Will Smith has been premiere actor for more than two decades. One major film he turned down was Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained.
“It was about the creative direction of the story,” he says during a recent roundtable with The Hollywood Reporter. “To me, it’s as perfect a story as you could ever want: a guy that learns how to kill to retrieve his wife that has been taken as a slave. That idea is perfect. And it was just that Quentin [Tarantino] and I couldn’t see [eye to eye]. I wanted to make the greatest love story that African-Americans had ever seen.”
Smith says that he didn’t agree with the emphasis on violence in the script. He cites the recent attacks in Paris as part of his reasoning for why, to him, violence does not solve problems.
“We talked, we met, we sat for hours and hours about it,” he says. “I wanted to make that movie so badly, but I felt the only way was, it had to be a love story, not a vengeance story. I don’t believe in violence as the reaction to violence. So when I’m looking at that, it’s like, ‘No, no, no. It has to be for love.’ We can’t look at what happens in Paris [the terrorist attacks] and want to f— somebody up for that. Violence begets violence. So I just couldn’t connect to violence being the answer. Love had to be the answer.”
Will Smith Says He Had Lost His Love For Acting
Elsewhere in the interview, he explains that a few years ago, he lost his love for acting. After some self-exploration, he found a new sense of purpose.
“I realize I had hit a ceiling in my talent,” he says. “I had a great run that I thought was fantastic, and I realized that I had done everything that I could do with the ‘me’ that I had. And I didn’t work for about two years, and I [went through] marriage counseling, 50 parenting books, all of that stuff. And I really dived into me, and then all of a sudden it was like, ‘Oh!’ And I found the connection. Your work can never really be better than you are, you know? Your work can’t be deeper than you are.”
Smith continues that his daughter, Willow, helped him change his perspective on success.
“I’ve always been really product-oriented,” he says. “I want to win. When I do something, I want to be number one, and I want to smash it. And I have a 15-year-old daughter, and she got me and shifted my focus from product to people. It took a couple of years, but as soon as I got knocked off of product and started shifting to people, the whole world opened up for me again, and acting opened up in a whole new way — to not go into day one of a movie trying to figure out what everybody has to do so we win versus opening up and every person is a whole new world. [Before that,] when I went into a meeting with a director, my focus was: Can this guy win, can this girl win? And it was a pathology that broke for me a couple of years ago, and I fell in love and then I couldn’t imagine what else I could do that could add so much to my life other than acting.”