The man behind the scenes

Robert Checkal

Will Smith stays the same even as his roles change

He casually walks into the room, a captivator, a creator, a man whose body of work has generated millions of dollars in ticket sales.

He’s the highest paid male actor in Hollywood according to Forbes, but he wouldn’t ever come off that way.

As warm and friendly as he is, he couldn’t fathom this setup-a rectangular box of four tables. It was much too impersonal. He immediately calls it as he sees it. He stands up and begins to shake the hands of his interviewers. As few as there were, he took time to learn their names, flash a welcoming smile and look directly into their eyes.

His golden-brown eyes complement his golden-brown skin, but as he makes his way around the table, his most recognizable feature may be his signature “big ears.”

We first saw those “big ears” when he began his career as a rap star in the 1980s as a duo with DJ Jazzy Jeff, then he transitioned into the lead of a TV sitcom set in Bel-Air. His movie career took off after his first lead role in 1995’s “Bad Boys,” and he’s been breaking box office records since.

As successful as his comedy and action films have been, Will Smith seems to be in a four-movie rut of playing lost characters with traumatic and emotional overtones, which he’s carried over to his new film “Seven Pounds.”

“I got really fascinated with the idea of re-creation of life after trauma,” he said. “The idea of loss and how you continue after you’ve lost something…It is such a powerful, defining element of character, and if you spent two or three days with somebody, you could make a really good guess what their one trauma is from childhood.”

It’s beyond most people’s perceptions that a celebrity could have such a connection with trauma. Then you realize he’s only human.

“For me, I was 15 years old, and my first girlfriend cheated on me. It totally destroyed the idea of cause-and-effect in my life, that you can be a certain way, and you can do certain things, and then you’re going to get rewards. That’s really not true! It really ruined that idea. Part of how I carry myself every day is because I don’t want anybody to cheat on me and leave me again.”

But box office hit after box office hit, his fans, friends and especially his family have all made it clear that Smith is their number one man.

Smith has three kids: his son, Jaden, and daughter, Willow, both from his current marriage to Jada Pinkett Smith and Trey from his previous marriage to Sheree Zampino. Trey recently celebrated his 16th birthday, but it wasn’t your average “Super Sweet 16 show.

“On his own, he said he didn’t want any gifts, and he had all of his friends bring gifts, and they took them and gave them away at Children’s Hospital,” Smith said. ” I can’t totally articulate it, but there is an awareness that is different than we had growing up. At Christmas this year, our family is not doing internal giving. It’s all external. We’re giving to others. So in Jada’s name, I’ll give to a charity. That’s almost bubbling from the kids. It’s not something we have to say to them. There’s a greater awareness of what’s going on in the world, definitely (more) than I had when I was growing up.”

He said the awareness is most likely stemming from the Internet, and the Internet surely has a lot to say about the star. He’s rumored on to be teaming up with Steven Spielberg for an American remake of the Korean film “Oldboy.” The story is about a man who is kidnapped and held captive for 15 years and is suddenly released to get revenge on the people who ruined his life. But Smith said he is currently unemployed and plays on the mystique of the unknown.

“My experience is, people stay interested when they can’t predict exactly what it is you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it,” he said. ” I’m trying to expand the range and look at my career as a whole and create something with different looks, colors and shades.”

Contact all reporter Robert Checkal at [email protected].