It’s hard to believe, but it’s been four years since superstar Will Smith appeared on screen. His last effort, Hancock, is finally not the last Smith film to hit theaters as Men in Black 3 lands May 25. Smith sat down with Movie Fanatic to talk about what he’s been up to as well as what it was about the world of Men in Black that brought him back for a third go-around with his pal Tommy Lee Jones and new friend Josh Brolin -- who plays a young Agent K as Smith’s Agent J goes back in time.
Movie Fanatic: What do you think it is about the world of Men in Black that is so resonant? And why do Men in Black 3 as your first film in four years?
Will Smith: The idea of a secret government organization that polices and monitors alien activity on and off planet Earth, that's so unique. You don't say that this movie is just like Men in Black… there's nothing that's like Men in Black because it's difficult to have a fantasy comedy that works on that level. I was excited by the degree of difficulty and I haven't worked in four years. So, I wanted to put on some shoes that I knew fit.
Movie Fanatic: You’ve been producing things for the kids…
Will Smith: My most natural lane is producing, the wide view, seeing everything that's going on and helping and pulling people in. But when you stay away from acting for a while, it's like a muscle. You get out there and you look stupid. So, you have to warm up a little bit. I've been away from it and the time was well spent. I learned a lot of valuable lessons on the Karate Kid. That was very informative. Then just coming back to Men in Black 3 felt like home.
Movie Fanatic: Men in Black 3 is your first 3D film. Did you have any concerns about Will Smith in 3D?
Will Smith: My ears! I could see these things pretty much taking over the whole of the screen [laughs]. When I first saw it and they were cool, I was like, “Alright, we didn't have me looking like satellite dishes.” As soon as 3D exploded it had this weird opposite effect where it got worse. All of a sudden, the movies aren't as good. You're like, “How the hell does that happen?” So, I think that we're about to turn that corner and with the 3-D specifically and Men in Black.
Movie Fanatic: And what was it like the first time you performed with Josh Brolin and his uncanny characterization of Tommy Lee Jones as a younger Agent K?
Will Smith: That's what's crazy [laughs]. As actors, when you're in a scene, it's like a tennis match. Me and Martin [Lawrence] have very different chemistry than me and Tommy Lee Jones. I was expecting to make an adjustment from Tommy Lee Jones to Josh Brolin, but Josh studied Tommy so thoroughly that it was almost identical. It was absolutely stunning.
Movie Fanatic: We get more backstory for Agent J in Men in Black 3 and also a more emotional bond between him and Agent K. Was that nice to tackle?
Will Smith: It was very important. We're all ten years older from the second movie, and different things are important to us in our lives and we're growing. Toy Story 3 did a really great job of advancing it, but then also creating the underlying depth. If you're going into the third part of something we felt like it was really important to deliver more emotionally.
Movie Fanatic: Any news on the Uptown Saturday Night remake and which role would you like to play?
Will Smith: We're working on it, trying to get it together... me and Denzel [Washington]. Again, the material has to be right to deserve all that man power.
Movie Fanatic: Would you play the Bill Cosby part?
Will Smith: I don't know. We would figure it out as we got into it and see who's more comfortable because I first asked Denzel and he said, “I'm not funny, man.” I said, “See… that was funny, that you said that.” [Laughs] He was a little concerned about the comedy. I'm like, “Man, come on. It's going to be fantastic.”
Movie Fanatic: Lastly, what mattered most to you from your time away from the camera in the last four years?
Will Smith: It's that I was a child of Dallas. I've dreamed about this life my entire life. On Dallas they had Southfork. Sue Ellen would come to breakfast and the whole family was there and everybody worked the family business. That was my vision of my family. So for me, coming into that space… I'm actually surprised that other people got their own vision. Like, Willow made a huge, hit record, Whip My Hair. Then she cut her hair off. I was like, “Hey! What are you doing?” For me the last three years have been really seeing how much everyone has their own opinion. Everybody has their own ideas and everybody has their own lives that may or may not fit into my Sue Ellen vision.