Rapper. Producer. TV legend. Movie star. Is there anything Will Smith can’t do? He’s won Grammys and been nominated for Oscars. His movies have made billions of dollars. He even came back from near-bankruptcy when he was just a kid. And now, the Fresh Prince is one of the most famous and successful people in the world. But do you know all of the lesser-known Will Smith trivia out there? In addition to being a great rapper, Smith is a crazy versatile actor. He’s a guy who can seemingly do any kind of movie. Like action movies? Try Bad Boys, Enemy of the State, and Independence Day. Prefer action comedies? How about Men in Black, MIIB, and Hancock. Dramas? There’s always Seven Pounds, Ali, and The Pursuit of Happyness. What can’t this guy do?
But who is Will Smith? What’s his regular, day-to-day life like outside his movie roles? Do you know about some of the bolder career moves he made early on? His rap background? His career as a producer? His pure and insurmountable will power? (We didn’t intend for that pun, but it works).
He Was a Millionaire Before He Turned 20
He Can Solve a Rubik’s Cube in Under a Minute
Remember way back on Fresh Prince will Will shows Uncle Phil he can do a Rubik’s cube? Or we he gets the man’s attention with one in Pursuit of Happyness? Well it’s not movie magic, that’s him. In real life, he’s a pro at cranking through that ridiculously hard puzzle.
Source: Rubik’s Cube
He Could Have Gotten in to MIT
It’s a long-standing rumor that Will Smith turned down a scholarship to Boston’s prestigious MIT. This is only half true. “My mother, who worked for the School Board of Philadelphia, had a friend who was the admissions officer at MIT. I had pretty high SAT scores and they needed black kids, so I probably could have gotten in. But I had no intention of going to college,” Smith said.
He Really Was Born and Raised in West Philadelphia
Willard Christopher Smith Jr. really was born in West Philadelphia. (We’re not sure if the playground was where he spent most of his days, as he went to Catholic school.) He was born on September 25th, 1968. His mom was a school board employee and his dad owned a refrigerator company. He’s the second of their four children.
He’s Back to Making Music
After all these years of waiting, Will Smith announced in 2015 that he had plans to put out another album. He apparently already had 30+ tracks already done. “I’m at the beginning of the process, you know, shaking the rust off, knocking the dust off,” Smith said to Beats 1 Radio.
To top it off, he announced a tour with the new album so fans can get jiggy all over again! He even said he’d be bringing back DJ Jazzy Jeff. “Jeff and I actually never have done a full tour, I was always on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, I was always making a movie so we’ve never actually done a full tour. So I’m looking for [this] summer to be the first time that we go out on a full world tour.”
Source: Huffington Post
He Was Still Producing Hits While on “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”
It’s hard enough to be a rapper-turned-actor, so imagine juggling both careers simultaneously. While Will Smith was starring in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, he was still releasing music. And it was doing incredibly well!
He was still promoting one album (And in this Corner…) when the show started, and released another two records while on the show – Homebase, which had both “Summertime” and “Ring my Bell” on it, as well as Code Red.
That’d be like if Kanye West was the lead of a show starring Kanye about Kanye’s life, and still releasing number one tracks and headlining shows as Kanye.
His Movies Have Made Almost $3 Billion
Will has been one of the biggest, most consistent movie stars around for decades. His 22 movies combined have made $2,814,331,600 in JUST the United States. And that’s not adjusted for inflation, when it’s more like $4,066,099,700.
Internationally his 22 films have made over $6.5 billion!
He’s a Really Successful Producer
Didn’t know Will Smith was also a film and TV Producer? Yup, he started producing way back in the day with Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Then came movies like Eddie Murphy’s and De Niro’s Showtime, plus ATL, Lakeview Terrace, This Means War, and even his son’s debut, The Karate Kid (from which he made $5.5 million with producing points on the back end). He also produces his own movies from time to time, including I,Robot, Hitch, Hancock and others. His production company even produced Queen Latifah’s daytime talk show!
Source: Overbrook Entertainment
He Was Known as Mr. Fourth of July in the Late ’90s
July is famously the best time to release big studio blockbuster films. Everyone is out of school, even those late June snow day kids, and December is for family movies or Oscar bait. July is the month for big action adventures. And for years Will Smith owned it. Hit after hit came out that weekend, including Independence Day, Bad Boys, Men in Black, MIIB, Bad Boys 2, I, Robot (that following weekend, 7/16) and Hancock.
He Thought “Wild Wild West” Was a Terrible Movie
Coming off a string of hits, it’s always hard when one finally tanks. But Wild Wild West ended up opening at number one and making an impressive $52 million. So all’s well, right? Nope. Will Smith has pride in his work and that’s what made dealing with that movie’s success so difficult.
“My biggest emotional defeat and the greatest emotional pain I’ve had as an actor was when Wild Wild West opened up to $52 million. The movie wasn’t good. And it hurt so bad to be the number one movie, to open at $52 million and to know the movie wasn’t good.”
He Won a Grammy Before He Could Legally Drink
To say Will Smith is an accomplished musician is a huge understatement. He’s an award winner in multiple highly competitive categories. And he started winning these accolades young. In 1988, at just 20 years old, he won his first Grammy for “Parents Just Don’t Understand.”
The next year he’d be up for three MTV Video Music Awards. In 1990 he got another Grammy nom. In ’91, he landed yet another Grammy and a MTV VMA. In ’92, another Grammy win.
And then he got into acting!
In 1993 he received his first acting nomination and it was his very first major role. (A Golden Globe nomination for The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.) By 2001 he was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Ali. The man is unstoppable.
Nas Helped Him Write “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It”
Who knew that Will Smith and Nas were such good friends? For years, rumor had it that Nas was ghost writing for Smith on hits like “Chasin’ Forever,” and “Yes Yes Y’all.” But Nas came out on Reddit to set the record straight. He was there, he helped, but Will Smith wrote his hits.
“Alright, let’s clear this up once and for all. I hung out with Will in the studio. And watched him write it. It was a fun studio session, and I said a line or two or three to him. It wasn’t that serious. Will Smithwrote that song. But seriously, I watched him have fun making that record on his own, and Will is a true MC,”
Source: Genius.com (From a Reddit AMA)
Eight of His Movies (in a Row) Made More Than $100 Million
That’s right, he was in eight movies that made more than $100,000,000. In a row! That is no small feat. $100 million is impressive for any movie, but eight in a row is unheard of.
Everything between 2002’s Men in Black II to 2008’s Hancock blew up at the box office. That includesMIIB, Bad Boys II, I,Robot, Shark Tale, Hitch, The Pursuit of Happyness, I Am Legend, and Hancock. A few of these films made much more than that, two of them even topped $200 million.
He Met DJ Jazzy Jeff When He Was Only 16
Will Smith was only 12 years old when he started rapping. (He went by the Fresh Prince from early on.) From the beginning, he always had that comedic flair to his rhymes. Then four years later, at just 16, Smith met a DJ at a party who went by DJ Jazzy Jeff, and rap history was made.
The pair always set out to make fun, friendly, curse-free raps, avoiding the gangster rap that was coming out at the time.
He Decided Not to Be the One
Think about The Matrix. Just the first one, not those next two. That first one is an amazing, generation defining piece of filmmaking. Now imagine you were offered the lead role and passed. Now imagine you passed to go make Wild Wild West. Ouch.
Fortunately Will Smith bounced back with an onslaught of hits, and harbors no regrets or ill will for missing that one. He simply doesn’t think he was the right man for the job, and that Keanu was.
“That’s the role Keanu was born to play. When I watch the movie and I see the choices he made, there are a hundred occasions when I think, ‘I would have messed that up.'”
Source: Contact Music
He Nearly Went Bankrupt in His Early 20s
Will Smith went from being an unknown Philly kid to a full-fledged rap phenomenon impossibly fast. Like any teenager who suddenly becomes rich, he started spending his money. Fast. That, combined with the fact that he didn’t file his taxes correctly, put him in a tight spot. The IRS came knocking saying that he owed $2.8 million in back taxes!
Luckily, he got his gig on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air soon after,and he was able to pay off his debt. He reportedly had to pay 70% of every check directly to the government.
He Founded a Private Elementary School
His Net Worth Is Around a Quarter Billion Dollars
Some websites claim he’s worth $240 million, others say it’s more like $260,000,000. But when it’s that kind of money, does it really matter? When your looking at a quarter billion in overall worth, I’d like to think at some point you just stop counting.
He Named His Production Company After His High School
Smith grew up in the Overbrook section of town, a part of Philly that has produced a whole world of talent. Basketball players Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Lear, Wali “Wonder” Jones, and Walt Hazzard are from there, as well as musician like The Dovells, The Orlons, and Dee Dee Sharp.
His production company, Overbrook Entertainment, is named after the local high school.
He Turned Down “Django Unchained”
Quentin Tarantino originally offered Will Smith the role of Django in his Oscar-winning film, but Smith turned it down because he wanted to play the “lead.”
“Django wasn’t the lead, so it was like, I need to be the lead,” Smith said. “The other character was the lead!”
He further explained how much he liked the screenplay and that the two even sat down and tried to work through it. But in the end, even though he thought the script was brilliant, it just wasn’t for him.
Source: Huffington Post
His First Record Producer Tried to Kill Him
Nowadays we see Will Smith as a total A-lister. But before he was a bonified movie star, he was an up-and-coming rapper who got caught up in street violence The rap game has always been rough, and you’ve got to start somewhere.
“I mean, during the first part of my music career, we signed our first deal with a gangster who later tried to shoot us,” Will said. “He was a penny-ante gangster, but the bullets were for real. As we were driving away, he shot at the car five or six times. It was pretty scary, but you don’t think about that while it’s happening, you’re just trying to get away. He would have killed us if he could actually shoot.”