Let me get this kiss and slap situation out the way first. The story broke in Cannes on Friday evening after I’d wrapped the column. All of us received the alert on our phones at the same time:
BREAKING NEWS: WILL SMITH SLAPS REPORTER FOR TRYING TO KISS HIM!!!!!!!!
Needless to say, we all thought we’d be able to hear it, clearly, like open hand and palm on skin, on the audio while we were streaming the video. Then when we watched it, the all caps from the headline seemed kind of unnecessary.
Yes, a dude moved to kiss Will on the mouth. Yes, it made Will uncomfortable. But the actual contact was less than what they give each other in a locker room, or the court, even with a teammate - hey man, wake up, let’s DO this, get your head in the game!
Frankly I’m not sure his reaction isn’t warranted. And it has nothing to do with homophobia. I’ve been in that reporter’s position many, many times. Sometimes there’s no reason to shake hands, let alone move in for a hug. Asking for an iPhone photo to me is inappropriate, let alone a double kiss greeting from a stranger - it’s totally offside. And gross. From a man or a woman, it’s gross.
Did Will lose it? I mean, I guess it’s your own interpretation of what constitutes losing one’s cool. Some may feel he shouldn’t have pushed the man away from him and followed that up with the move to the face. That he should have broken away and ignored it. I’m not sure I expect that from Will Smith. I expect Will Smith not to complain about being papped. I expect Will Smith to show up on time. I expect Will Smith not to sh-t on the work of others. I expect Will Smith to respect the system. I expect Will Smith to play the game even when he’s asked questions he doesn’t want to answer. Do I expect Will Smith, or any celebrity, when confronted by a physically aggressive random, not to react the way he did? It’s a level of zen that probably only the Dalai Lama could manage.
If we’re talking sh-t vs diarrhoea, I might actually rather Will gently giving it to the man in his face instead of standing there delivering some kind of sanctimonious lecture. And you will note, he continued on with the press line without punishing anyone else who came after. I’d say that’s actually pretty cool.
Will Smith on Graham Norton. Have you seen the video?
Look at how HARD he’s smiling. Look at how HARD he’s nodding. It’s eagerness of Tom Cruise and Taylor Lautner with the Big Willy treatment. I’ve watched Will in interviews for years. He’s never, ever Johnny Depp. But he’s his own chill at the same time - confident, comfortable, and not selling it with so much effort.
It’s the palpable EFFORT on this tour for Men In Black 3, the smell of which can’t be denied; it smells Extra, and it smells very Try. The Avengers is only making it worse. Even Will Smith has to jump up and down, and box, and put his leg behind his back and throw his fingers in the air. Even Will Smith. Fame is changing so quickly. Looking ahead to tomorrow, I’m trying to imagine Brad Pitt in that position. So far I can’t. And he will hold out as long as he can. He will be the last holdout if he can.