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Celebrity Life, Big Willie Style - It Ain't All Gravy?

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by Tambay A. Obenson
November 22, 2011 3:19 PM
6 Comments
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Ahhh... celebrity life! Borrowing from mobster Johnny Caspar in the Coen Brothers' classic Miller's Crossing, after he discovers just how hard it is to be top dog, “runnin' things... it ain’t all gravy!

Or maybe a more familiar, contemporary phrase inline with the sentiment would be, "more money... more problems?"

Not quite, but I'm sure you catch my drift. But who's complaining anyway? I'd trade lives with Will Smith any day, even if it's for one day, to experience what it's like to live the life... the celebrity life, or more specifically, HIS celebrity life.

All this came about as I was scouting YouTube looking for a clip to use in another post I'm working on, and I stumbled upon several clips of Mr Smith going through one Hancock premiere after another, each one in a different city, all within a span of about 5 days. And each time, he looked just as euphoric, mingling with countless anxious fans, as he did in the previous city's premiere, even if it was just the night before, several hundred, if not thousands of miles away.

He stops to sign autographs, shakes hands, honors kiss requests, and even dances with a band, all-the-while maintaining his signature Big Willie smile, seemingly thoroughly and gladly drowning himself in each moment!

First he's in Paris, then a few days later, he's in London, and the following night he's in Moscow, and so on, and so forth, maintaining the same brand of intensity each time, leading up until the film's US premiere, where, naturally, he most certainly was present, Big Willie style as usual, as adoring fans clamor for a mere sighting or touch of one of Hollywood's biggest stars.

But the magic doesn't end there; the traveling continues for another 2 to 3 straight months, as Hancock premieres followed in other countries around the world, and there was Will, walking the red carpet at each locale, flashing that smile, satisfying old fans, and winning new ones over with what feels like an unpretentious charm. Is it any wonder that he's the biggest star, not only in America, but in the world?

One can attribute his popularity in recent years partly to the fact that, for a few years there, before the hiatus he took after Seven Pounds in 2008, he was maybe one of the hardest working celebrities. Making the film is half the job. Promoting it is just as important, and Will certainly hasn't ever taken that phase of the process lightly. He's smart enough to know that he's not only promoting the movie, but he's also promoting himself, which will help when his next film begins its release schedule.

Despite the relentless, unwavering smiles and charm, it can't all be fun, can it? I think I'd get tired of the press junkets, the cameras, the people, the fans, the pomp and circumstance. It'll start to wear me down after awhile - not to mention the frequent trips, jet lag, etc... London one night, Moscow the next, New York the next, L.A. the next, Tokyo, and so on, and so forth... and I can't forget about family left behind!

The impression I get is that Will's approach to celebrity self-promotion isn't a popular one amongst the general celebrity population. It's work! It's well paid work, but it's still work. And he's definitely enjoying the fruits of his "hard labor."

As I started out saying, maybe "it ain't all gravy" all the time; but I'd still readily trade places with him, even if it's for a day, and experience the thrill of being Will!

I suppose if there's a point to all this, it's to emphasize the importance of near-relentless, wide promotion of your work, and especially not ignore those media outlets that might seem too small, inconsequantial or of no use to you.

For example, I recall, much earlier this year, before AFFRM's initial release, Ava DuVernay (who spearheaded the movement) seemingly decided that she would entertain interviews about AFFRM by really anyone with an audience who wanted to talk to her about the movement, whether they had an audience of 5 people, or a readership of 50, or hundreds of listeners, or thousands of viewers, or millions of pageviews, etc; it didn't seem to really matter to her. The point/goal was to reach as many people, in as many different places as possible. No snobbing. And I'd say the results speak to the efforts.

It's work, but the extra effort can make a world of difference.

I remember this old quote from Will Smith: "I’ve never really viewed myself as particularly talented; where I excel is in a ridiculous, sickening work ethic. While the other guy is sleeping, I’m working. While the other guy is eating, I’m working."

Here's a video clip of Big Willie in Moscow, during the premiere of Hancock, in all his Big Willie style glory:

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6 Comments

  • Betty Chambers | November 25, 2011 3:30 PMReply

    I LOVE his public demeanor. He's obviously someone brought up to be professional and an adult. Like other intelligent and long lasting members of "show business" Will Smith realizes he should make an effort to be polite and respectful of his fans: they are the ones who made him rich.

    If only more of the people who are in "show business" understood this. Singers, actors, rappers, and other countless "talent" are always a dime a dozen.

  • Donella | November 25, 2011 3:26 PMReply

    I've read in Will Smith's past interviews that he learned an important lesson from Tom Cruise--to place serious, persistent focus on overseas markets and not rely upon the Hollywood machine for promotion.

  • motorfingaz | November 24, 2011 6:06 AMReply

    I want that shirt!!

  • bashe | November 23, 2011 9:38 AMReply

    For one day. Maybe. Just to trip. Then I get to go back to my life, which suits me just fine. It's interesting that you say, Tambay, that you'd trade places with him, "even if only for one day." Me, I'd ONLY consent to trade places with him if was ONLY for one day.

    I had a teeny-tiny experience with fame, a thousand years ago when I was a disc jockey in Alexandria, Louisiana. It was excruciating. I loved the music, but I hated the fame. I'm a loner, an introvert (a gregarious introvert, in that I can "turn it on" when needed, but an introvert nonetheless---I'm sitting alone at Panera as I write this, and loving the fact that I'm by myself). I would lose it if I had to do the sort of publicity Will Smith does.

    My son is a musician, and he wants fame. Here's what I tell him: recall those infrequent moments when someone you know calls out to you on the street, how disorienting it is, for that indeterminate amount of time, as you turn, perhaps even whirl, trying to locate the person who obviously knows you and is calling your name? Finally you see your friend, and you either wave or move toward each other to talk.

    Now imagine that happens EVERY TIME YOU LEAVE THE HOUSE! Every day. Multiple times a day.

    No thanks, man. Will Smith can have it---I'm happy to be the guy anonymously sitting in the dark, in the theater, watching his movies. In my world, you can sum up fame in one sentence: They all know you; you don't know them. Yeesh.

  • Kelly Snowdon | November 22, 2011 4:45 PMReply

    I wish that Will Smith would do more movies but not prequels or sequels to his earlier films. When Men in Black III comes out in 2012, it will be his first major starring role in four years even though he has 38 other projects in various stages of development.

  • mantan | November 22, 2011 4:08 PMReply

    you made a very good point! he always seems to be "on" when he's out in public and one would say that's because he's always working and knows eyes are on him and that could be the case but something tells me that's just how he really. you can only be "on"/fake for so long before that exterior start to crack and the real you comes through.

    in any case, i can't wait to see him again on the big screen.

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