Violence begets violence. So I just couldn’t connect to violence being the answer. Love had to be the answer.”
Filmmaking, like all forms of art, is storytelling. In stories, there is never The Answer. There are all kinds of answers. Django presented one answer. There are other answers. Just like there are other parts. It’s what actors do. Every part is an answer. And the effective actor can play several different parts and answers. What Will is saying here though? It’s not just about this particular story. It’s about HIS specific story. Which is that his vision for his story is limited to one answer, and that answer then, for him, has to be The Answer. It’s the same for Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise only has one vision for Tom Cruise. Neither one seems to want to stray from that. Or, maybe, they’re afraid to stray from them. Because… what would removing those creative limitations reveal about themselves?
Actors talk all the time about being fearless. Fearless, in Will and Tom’s cases, amounts to physical fearlessness. They’ll jump off planes. They’ll push their bodies. But when was the last time either showed you any emotional vulnerability in their work? Years.
Attached – Will and Jada at a screening for Concussion last night.
Todd Williamson/ JB Lacroix/ Getty Images