Will Smith

Will Smith Biography

WILL SMITH earned the nickname "Prince" from his grade-school teachers because this smooth-talking tyke from West Philadelphia was more charming than any monarch's son. Smith completed his nom de rap by tacking on "fresh" (a popular hip-hop adjective of the mid-eighties), and the Fresh Prince tapped his considerable charisma to become a Grammy-winning musician, the star of a long-running sitcom, and—returning to his birth name—a big-screen action hero.

A born entertainer, Smith started rapping at the age of twelve and shortly thereafter teamed up with Jeff Townes, who, as Jazzy Jeff, became the Fresh Prince's musical partner. Eight years later, the duo had produced two platinum albums, including the Grammy-winning He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper. It featured the crossover hit single "Parents Just Don't Understand" and scads of clever, gangsta-free lyrics that elicited knowing chuckles from middle-American teenagers. With musical success achieved, Smith expressed a desire to try acting to several business associates, including Warner Bros. executive Bunny Medina. It turned out that Medina, who was born poor in Los Angeles but lived as a teen with a rich Beverly Hills family, had been unsuccessfully pitching a sitcom based on his demographically diverse life. Smith would be perfect, Medina figured, as the protagonist in this fish-out-of-water-tale—a modern Beverly Hillbillies. According to Hollywood legend, Smith read the script for NBC's suits with such Tlan that they bought the concept on the spot. Fresh Prince of Bel Air premiered in 1990, and with its well-timed quips and pratfalls from Smith, the successful show stayed on the air for six years.

Despite his homeboy swagger, Smith himself grew up middle class (his father is an engineer; his mother works for the school board) and did so well in school that M.I.T. offered him a scholarship, which he refused in order to pursue a show-business career. A millionaire by age eighteen, Smith was nonetheless deeply indebted to the I.R.S. when he landed the sitcom. Produced by Quincy Jones, the series' success enabled Smith to not only remedy his I.O.U.s, but also establish a well-connected professional family, which includes much of Hollywood's African-American royalty: Jones, Bill Cosby, Whoopi Goldberg, Sidney Poitier, and Denzel Washington. In fact, it was Washington who counselled Smith on how to proceed with his first starring movie role, as a young gay con man in Six Degrees of Separation (1993). Although it was scripted that his character would kiss another man, Smith was reluctant. He sought counsel from Washington, whose advice boiled down to, "Don't be kissing no man." Smith informed the furious director, Fred Schepsi, that the homosexual smooch would have to be faked. When the movie opened, the controversy was smoothed over by critical praise for Smith's performance.

For his follow-up flick, Smith teamed with fellow sitcom star Martin Lawrence in the action-heavy, gay-kiss-free Bad Boys (1995). The buddy movie was a smash, Smith's asking price rose to $5 million per film, and offers poured in. He opted to play a heroic fighter pilot in the surefire blockbuster Independence Day (1996). Sadly, as the actor's stardom was growing, his three-year-old marriage to Sheree Zampino was falling apart. The couple divorced in December 1995, and Smith relinquished primary custody of their son William C. "Trey" Smith III.

Smith returned simultaneously to rapping and the sci-fi genre with the 1997 summer blockbuster Men in Black. The success of the "Men in Black" single seemed to inspire Smith: after wrapping the film, he ducked into the studio and laid down tracks for a new album. Big Willie Style, his first album in four years, not to mention his first without DJ Jazzy Jeff, landed on record store shelves in November 1997. The album features the popular song "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It," as well as "Just the Two of Us," an ode to son Trey.

On New Year's Eve 1997, Smith wed Nutty Professor star Jada Pinkett, with whom he has been romantically linked since 1995. In July 1998, two celebrated the arrival of son Jaden Christopher Syre Smith.

The actor-singer's popularity soared to new heights when he and his wife were the subjects of a Barbara Walters interview following the 1998 Academy Awards. In the course of the interview, Smith revealed his own paranoia about the government, endearing him to conspiracy theorists around the nation. Later that same year, Smith won the Best Rap Solo Performance Grammy for the Men in Black soundtrack. His solo album fared well on the award front, as well. He took home top honors in two categories at the September 1998 MTV Music Video Awards: Best Male Video for "Just the Two of Us" (which he accepted while carrying son Trey) and Best Rap Video for "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It."

In November Smith starred in the thriller Enemy of the State co-starring Gene Hackman. Next up for him is another collaboration with Barry Sonnenfeld (who directed Men in Black), a western titled Wild, Wild West slated to hit the big screen in July 1999.

January 1999's American Music Awards saw Smith scoop up trophies for three of the four categories he was nominated in: favorite male artist, favorite album, and favorite male soul/R&B artist, losing only in the favorite male pop/rock artist category to Eric Clapton. In February he'll once again contend for the Best Rap Solo Performance Grammy.

Will Smith Bio from Discogs

American actor, producer and rapper, born September 25, 1968 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Husband of Jada Pinkett Smith and father of Jaden Smith and Willow Smith.

He has acted in movies like 'Independence Day', 'Bad Boys' and 'Men In Black' and in the sitcom "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air".

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