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Will Smith Biography – Wins his first Oscar Award

Willard Carroll Smith II, also known by his stage name The Fresh Prince, is an American actor, rapper, and film producer.

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Real Name: Willard Carroll Smith II
Profession: American actor, rapper, and film producer
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Wife: Jada Pinkett
Age: 53 years

Willard Carroll Smith II (born September 25, 1968), also known by his stage name The Fresh Prince, is an American actor, rapper, and film producer. Often cited as a groundbreaking entertainer in music, television, and film, Smith is the recipient of numerous accolades, including an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Critics’ Choice Movie Award, four Grammy Awards, and has been nominated a Primetime Emmy Award. His films have grossed over $9.3 billion at the global box office, and he holds several US and international box office records.

Smith first achieved recognition as part of a hip hop duo with DJ Jazzy Jeff, with whom he released five studio albums and the US Billboard Hot 100 top 20 singles “Parents Just Don’t Understand”, “A Nightmare on My Street”, “Summertime”, “Ring My Bell”, and “Boom! Shake the Room” from 1984 and 1994. Smith released the solo albums Big Willie Style (1997), Willennium (1999), Born to Reign (2002), and Lost and Found (2005), which contained the US number-one singles “Gettin’ Jiggy wit It” and “Wild Wild West”.

Will Smith Biography
Will Smith Biography

Smith achieved wider fame for his fictionalized self-portrayal on the sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990–1996), for which he received two nominations for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy. He also starred in the action film Bad Boys (1995), and its sequels Bad Boys II (2003) and Bad Boys for Life (2020), as well as the sci-fi comedies Men in Black (1997), Men in Black II (2002), and Men in Black 3 (2012). After starring in the thrillers Independence Day (1996) and Enemy of the State (1998), Smith portrayed Muhammad Ali in Ali (2001), earning his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Smith then starred in a range of commercially successful films, including I, Robot (2004), Shark Tale (2004), Hitch (2005), I Am Legend (2007), Hancock (2008), and Seven Pounds (2008). He gained his second Academy Award nomination for portraying Chris Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness (2006).

Will Smith Biography
Born
Willard Carroll Smith II

September 25, 1968 (age 53)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Other names The Fresh Prince
Occupation
  • Actor
  • film producer
  • rapper
Years active 1986–present
Organization
  • Westbrook Inc.
  • Overbrook Entertainment
Agent
  • Creative Arts Agency
  • James Lassiter
Works
Discography and filmography
Spouse(s)
  • Sheree Zampino (m. 1992; div. 1995)
  • Jada Pinkett (m. 1997)
Children 3, including Jaden and Willow Smith
Awards Full list
Musical career
Origin West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Genres Pop-rap
Labels
  • Interscope
  • Columbia
  • RCA
  • Jive
Associated acts
  • DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince
  • Camp Lo
  • Eddie F
  • Kenny Greene
Website willsmith.com
Signature
Will Smith's signature.svg

Early life (Will Smith Biography)

Smith was born on September 25, 1968, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Caroline (née Bright), a Philadelphia school board administrator, and Willard Carroll Smith Sr., a U.S. Air Force veteran and refrigeration engineer. His mother graduated from Carnegie Mellon University.

He grew up in West Philadelphia’s Wynnefield neighbourhood and was raised Baptist. He has an older sister named Pamela and two younger siblings, twins Harry and Ellen. Smith attended Our Lady of Lourdes, a private Catholic elementary school in Philadelphia. When he was 13, his parents separated but did not actually divorce until around 2000.

Smith attended Overbrook High School. While it has been widely reported that Smith turned down a scholarship to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), he never applied to college, because he “wanted to rap”. Smith says he was admitted to a “pre-engineering [summer] program” at MIT for high school students, but he did not attend.

Career (Will Smith Biography)

1985–1992: The Fresh Prince

Smith started as the MC of the hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, with his childhood friend Jeffrey “DJ Jazzy Jeff” Townes as turntablist and producer. Townes and Smith were introduced to each other by chance in 1985, as Townes was performing at a house party only a few doors down from Smith’s residence, and he was missing his hype man. Smith decided to fill in. They both felt strong chemistry, and Townes was upset when his hype man finally made it to the party.

Soon after, the two decided to join forces. Smith enlisted a friend to join as the beatboxer of the group, Clarence Holmes (Ready Rock C), making them a trio. Philadelphia-based Word Records released their first single in 1986 when A&R man Paul Oakenfold introduced them to Champion Records with their single “Girls Ain’t Nothing but Trouble,” a tale of funny misadventures that landed Smith and his former DJ and rap partner Mark Forrest (Lord Supreme) in trouble. The song sampled the theme song of “I Dream of Jeannie.” Smith became known for light-hearted story-telling raps and capable, though profanity-free, “battle” rhymes. The single became a hit a month before Smith graduated from high school.

Will Smith Biography
Will Smith Biography

1993–1997: Solo music and film breakthrough (Will Smith Biography)

Smith’s first major roles were in the drama Six Degrees of Separation (1993) and the action film Bad Boys (1995) in which he starred opposite Martin Lawrence. The latter film was commercially successful, grossing $141.4 million worldwide. However, critical reception was generally mixed. In 1996, Smith starred as part of an ensemble cast in Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day. The film was a massive blockbuster, becoming the second highest-grossing film in history at the time and establishing Smith as a prime box office draw.

In the summer of 1997, he starred alongside Tommy Lee Jones in the hit Men in Black, playing Agent J. The film was released on July 2 by Columbia Pictures and grossed over $589.3 million worldwide against a $90 million budget, becoming the year’s third highest-grossing film, with an estimated 54,616,700 tickets sold in the US. It received positive reviews, with critics praising its humour and Jones and Smith’s performances.

1998–2007: Leading man status

In 1998, Smith starred with Gene Hackman in Enemy of the State. The following year he turned down the role of Neo in The Matrix in favour of Wild Wild West (1999). Despite the disappointment of Wild Wild West, Smith said that he has no regrets about his decision, asserting that Keanu Reeves’ performance as Neo was superior to what Smith himself would have achieved, although in interviews subsequent to the release of Wild Wild West he stated that he “made a mistake on Wild Wild West. That could have been better.”

Smith’s second album was again supported by the release of a film theme song as the lead single: “Wild Wild West”, featuring Dru Hill and Kool Moe Dee, topped the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified gold by the RIAA. The album in question, Willennium, reached number five on the Billboard 200 and was certified double platinum by the RIAA. “Will 2K”, the second single from the album, reached number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100. Before the end of 1999, a video album was released featuring Smith’s seven music videos released to date, which reached number 25 on the UK Music Video Chart, The same year, he was also featured on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air co-star Tatyana Ali’s single “Boy You Knock Me Out”, which reached number three on the UK Singles Chart and topped the UK R&B Singles Chart.

2008–2019: Blockbusters and critical disappointments (Will Smith Biography)

In 2008, Smith was reported to be developing a film entitled The Last Pharaoh, in which he would be starring as Taharqa. Smith later starred in the superhero movie Hancock, which grossed $227,946,274 in the United States and Canada and had a worldwide total of $624,386,746. On August 19, 2011, it was announced that Smith returned to the studio with producer La Mar Edwards to work on his fifth studio album.

Smith again reprised his role as Agent J with Men in Black 3, which opened on May 25, 2012, his first major starring role in four years. After the release of the film, Smith was content with ending his work with the franchise, saying, “I think three is enough for me. Three of anything is enough for me. We’ll look at it and we’ll consider it, but it feels like it might be time to let someone else do that.” Men in Black 3, released ten years after Men in Black II (2002), grossed over $624 million worldwide. Unadjusted for inflation, it is the highest-grossing film in the series.

In 2013, Smith starred in After Earth with his son Jaden. The film was a disappointment at the domestic box office and was panned critically. Calling the film “the most painful failure in my career”, Smith ended up taking a year and a half break as a result.

2020–present: Memoir, King Richard, and Chris Rock controversy

Smith’s memoir Will, which was written with Mark Manson, the author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, was published on November 9, 2021, and promoted with a tour. The book is a journey of self-knowledge recalling childhood traumas, his relationship with his father, and his experiences with ayahuasca. In the same year, he and his Westbrook Studios company signed a deal with National Geographic.

Smith portrayed Richard Williams, father and coach of tennis players Venus and Serena Williams, in the 2021 film King Richard. This role was a return to form for Smith, starring in a critically acclaimed film. For his performance, he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role.

On February 7, 2022, Nat Geo announced that Smith would star in a series titled Pole to Pole, which will stream on Disney+. The show will follow Smith and his film crew as they go on a 26,000-mile trek from the South Pole to the North Pole.

During the 94th Academy Awards on March 27, 2022, Chris Rock joked about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head, which he compared to Demi Moore in G.I. Jane. Smith walked up to the stage and struck Rock across the face, before telling him to “keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth!” While later accepting the Best Actor award for King Richard, Smith apologized to the Academy and the other nominees, but not to Rock.

Personal life (Will Smith Biography)

Smith married Sheree Zampino in 1992. Their son Willard Carroll “Trey” Smith III was born on November 11, 1992. The two divorced in 1995. Trey appeared in his father’s music video for the 1998 single “Just the Two of Us”. He also acted in two episodes of the sitcom All of Us and has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and the David Blaine: Real or Magic TV special.

Smith married actress Jada Koren Pinkett in 1997. They met when Pinkett auditioned for a role as Smith’s character’s girlfriend in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The pair produce films through their joint production company Overbrook Entertainment and Westbrook Inc. Together they have two children: Jaden Christopher Syre Smith (born 1998), his co-star in The Pursuit of Happyness and After Earth; and Willow Camille Reign Smith (born 2000), who appeared as his daughter in I Am Legend.

Smith and his wife Jada have expressed unconventional practices in their marriage, jokingly calling their commitment “bad marriage for life”. Both he and Pinkett Smith have admitted to having extramarital relationships and believing in the freedom to pursue them. Smith has said he wanted a polyamorous relationship with actress Halle Berry and ballerina Misty Copeland but ultimately abandoned the idea after therapy.

Will Smith with his Family
Will Smith with his Family

Religious and political views (Will Smith Biography)

Faith

Smith was raised in a Baptist household and attended a Roman Catholic school and church. In a 2013 interview, he said he did not identify as religious. In 2015, Smith said in an interview with The Christian Post that his Christian faith, which was instilled in him by his grandmother, helped him to accurately portray Bennet Omalu in Concussion, saying, “She was my spiritual teacher, she was that grandmother at the church, the one having the kids doing the Easter presentations and putting on the Christmas plays and her kids and grandkids had to be first. She was the most spiritually certain person that I had ever met in my entire life. Even to the point that when she was dying she was happy like she was really excited about going to heaven.”

In 2018, Smith performed the Hindu rite of Abhisheka of Lord Shiva at Haridwar, India. He also performed an Aarti of the holy river Ganga. He has said that he feels a deep connection to Hindu spirituality and Indian astrology.

Politics

Smith donated $4,600 to the 2008 presidential campaign of Democrat Barack Obama. On December 11, 2009, Smith and his wife hosted the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway to celebrate Obama’s winning of the prize.

In 2012, Smith stated he supported legalizing same-sex marriage.

In 2021, Smith announced that the production of his upcoming film, Emancipation, is being pulled from Georgia because of the recent passage of the Election Integrity Act of 2021, which critics view as a restrictive voting law negatively impacting non-white voters. Smith and director Antoine Fuqua released a joint statement: “We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access”.

Philanthropy (Will Smith Biography)

Smith gave $1.3 million to charities in 2007, of which $450,000 went to two Christian ministries, and $122,500 went to three Scientology organizations; the remaining beneficiaries included “a Los Angeles mosque, other Christian-based schools and churches, and the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Center in Israel.” Smith and his wife have also founded a private elementary school in Calabasas, California, the New Village Leadership Academy. Federal tax filing showed that Smith donated $1.2 million to the school in 2010.

Legacy

Smith has often been noted for achieving groundbreaking success throughout his musical career, and with his work as an actor in television and film. He has been cited as one of the “greatest actors” of his generation by several publications. Smith’s transition from music to acting has influenced multiple rappers to also become actors, with him being cited as a pioneer for the rappers crossing over into acting by Complex. In 2006, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world; and in 2008 Esquire named him one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century.

Music

His work as a member of DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince made them the first rap act to win a Grammy Award, as well as the first to win an MTV Video Music Award for Best Rap Video when the song “Parents Just Don’t Understand” won in the inaugural rap categories at both award show ceremonies. XXL has referred to him as “one of the most important rappers of all time”. As of 2013, his debut solo album Big Willie Style (1997) is among the best-selling rap albums of all time.

Television

Smith later launched his acting career by starring in the NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air; the show’s success is considered to be a watershed moment for Hip-Hop and Black television, with many publications referring to it as one of the “Greatest Sitcoms of All Time”. Professor Andrew Horton stated, “Smith’s genre of comedy, popularized on the sitcom Fresh Prince of Bel-Air translated well into commercial box-office appeal. The Fresh Prince watered down and capitalized upon the then growing popularity of Hip Hop and almost anticipated its dominance on the American scene”.

Moreover, author Willie Tolliver noted, “What The Fresh Prince did accomplish was to put Smith and his character Will into an environment of affluence and possibility, thus changing the terms of his own Black identity. This social and cultural mobility is central to Smith’s racial significance, and this will become evident again and again; he moves the image of the Black male into unaccustomed spaces just as Smith himself was in the process of conquering Hollywood.”

Film

After starring in his debut film Where the Day Takes You (1992), Smith quickly became one of Hollywood’s most successful and bankable stars. He currently holds the record for the most consecutive $100 million-plus hits at the U.S. box office, with eight. Smith starred as Daryl in the movie Bright (2017), which broke the record at the time for the most-viewed Netflix film ever for its first week, and became the first major Hollywood film to skip theatrical release over the streaming platform for simultaneous viewing by more than 100 million people worldwide. For his role as Agent J in Men in Black 3 (2012), Smith earned the highest-paid movie role of all time, when he reportedly earned $100 million for his role film; furthermore his roles in the movies King Richard and Bright are also among the highest-paid roles of all time. His upcoming movie Emancipation (2022) was sold to Apple Studios for $120 million in June 2020, which made it the largest film festival acquisition deal in film history. In 2022, Smith became the fifth black actor to win the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Discography (Will Smith Biography)

  • Big Willie Style (1997)
  • Willennium (1999)
  • Born to Reign (2002)
  • Lost and Found (2005)

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