Movie Article

Will Smith: Entertainer of the Decade

The actor spent the last ten years crossing genres and breaking barriers

Will Smith defines the aughts as the decade of the impossible. He's largely talking about Barack Obama's unlikely presidential win (''It was so unrealistic and Hollywood-cheesy that no one would have made that script into a movie''), but the 41-year-old might as well be referring to his own career. When this decade began, Smith was coming off a rare box office disappointment, Wild Wild West, a film he chose over playing Neo in The Matrix. But the actor spent no time looking backward. Instead, he attacked virtually every genre he could find — with stunning results. First up: drama. His roles in Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness earned him two Oscar nominations. And Happyness proved that a black actor can capture international audiences even in a serious drama. (The film grossed more than $143 million overseas alone.) ''I've been to 40 countries with Happyness, and there is a powerful sense of purpose in that movie that people connect to,'' he says. ''It translates beyond language.'' Smith also made it okay for men to see romantic comedies by playing a dashing dating consultant in 2005's Hitch, which became the third-highest-grossing rom-com of the decade. Then he clobbered sci-fi in 2007's I Am Legend, a tense survivor story that soared at the box office solely because of Smith's mesmerizing performance — and his rapport with his character's beloved German shepherd. Despite his accomplishments — he really is the only worldwide movie star everyone can bank on — Smith deflects praise. ''When I look at myself,'' he says, ''I have a hard time seeing anything other than what I should have done.''


KING OF THE WORLD
A sampler of his global box office from the last 10 years

2002
Men in Black II
$441.8 Mil

2004
Shark Tale
$367.7 Mil

2005
Hitch
$367.1 Mil

2006
The Pursuit of Happyness
$307.1 Mil

2007
I Am Legend
$585.3 Mil

2008
Hancock
$624.4 Mil

Originally posted Dec 04, 2009 Published in issue #1079-1080 Dec 11, 2009 Order article reprints