Nominated for five Golden Globe Awards, two Academy Awards, and winner of four Grammy Awards, our highlighted icon on this day in Black History Month is the irrepressible, irresistible "Fresh Prince" Will Smith.
How You Know Him
He's the star of last year's monster comeback "Bad Boys for Life," and two other "Bad Boys" movies. He was the voice of one half of the "Spies in Disguise," the other half voiced by "Spider-Man" star Tom Holland. He headlined the Netflix hit "Bright." You know him from "Suicide Squad," the "Men in Black" trilogy, "Hancock," "I Am Legend," "Hitch," "Focus," "Enemy of the State" and "Independence Day."
On the small screen, he's known for his six seasons playing "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air." And as the Fresh Prince in the rap duo DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, and a solo music career, he's had hit album after hit album, hit song after hit song, including "Parents Just Don't Understand," "Summertime," "Men in Black," "Gettin' Jiggy wit It," "Wild Wild West" and countless other tunes.
He's the only actor in history to have starred in 8 consecutive films that made over $100 million at the domestic box office, and 11 consecutive films that made over $150 million at the international box office. His films have cumulatively brought in more than $4 billion.
He's Big Willie Style all the way.
Their Life So Far
Smith grew up in Philadelphia and met his musical partner Jeffrey "DJ Jazzy Jeff" Townes as a teenager. Smith was accepted into a summer pre-engineering program at MIT during his high school years, but he decided not to attend, and upon graduating, he chose music instead of college.
The rap duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince experienced immediate success with songs like "Girls Ain't Nothing but Trouble," and Smith became well-known for his light-hearted, clever raps that were fairly PG-rated and featured no profanity. Even early on, Smith was a charming, charismatic, audience-friendly icon with broad appeal.
By 1990, Smith decided to supplement his income with an offer to star on a tv series for NBC called "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" - a fish out of water story with the actor playing a fictionalized version of himself, a West Philly teen uprooted and landing in Beverly Hills with his rich relatives. The show was another huge success, and was a steppingstone to his big screen stardom.
A small role in "Where the Day Takes You," a well-reviewed part in the indie "Six Degrees of Separation" and another role in Whoopi Goldberg's "Made in America" led to a starring role in Michael Bay's 1995 action hit "Bad Boys."
Smith's true breakout moment, though, as a tentpole movie star came with 1996's alien invasion blockbuster "Independence Day." There's been no looking back since then, with every Will Smith movie becoming a cinematic event, and the star continuing his musical roll with four smash albums, and multiple Grammys. He was also nominated for two Oscars for Best Actor for playing Muhammad Ali in Michael Mann's "Ali," and struggling single father Chris Gardner in "The Pursuit of Happyness."
Offscreen, Smith has been married to actress Jada Pinkett Smith since 1997, and he's the father of three kids, son Trey from a previous marriage, and his two kids with Jada, actors Jaden and Willow.
The Movie to Watch
We're particularly fond of Smith's most recent hit, and the third in the series, "Bad Boys for Life." It's the best of the trio, and the first not directed by Michael Bay. New directors Adil & Bilall do a fabulous job of keeping the action pedal to the metal while letting Smith and his co-lead Martin Lawrence do what they do best – bicker, banter and entertain us in a way that only the best and beloved movie stars can. Sometimes, all you need is a first-class entertainment with amazing thrills and amazing people. That's exactly what Will Smith, and Martin Lawrence, deliver.
What's Up Next
Will Smith is currently filming "King Richard," which will feature him as Richard Williams, father and coach to tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams. Look for it in theaters and on HBO Max on November 19, 2021.
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Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.