What do you do for an encore when you're a highly successful recording artist and you have your own hit TV show before you're 30? Well, if you're Will Smith, you also manage to cram in two back-to-back box office smashes — Independence Day (1996), Men in Black (1997) — and get married to another rising Hollywood star — Jada Pinkett.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Will was the second of four children and started rapping at parties when he was 12. He grew up in middle class West Philadelphia and got the nickname "Prince" because of the way he could charm his way out of trouble.
Beginning his career in the music industry, Will teamed with DJ Jazzy Jeff (whom he met at a party) to become a chart-topping rap artist. Together, they recorded several platinum and multi-platinum albums, in addition to winning numerous awards including two Grammys and three American Music Awards.
However, by the time he was 18, Will had squandered much of his fortune and was in debt to the IRS. In 1989, he met Benny Medina, who had an idea for a sitcom based on his life in Beverly Hills. Thus, the hit television show Fresh Prince of Bel Air was born, which ran for six years and garnered Smith two Golden Globe Award nominations and two Image Award nominations for his work.
While the show was still running, Will ventured out to do feature film work. Following roles in Where the Day Takes You (1992) and Made in America (1993), he scored critical approval as a young, gay con man pretending to be Sidney Poitier's son in Six Degrees of Separation (1993). He also scored a decent helping of controversy, thanks to remarks he made in an interview that were perceived as homophobic. Two years later, Will found his first major commercial success alongside Martin Lawrence in the action flick Bad Boys (1995).
On his way up the popularity scale, Will struck gold when he starred in two of the highest grossing films of the '90s. Independence Day and Men in Black catapulted Smith onto a whole new plane of stardom.
As for what's pushed him to achieve all that he has in such a short amount of time, he says, "I'm above average in talent, but where I think I excel is psychotic drive. All I need is for somebody to say I can't do something and this crazy switch inside me makes me attack whatever I'm doing. Psychotic drive is where I excel over people that are probably more naturally gifted."
In addition to the fame and fortune, Men in Black turned out to be a lucrative enterprise for him off-screen as well, as his theme-song single also became a hit. Its success inspired him to begin rapping again, and that same year he released Big Willie Style.
Will's following films such as Enemy of the State (1998), Wild Wild West (1999) and The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000) were in no way as successful as these two, but fared well at the box office. For the beginning of the new millennium, Smith returned to the Men in Black success wave with the sequel Men in Black 2 (2002), and Ali (2001). The latter of which earned Will his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Smith did more films, including Hancock (2008), Men in Black 3 (2012), Focus (2015) and Suicide Squad (2016). He also received a Golden Globe nomination for his work in the dramatic biopic Concussion (2015).
Following his portrayal of the Genie in the Disney movie Aladdin (2019), he played a double role in Ang Lee's Gemini Man (2019), as his character and his younger clone. In 2020, he returned to reprise his role in Bad Boys for Life, alongside Martin Lawrence.
For his work in the biopic King Richard in the role of Richard Williams, the father of Serena and Venus Williams, Will earned his third acting nomination for an Academy Award and his first win. The film was also nominated for Best Picture. He also won a Golden Globe for the role. Unfortunately, the Oscars ceremony was marred when Will went up onstage before his win, while Chris Rock was presenting the Oscar for Best Documentary. Chris joked about Smith's wife, Jada, playing a role in a G.I. Jane sequel, due to her shaved head. Jada didn't find it amusing, so Will went up to Chris and slapped him across the face during the live broadcast, then returned to his seat and angrily shouted expletives at the comedian. Obviously shocked and stunned by Will's actions, Chris went on to read out the nominees and the winner. An inquiry into the incident is being taken to decide whether Will's membership into the Academy will be revoked, as well as his Oscar. When receiving his award, after consulting with his PR agent, he gave a different speech than prepared, filled with tears and apologizing to the Academy and the Williams family, although there was no apology to Chris Rock, until almost 24 hours later, when he apologized on Instagram.
Will and Jada have two children, son Jaden and daughter Willow. Smith also has a son, Trey, from a previous marriage. Jaden made his bid screen debut at age seven opposite his dad in The Pursuit of Happyness (2006). The movie was a box office hit, and earned Will his second Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. They appeared in a second movie together several years later, called After Earth (2013). His daughter Willow also acts, and appeared with him in his movie I Am Legend (2007).
King Richard (2021)
Bad Boys for Life (2020)
Spies in Disguise (2019)
Gemini Man (2019)
Collateral Beauty (2016)
Suicide Squad (2016)
Winter’s Tale (2014)
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)
After Earth (2013)
Men in Black 3 (2012)
Seven Pounds (2008)
I Am Legend (2007)
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Shark Tale (2004)
I, Robot (2004)
Bad Boys 2 (2003)
Men in Black 2 (2002)
The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)
Wild Wild West (1999)
Enemy of the State (1998)
Men in Black (1997)
Independence Day (1996)
Bad Boys (1995)
Six Degrees of Separation (1993)
Made in America (1993)
Where the Day Takes You (1991)