Will Smith has revealed what he thinks his career low point is. No, it’s not After Earth. It’s not even The Legend of Bagger Vance. According to Will, his worst movie is Wild Wild West. How dare he. While at a Cannes Lions event, THR reports that Will said Wild Wild West signified a career low because he put being a global movie star ahead of doing great films.
“I found myself promoting something because I wanted to win versus promoting something because I believed in it.”
When Wild Wild West came out in 1999, Will was just coming off three hits, Independence Day, Men in Black and Enemy of The State. He was untouchable. He was one of the biggest movie stars in the world. He also had a successful music career. In my house in 1999, Will Smith was basically a god. I saw Wild Wild West in theatres on opening day. My big brother Sam and I LOVED Will Smith. Obsessively. Most of Sam’s definitive personality traits came from emulating Will on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I still know every single lyric of the entire Big Willy Style album. Will blames “smoke and mirrors” marketing for the success of Wild Wild West. He’s right. Sam and I would have seen anything Will did at that point in his career. At the time, being a real Movie Star meant something at the box office. Will Smith promoted the sh-t out of a corny AF action western comedy and it made $222 million worldwide at the box office. But Will says gone are the days of tricking people into seeing bad movies.
“Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s you had a piece of crap movie, you put a trailer with a lot of explosions and it was Wednesday before people knew your movie was sh-t... But now what happens is 10 minutes into the movie, people are tweeting ‘This is sh-t, go see Vin Diesel.’”
While I love the Fast and the Furious franchise (seriously), I don’t know if I would hold Vin Diesel up as the poster child of a good movie. Lainey has written multiple times about how the role of the movie star has changed over the years. Tom Cruise still abides by the old philosophy. He is a salesman. He will smile, dance and try to charm you into seeing his films. He’ll go to 89 countries in 8 hours. He is Tom Cruise. That should be enough for us to flock to see Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, the sequel no one asked for. As Will puts it, he sees himself as a “marketer” and his product is his movies. Aside from Tom, no one sells himself or a film like Will Smith. When he was promoting Wild Wild West, the film he didn’t even believe in, he released a song and music video of the same name. He rode into the MTV Movie Awards on a freaking horse wearing a 3-piece purple suit and a matching purple cowboy hat to perform the song. If you haven’t seen this performance already, please take a moment to enjoy pure bliss. I didn’t know how much I missed Sisqo until right now.
We do not see this anymore. We were at Peak Big Willy. It was the Willennium. Find me a movie star who could pull this off now. Without irony. With the straight face Will pulls before Stevie Wonder comes out of nowhere. The only two people that I can think who could even attempt something like this are Kevin Hart or Dwayne The Rock Johnson and I still don’t think they would get away with it.
Will says the answer is to stop the gimmicks and just make good movies. Wild Wild West is not a good movie. It’s probably one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. It is Will Smith’s Gigli. No, that’s After Earth. OK, it’s Will Smith’s Glitter. But it did give us one of the most hilarious music videos of all time and the above Movie Awards performance that I will watch at least 6 more times today. Will shouldn’t be so hard on himself.
Attached - Will at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity yesterday.