“We ride together. We die together. Bad boys for life.” – Mike Lowrey
No matter what mood you’re in, there’s a Will Smith movie for it. With a film career that’s spanned over 25 years, Smith has conquered nearly every genre, broken box office records and dominated a single holiday weekend for over a decade. And even if you’re not the biggest fan of his movies, you have to respect the fact that he writes rap songs specifically for them. Read on for 45 fresh facts about the fresh prince himself.
45. Skwad Goals
The cast of Suicide Squad decided to get matching tattoos that said “Skwad” to commemorate their time working together on the movie. And to make it even more special, they gave each other the tattoos themselves and posted pictures of them doing it on Twitter. Smith gave Joel Kinnaman his tattoo, and according to Kinnaman, Smith shouldn’t quit his day job.
44. A Dead Ringer
Smith trained with Navy SEALS and Army Rangers to prepare for his role as the marksman Deadshot in Suicide Squad. He’s apparently not far off from the character either, as his accuracy was on point throughout the training—there’s even footage online to prove it.
43. Never Been Kissed
Smith refused to kiss Anthony Michael Hall in Six Degrees of Separation, and rather than use a double, the camera just cuts to the back of Smith’s head before contact and he simulates a kiss. Years later, Smith admitted he regrets not going through with it and blames the decision on his immaturity at the time.
42. I Like You, But I’m Not in Love With You
Smith’s refusal to show affection towards other men—even in a heterosexual way—continued on the set of Bay Boys. Director Michael Bay revealed that Smith refused to say the line, “I love you,” to his partner Marcus at the end of the movie. Bay and Smith fought for hours about it until Bay finally gave up and told Smith to say whatever he wanted. Shortly after though, Bay managed to get through to him and he ended up saying the line.
41. More Jokes
Smith and Martin Lawrence were encouraged by Bay to improvise while shooting Bad Boys, as he wanted the comedians to have free range to do what they do best, and add some humor to the action flick.
40. I’ll Do It Myself
Bay wanted to end Bad Boys in typical Bay fashion, meaning with a lot of fast paced action and explosions. However, he had already reached his budget and the studio refused to give him any more money, so he spent $25,000 of his own money to shoot the final scene.
39. Third Times the Charm
Smith was essentially the third choice to star in Bad Boys, as Columbia Pictures offered the role of Sergeant Mike Lowrey to Arsenio Hall after they acquired the rights to the film. It was only after Hall turned it down that the studio decided to go with Smith.
38. Whatcha Gonna Do?
After 15 years, and a lot of on-again, off-again reports, it appears that we’re finally getting a third Bad Boys film! Titled Bad Boys for Life, the movie will reunite Smith and Lawrence, but not director Bay, as the studio is in talks to hire directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah. They better come to an agreement soon though, if they want to make the August production date!
37. Seeing the Sausage Get Made
After filming Concussion, Smith said in an interview that he struggled to watch football games after, only catching highlights and never an entire game. Except for, maybe, the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl win, seeing as he did grow up in Philly and he’s an enormous fan.
36. Scared Straight
Smith held a free screening of Concussion for the NFL players union, and got a new perspective on the film. Because it deals with the brain disease CTE, which is a very real concern for the athletes, several NFL players told Smith that, to them, it was like watching a horror movie.
35. Based on a True Story
There are people who believe that the Men in Black actually exist, and this belief goes back to even before the movies or the comic books were released. People in the 1940s and 50s told stories about strange encounters they had with men in black suits, and several books were written about them.
34. Winning Streak
Smith had a string of movies from 2002 to 2008 that all grossed over $100 million at the box office, eight in a row to be exact. The streak would start with Men in Black II and go all the way to Hancock, until it was snapped with the release of Seven Pounds.
33. Step by Step
After going from rapper to television star, Smith made the ultimate leap to the big screen in 1992 when he played a disabled man—Manny—in the film Where the Day Takes You.
32. Father Son Bonding
Smith and his son—Jaden Smith—have played father and son together on screen in two separate movies—The Pursuit of Happyness and After Earth. One film earned Smith an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, while the other netted him a Golden Raspberry win for Worst Supporting Actor. If you’ve seen both films, it’s pretty obvious which is for which.
31. Any Press Is Good Press
After Earth may have been a bomb at the box office and panned by critics and audiences alike, but at least Smith and his son can bask in the fact that they both won awards for lead and supporting actor—respectively—and on screen duo. Sure, they won for Worst Actor, Worst Supporting Actor and Worst On Screen Duo, but still!
30. Ultimate Approval
Smith portrayed boxing legend Muhammad Ali in the 2001 film Ali, which earned him his first Oscar nomination, and perhaps more importantly, approval from the legend himself. After seeing the movie, Smith said Ali simply looked over at him and nodded his head in approval. You can bet I’d take a nod from The Greatest any day of the week.
29. The Real Deal
In order to make sure he got everything perfect for his portrayal of the Ali, from his fighting style to his mannerisms, Smith spent roughly two years training. He even bulked up by 35 pounds.
28. Unwilling at First
Smith was approached for years to play Ali in a biopic, but continuously turned it down because he didn’t think he was the right man for the job and was terrified he would screw it up. It took Ali, Ali’s family members, and a thorough, well laid out plan for the role from director Michael Mann to convince Smith to accept.
27. The Other One
Independence Day was advertised as ID4 during its run because Fox didn’t actually own the rights to the title, Warner Bros did. They beat Fox to the punch and released a film in 1983 by the same name, but the film’s creators were dead set on using the title for their movie too. Eventually, Fox gained the rights and the movie kept the name.
26. Blending Careers
Both of the songs Smith wrote for Wild, Wild West and Men in Black were nominated for Best Rap Solo performance at the Grammys, with the title track from Men in Black winning.
25. Family Bonding
Smith has worked with all three of his kids on screen in some capacity. His oldest, Trey, was in the music video for “Just the Two of Us,” his daughter, Willow, played his daughter in I Am Legend, and we’ve already mentioned his films with son Jaden. I wonder if the other two are jealous that Jaden got more than one role with pops?
24. Live Free or Die Hard
The director’s cut of I Am Legend has a slightly happier, but perhaps more troubling, ending. In the alternate ending, a male zombie manages to communicate that he only wants the female zombie, upon whom Smith’s character was experimenting, back. Smith returns her to him in a tense exchange, then he looks over the photos of all of the other zombies that he’s experimented on, realizing what he’s done. He survives in this version, but he’s forced to live with the terrible things he’s committed against creatures that aren’t as mindless as we were led to believe.
23. Can I Keep Her, Please?
Smith and his canine co-star, Abbey, got along so well during the filming of I Am Legend that he tried to adopt her, but her trainer didn’t want to give her up. I’m cool with it, because real or not I’ll NEVER forgive Will for killing that pooch in the movie, even if he needed to.
22. Slip of the Tongue
While promoting I Am Legend in Japan, Smith accidentally gave away the ending to reporters. The reporters were asked to keep it to themselves until the release of the film, and to their credit, they actually did.
21. Bigger Fish to Fry
Since the release of Wild, Wild West, Smith has admitted that he took the role not because he believed in the film or liked the script, but because he wanted to be the biggest movie star in the world and saw doing this film as a way to make that happen. Ironically, it almost ruined his career.
20. It’s Not All Bad
Wild, Wild West was based on a television show of the same name that aired in the 1960s and even spawned two TV movies with the same cast. The biggest difference? Critics and audiences loved the original show.
19. Hefty Price Tag
Bright is the most expensive film Netflix has released to date, at a whopping $90 million budget. However, as we speak there’s a Martin Scorsese film in production for Netflix with a budget of around $140 million and counting, so Bright won’t be at the top for much longer.
18. Will Meet Again
Unbeknownst to most, Smith and Eva Mendes actually worked together before filming Hitch, but in a much smaller capacity. Mendes made an appearance in the music video for Smith’s song “Miami”—she was in a car driving down the highway. If you didn’t know that, don’t worry, neither did Smith when Mendes mentioned it to him on the set of Hitch.
17. I’m a Big Fan
Kevin James can thank Smith for landing him the role in Hitch, as he was the one to recommend James, having been a big fan of his TV show King of Queens.
16. Dodged a Bullet
Some people believe that Smith’s biggest career mistake was turning down the role of Neo in The Matrix to film Wild, Wild West instead. However, according to Smith, it was a smart move on his part: He has said that he didn’t understand the script and realized after seeing Keanu Reeves’ performance that he would’ve misinterpreted the role and screwed it up. And be serious, can you see Smith as Neo? I can’t.
15. Box Office
Smith has appeared in 25 movies that have grossed a combined $3.205 billion domestically—an average of $128 million per film—and over $7 billion worldwide. His highest grossing domestic movie is, believe it or not, the super villain team up Suicide Squad, at $325 million.
14. Mr. Fourth of July
Over a span of 12 years, starting with Independence Day in 1996 and ending with Hancock in 2008, Smith had five movies that opened at number one on the Fourth of July weekend, making him a bonafide movie star and conqueror of the holiday.
13. Fresh Prince of the Lantern
Disney is currently remaking many of their classic animated movies into live-action, with The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast being released so far. Next up is Aladdin, and Smith has been given the tall task of having to follow Robin Williams’ iconic turn as the Genie. I wonder if they’re just going to paint him blue... probably not.
12. Shared Universe
It’s hard to believe that there would be any similarities between Men in Black and I Am Legend, considering one is a comedy set in a world with aliens, and the other is a thriller about a post-apocalyptic world with vampire-like creatures. Yet, one thing does actually pop up in both films—a bridge. The Pershing Square Bridge to be exact, as Smith jumps from it in Men in Black and is chased away from it by vampire dogs in I Am Legend.
11. Debate Team
Men in Black once had a completely different ending than the one you might have seen. The original ending saw Agent J and the alien Bug engage in a heated, but funny debate about existence. Sonnenfeld felt like it needed more action, and as a result we got to see Agent K get eaten instead. This more exciting ending set the studio back an additional $4.5 million to film. Worth it? I’ll let you decide… (It was).
10. What’s That Smell?
When Smith’s character in Independence Day asks what that smell is, the line was completely improvised: Smith was reacting to the actual smell coming from the location they were filming at. So, I guess it wasn’t really an improvisation as much as it was just a legitimate question. Either way, it made the final cut.
9. Slow Down
Smith reportedly crashed his motorcycle while filming a scene for I, Robot, but luckily he didn’t sustain any serious injuries. And if you look closely at that particular scene in the movie, you can see the motorcycle begin to lose control before the action cuts away.
8. Smooth Sailings
Reshoots weren’t needed for I, Robot, which is considered a rarity for a film of its caliber and budget. I’m sure a few scenes could have benefitted from them—re: the fact above—but I guess why bother when you can save money?
7. It Just Came to Me
Smith improvised the line in Men in Black II about his car coming with a fake black driver that kept getting pulled over. Not only did the producers enjoy it so much that they left it in the movie, they put it in the trailer as well. Sonnenfeld wasn’t happy with this decision though, as he thought it watered down the joke by the time the movie was released in theatres. Thank you Barry, that’s what I’ve been saying for years! Stop spoiling jokes in trailers!
6. Stay Away From the Deep End
Margot Robbie and her mother taught Smith how to swim while they were filming Focus. I don’t know what’s more surprising, the lesson or the fact that Smith didn’t know how to swim.
5. Winner by Association
Although Smith has never won an Academy Award himself, his movie Men in Black took home the Oscar for Best Makeup in 1998, and was also nominated for Best Art Direction and Best Music.
4. Punch to the Gut
A few years after its release, Smith didn’t mince words when he called the movie After Earth the “most painful failure” of his career. Not only was it hated by the masses and seen as a rare box office bomb for Smith, it was more personal because his son Jaden’s involvement was his idea.
3. Back to the Future
Smith got a bit ahead of himself while filming Men in Black II, as he was already thinking of ideas to complete the trilogy. Smith’s idea for the third film saw Agent K missing at the start of the movie and Agent J having to go to the past to find out what happened. If it sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the exact plot they ended up using for Men in Black 3.
2. Mildly Mean Boys
Bad Boys was originally meant to star Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey, but after the rights to the film went from Disney to Columbia, they decided to switch the ethnicity of the leads from white to black, and go with Lawrence, but not Smith. They initially had someone else in mind.
1. I Owe You a Favor
If it were up to Steven Spielberg, the producer of Men in Black, then Chris O’Donnell would’ve played Agent J in the movie. However, director Barry Sonnenfeld really wanted Smith in the role, so he pulled something pretty sneaky to get his way: Spielberg told him to take O’Donnell out to dinner to convince him to take the role. Instead, Sonnenfeld said he was a bad director and the movie would be career suicide. O’Donnell turned down the role and it went to Smith.