It’s been nearly four years since Will Smith has had a movie out — his last being the weepy dud “Seven Pounds” — so you’ll understand if he wanted to ease his way back into things with something a bit familiar. “I haven’t worked in three years, so I wanted to put on some shoes that I knew fit,” Smith says. Hence “Men in Black 3,” re-teaming Smith with Tommy Lee Jones as the black-suited, Ray Bans-donning men of mystery keeping Earth safe from aliens its citizens aren’t even aware of. This time, they toss in the element of time-travel — but it’s still very much a “Men in Black” film.
“It was very important for me, having been away that long, to come back in a way that I was comfortable and to come back with a project that was kid-friendly,” Smith says. “That was something that Eddie Murphy said to me a few years ago. He said, ‘Man, if you’re lucky enough to be in this business, every 20 years you have to go back and get the kids.’ I was looking at ‘Dr. Doolittle’ and ‘The Klumps’ and everything, the idea of maturing. What’s great for me is that that target audience is in my house.”
That wasn’t the only piece of wisdom from his elders Smith has held on to, as it turns out. “I was in Australia in 1990 with Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, and they were opening Planet Hollywood,” Smith remembers. “I go sit there with those guys, and Arnold says, ‘Young man, I want you to know that you cannot be a movie star only in the United States. You’re only a movie star if they know you around the world.’ They put that idea into my mind very clearly, and then from that point that’s when I started to make it a point to open in new markets. We went into Russia with ‘I, Robot.’ It used to be a time where you could just have hit movies in the United States, but that’s not the case. So, to me it’s just about taking those laps around the world to maintain that.”
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So with that kind of global stardom in mind, does that mean Smith will continue easing his way back into acting, possibly with a visit to another popular franchise like “Bad Boys”? Because co-star Martin Lawrence has certainly expressed interest. Smith is not so sure. “I love making those movies. It’s Miami, the tight T-shirt and fast cars,” he says. “But just at this point in my career, the material has to be right. I’m 43. I’m looking at maybe seven more years where I can run and jump a little bit, and then I’m going butt and gut for the rest of my career.”