Five minutes after assaulting comedian Chris Rock in front of millions of viewers, Will Smith was going upstairs to collect his Oscar for Best Actor for Williams method between sobs. Everyone expected an apology, but instead a justification was heard that based his actions on defending his family. “It’s not about winning an award for me. It is about being able to enlighten all the people”, he said at the beginning of his speech to go on to say that he felt overwhelmed by what God calls him to do in this world: “In my life I am asked to love people, to protect the people and let it be a river for my people”.
Will Smith smashes Oscar night with a smack
A speech that shocked many but that, however, is only the materialization in words of the intentions that the actor has had through his films. Since his inception, his career has been based on two interrelated concepts, family and the American dream. Will Smith feels like a leader who must spread a message, the message that in the US if you make an effort you can have everything you want. That is to say: economic success and a family that provides serenity. He has always said it in his interviews, he is the reflection that the American dream exists. It does not matter to him that 90% of his compatriots have not achieved it, for him, surely, it will be because they have not tried hard enough or because God did not have that plan marked out for that person.
Says one of your reference books, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, which he has even been about to produce as a film on several occasions. “God wrote in the world the path that each man must follow”, says Coelho in his pages. He also that “when you want something very strongly, the universe conspires for you to make your wish come true.” Under those mantras the actor has built his career from the first moment: effort, family and self-improvement. If the US encyclopedias had to put a photo to define the ‘American dream’, they would put Will Smith’s.
His first success came in the form of a series, with The prince of Bel Air, in which he played a character with his own name who escaped from a seedy neighborhood in Philadelphia to go live with his rich uncles. There is no neighborhood or class pride in Smith, but a desire to have what white people have: money and social position. The series sold a Cinderella tale for the black community, they could live as well as the rest. Uncle Phil and Aunt Vivian had a mansion that looked like the White House, but they were humble and good people. His propaganda work had begun.
In an analysis of mic.com about the series, they talk about the prototype of toxic masculinity that Will Smith already represented, the typical flirt who reoffends and reoffends until he has a yes for an answer. He doesn’t understand no. He stands in the way of the girls, changing places in class to be next to him. Two episodes also stand out in which it is very clear what kind of ‘black’ he wants to be. In season 1 episode 4, Uncle Phil recounts his origins on a farm and feels embarrassed. There is no class pride and he stresses how the American dream has allowed him to have what he has now. In the 20 of season 2, Marge appears, an old companion of Uncle Phil with whom he had fought for the rights of blacks in the 60s. She appears fleeing from the police, since she continues with her activism and throws them out in the face of having become gentrified, to which Phil, in a speech full of epic, replies that he now fights “the right way” after becoming a “lawyer”. He fights her from within the system, never challenging it.
The series made him a star, and his jump to the cinema was inevitable. Since then his career has had two aspects, that of the blockbusters with which he became a mass idol and the ‘serious’ films with which he is seeking the Oscar and also showing his way of understanding life based on faith, family and the American dream. Already with his blockbusters he always adopts the role of savior. He is the superhero Hancock, who starts out irreverent and redeems himself for love; he is the good-hearted ‘scoundrel’ leader who saves the world in men in black or I robot.
My father was violent, but he was also at every game, play and recital. He was an alcoholic, but he was sober at every one of my movie premieres.
The second facet of his career begins in 2001, when Michael Mann trusts him to play Muhammed Ali. An example of overcoming, that he faces the system but ends up becoming, after many setbacks, the greatest boxer in history. He gets his first Oscar nomination and his obsession with winning the award begins. An obsession that solidifies in various ‘serious’ projects. They are also the ones with whom he is most involved and in which he most openly shows his vision of life.
There it is framed Looking for happiness, directed by Gabriele Muccino and for which he was nominated for an Oscar again in 2007. Smith is the producer and promoter of this story —based on a true story— in which he gives life to a father who, after sleeping on the streets with his son becomes a successful broker. It is the absolute praise of the American dream, of ‘if you work hard you will get it’ and of money as the ultimate goal. “Don’t let anyone say that you are incapable of doing something, not even me. If you have a dream you must keep it. If you want something, go out and get it, period. People who can’t achieve their dreams often tell others that they won’t achieve theirs either, ”he tells his son in fiction, a character played by his son in reality, Jaden Smith.
For years he considered this his best role, and perhaps for this reason he repeats with Muccino in Seven souls, which was a turning point for him: “After this film I had an epiphany of everything I wanted to be and everything I wanted to do, that idea of living giving myself to humanity instead of living at the service of the commercial success of my films”. A film that in promotional interviews also highlighted the importance of God. “As scary as it is, as bad as life is, just know that there is someone in a high place who is on your side,” he said in Collider.
He tried to merge his two aspects in After Earth, blockbuster in which many saw a defense of scientology, the belief popularized among film professionals by Tom Cruise and that Smith has openly defended. “I believe in many of the ideas of Scientology, they are brilliant and revolutionary and not religious,” said the actor, who gave $122,500 that year to different associations that belong directly to Scientology, whose members believe in the existence of Xenu, alien dictator of the Galactic Confederation, which 75 million years ago brought billions of people to Earth and threw them into a volcano. After killing them all with hydrogen bombs, their souls gathered and stuck to the bodies of living people.
box office fiasco After Earth and criticism for his defense of Scientology make Smith go through a stage where he does not succeed at the box office or with his personal projects, in which he is part of The truth hurts, biopic neuropathologist Bennet Omalu, who discovered post-concussion syndrome, which caused so much damage to numerous football players, even causing the suicide of many NFL stars. With that film he visited Madrid and did not stop praising the American dream and how he is proof that it exists and works. According to Smith, Omalu, the real person on whom his character is based, told him that as a child he was told that “America was the place where God sent his favorite people.”
“I am the American dream, I am the best example of someone who from very low reaches the top. I am the example of a career that can only take place in the United States, and I am proud of this journey. That’s why it offends me when an American soils that American dream, I take it personally. And since I am the example, I try to make the rest not forget where we come from and where we should go”, he told El País.
You all define the American dream. They represent the best of what we all hope this world and this country can be.
A message that connects directly with that of The Williams Method. In the hands of Will Smith, promoter of the project, Richard Williams —father of tennis players Venus and Serena— is a man of integrity, who defends his family and who confirms that anything is possible in the US, even turning two black neighborhood girls into two sports superstars. He does not criticize the methods, the obsession, the exploitation of his daughters for his economic benefit. He doesn’t say that he had another family, that he abandoned his women, that he was unfaithful. No, because what interests him is that he was a man who did everything for his daughters and his wife. As he would for Jada Pinkett at the Oscars shortly after.
Receiving the Critic Choice weeks before the Oscar, he underlined his obsessions again: “You all define the American dream. They represent the best of what we all hope this world and this country can be. I love that we were able to show what her mother (from Venus and Serena) did to help create, mold and shape her family, and to be able to show the world the power of faith, the power of unity, the power of the family, the power of discipline”.
The promotion of Williams method has coincided with that of his memories, Will, where it opens in channel. A very useful book to see the actor’s obsessions, but also his traumas. An actor marked by the violence exercised by his father against his mother, but who ends up defending him. “My father was a brilliant man. Like many sons, I adored my father, but he was also terrified of him. He was one of the greatest blessings of my life and, at the same time, one of the greatest sources of pain. My father was violent, but he was also at every game, play and recital. He was an alcoholic, but he was sober at every one of the premieres of my movies. When I was nine years old I saw my father punch my mother in the head so hard that he passed out. I saw her spit blood out of it. That moment, in that room, she defined who I was more than any other moment in my life,” she recounts in the book.
God always ends up entering, underlining once again the importance of faith and giving everything that happens to him a greater meaning, even his addiction to sex, which counts almost as an escape route for someone who only seeks love: “I I turned into some kind of hyena. I had relationships with many women, which made me feel so guilty inside, that I ended up developing a psychosomatic reaction to orgasm. It literally made me gag and even want to throw up. Every time I did, I looked to God hoping that this beautiful stranger was the person who truly loved me, the one who would make all that pain go away. The look in those women’s eyes only deepened my agony.” God, love, family, and the American dream. Obsessions of an actor who ruined his moment of glory for values that he defends even with physical violence.