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Will Smith Plans To Forgo Blockbusters For More "Dangerous" Choices. A Peek At His Upcoming Slate

by Tambay A. Obenson
June 5, 2013 11:18 AM
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Will Smith

Maybe Will Smith's been reading S&A - specifically, Adam's piece on Will's "strategic aversion to controversial roles.

Ok, maybe not. But I had to say it.

Check out this quote from Will, lifted from an interview he gave to Digital Spy, while doing press for After Earth in the UK recently:

"There's something about making movies that just really gets me excited... I love people being wrapped in a story and being able to deliver that emotional punchline at the end. It's been an absolute necessity that the movie be a blockbuster, but I think I'm going to start moving out of that and finding more danger in my artistic choices."

And more danger in his artistic choices is something we here at S&A have been hoping for, for some time. I remember when it was announced that he was Quentin Tarantino's first choice to play Django, and all the discussion that followed about whether Will was *courageous* enough to take on a controversial project like that. 

Although I should note that he has since revealed what his reasons were for not taking the part, and they had nothing to do with fear of controversy, which I thought was a good sign of things to come.

So, here we are. Will Smith is ready to make the shift from primarily family-friendly action adventure fare, to more "dangerous" roles and projects, as he put it in the above quote.

Although, looking at his upcoming slate of projects, I can't say there's anything on it that I would consider "dangerous." There certainly could be a project or two being packaged right now that has yet to be announced.

I suppose the reported vampiric twist on the Cain & Abel story from the bible, The Redemption of Cain, could be controversial, if only because it's based on a story from the bible. The vampiric twist, if it turns out to be true, might be considered sacrilege by some.

There's also a thriller called The Accountant, which follows a government accountant who doubles as an assassin. At one time, when it was at Warner Bros, the Coen brothers were being considered to direct. But the project now sits at Media Rights Capital, with Sony attached to finance and distribute. I don't know a lot about the project, other than what I just said, but if the Coen brothers were ever interested in it, I'd say it's probably as close to "dangerous" as Will has ever gotten. But I'd need to know more. 

There is the film adaptation of Flowers for Algernon, a science fiction story written by Daniel Keyes.

Although it's not clear if he plans to star in it, or just produce (IMDBPro only lists him as producer currently). It's a project that was first announced in 2009, so it's been a while.

The novel was published in 1966 and was joint winner of that year’s prestigious Nebula Award for Best Novel.

The titular Algernon is a laboratory mouse that has undergone surgery to increase its intelligence by artificial means. The story is told as a series of progress reports written by Charlie, the first human test subject for the surgery, and touches upon many different ethical and moral themes such as the treatment of the mentally disabled.

Essentially, a man surgically accelerates his own IQ levels, based on his mouse research, ultimately making himself a genius, but then becomes a social outcast for that reason; and unfortunately, what he didn’t count on was that Algernon, the mouse he used in his research, would eventually experience significant decelerated IQ levels, a result of the experiment, as he himself experiences the same mental deterioration.

Interesting enough, although maybe not necessarily "dangerous."

Flowers for Algernon has been adapted several times since it was originally published, most famously Ralph Nelson’s Charly, which won Cliff Robertson (the star) an Academy Award in 1969. And I'm sure Will would eventually like to have his own Oscar as well.

The rest of his upcoming slate comprises of mostly sequels - I, Robot, Hancock, After Earth, etc. There's even talk of a Men In Black 4, which I pray doesn't happen. 
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  • Tom | October 10, 2013 5:49 AMReply

    Racist as hell carey.....

  • CareyCarey | October 10, 2013 8:58 AM

    Racist? Define it as you please, but it is what it is. We all know when blacks are on the screen, regardless of their star power, when they are outside a particular set of unspoken rules, their acceptance from many white moviegoers is lukewarm.

    Yeah, and you probably said it best. I mean, to believe the above is not true, is to believe all forms of prejudice, racism, bigotry and ignorance has vanished from this earth.

  • urbanauteur | June 7, 2013 4:04 PMReply

    If he so gun hoe..then do James Baldwin's "If Beale Street Could Talk/Giovanni's Room" , Ishmael Reed's "Reckless Eyeballing/The Rise and Fall of Louisiana Red" ..or dare i say Clarence Major's NO/Such Was the Season/My Amputations..

  • CareyCarey | June 5, 2013 11:23 PMReply

    Will Smith keep on doing what you've been 'cause you're all right with me.

    Listen folks, I just saw After Earth... and for the life of me I don't know what film the naysayers are talking about.

    Jaden Smith's performance was arguably the best I've seen from a 14 year old black actor (hands down!). Heck, I'd even say over the last 5 years his performance beats any actor in his age group. Will's performance didn't have any kinks in its armour either. And lets talk about the other BLACK actors, Sophie Okonedo and Zoë Kravitz, can I get an Amen!?

    Look, I generally don't go here, but I'm feeling racism and prejudice raised it's ugly head. I mean, as I've said many times, the majority of white folks do not support films in which the main characters are people of color. In this film white folks were few and far between. So, looking back on the films featuring our other star actor, Denzel Washington, those that didn't do well at the box office, I can't help but believe there's a fly in the ointment.

    But I think I am the most upset at black folks, especially those who have not seen the movie, yet were leading the chorus line of bashers. And then there sits the "OH, it's a Scientology flick" crowd. WTH were they talking about?

    Damn, I am not even going to mention the young black kid coming of age and the father & son storylines. Nope, some bitch and moan about Tyler Perry, negative black images in Django and the boogieman (read Hollywood), but when a film highlights a positive relationship between a black father and his son (on the grandest stage in the world) those same folks hide their heads like scared ostriches. What's up with that?

    I think I know the answer but I am reminded of Tambay's question: What Does The Future Of 'Black Cinema' Look Like To You?

    Well, if the reaction of some blacks to Will Smith's After Earth is any indication, the answer is NO WHERE. Some blacks are too busy mimicking the ways of white folks.

    Overall, I told care what the "critics" say, the movie definitely deserves a strong B.

  • CareyCarey | June 6, 2013 1:43 PM

    Amari, I think I have to agree. People love Will Smith for being "Will Smith"; a non-aggressive funny guy, not a stern disciplinarian. In The Pursuit of Happiness, although he was a "father", he was a struggling father who everyone could relate to (and love).

    Re: Jaden. I believe you're right again. The film did weigh heavily on his shoulders but I wouldn't say "he" did better in The Karate Kid. Two completely different types of films and target audience. His acting, imo, was much "better" in After Earth.

    @ Donella, so you're agreeing with me for the second time. That means you've been late for lunch about 100 times *LOL* but I understand why you had to say that. But wait, didn't you agree on my take on Django or The Help or Halle Berry or Tyler Perry or Sergio or Scandal or The Oscars or "negativity" in general? Are you excited about seeing The Butler? I am.

    And yes, I did particularly enjoy the dynamics of father-son storyline. To me it was the heart of the movie. I guess some folks couldn't relate.

    Re: Life of Pi. Bah humbug, much ado about nothing in my opinion. I fell asleep midway through that...

  • Amari | June 6, 2013 12:29 PM

    The issue with the film is Will didn't have his usual charisma and Jaden is the type of actor that doesn't have the capability, perhaps yet, to be the sole focus of a film. He is better when he is sharing scenes like he was in The Karate Kid.

    Overall though, the film was just to alpha male and I probably only had the slight interest when Zoe's character showed up because she was the only character who seemed like she may have more than one dimension to her.

  • Donella | June 6, 2013 11:59 AM

    Here we are again, me agreeing with you, Carey. I think this makes two times. I enjoyed After Earth, most especially the father-son bond. Will brings his Furious Styles interpretation quietly guiding Jaden's Tre through hostile territory. On a deeper level, I'm very pleased that Will has claimed a stake on futuristic science fiction and exported those images around the world to counter other perceptions and propaganda. I hope to see more afro-futurism now that he's pried the door open further for others to follow. Jaden impressed me with Karate Kid and so I've no doubt he's got more to offer. Shyalaman's direction cannot match, say, Ang Lee's direction on Life of Pi (another kid in jeopardy movie), but After Earth is decent, not as bad as people are trying to make it out to be.

  • JMS | June 5, 2013 8:32 PMReply

    I enjoyed After Earth a lot and hope he keeps with things dear to him. I wouldn't do a movie just because someone says he hadn't done a certain type of role. The public hails you, then nails you and are fickle. He should do solely what makes him happy as an artist.

    I am so glad he didn't do Django. Only Jamie could be Django. Will was indeed Cypher in After Earth.

  • JEFTCG | June 5, 2013 8:19 PMReply

    That "slate" is about as dangerous as a side salad from McDonald's.

  • beemooree | June 5, 2013 8:01 PMReply

    i guess he's gonna do what everyone says he hasn't been which is something other than "blockbusters". I'm sure this has something to do with after earth "bombing". he is a movie star, not an actor. What films has he shown range besides ali, and pursuit of happyness

  • Adam Scott Thompson | June 5, 2013 6:31 PMReply

    LOL I know. I was like, "Did somebody email him what I wrote?"

    I forgot about the Cain & Abel project, or rather just assumed it was in development hell. Honestly, I'd like to see him just do a straight-up villain role. I really went to "Django" because of Leo's turn as Calvin Candie. It was unlike anything he'd done before. That's what I want to see from the A-listers!

  • Monique A Williams | June 5, 2013 5:42 PMReply

    I am interested in how Will spins "Flowers for Algernon" his own way. I hope he doesn't go full retard. #Oscar

  • Adam Scott Thompson | June 5, 2013 6:27 PM

    Man... I don't know. I'm a big fan of the book and the film. I just don't see him as Charlie (the only role I assume he's interested in) for the remake. Maybe he'll prove me wrong. So long as it's not all sappy like "Seven Pounds."

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