There are few artists better placed to discuss the change taking place regarding entertainment consumption patterns than Will Smith. The former sit-com star/rapper was propelled onto the big screen in the 1990s with titles like Enemy of the State and Men in Black, but it is now dawning on the 48-year old that such a trajectory might no longer be plausible.
Appearing at San Diego Comic-Con to promote his upcoming Netflix feature Bright alongside director David Ayer and co-star Joel Edgerton, the West Philadelphia native was quizzed about his thoughts on fronting a movie that will open exclusively on a streaming service. Without a red carpet night or major premiere event to attend, this shift is an adjustment not only for the audience, but for Smith himself.
Fans Are Driving Force Behind Platform Move: Smith
Rather than buy into any friction between the likes of Netflix and Amazon against the theater companies, the veteran actor believes the two worlds will continue to co-exist.
“I have a 16-year-old, a 19-year-old, and a 25-year-old at home, and their viewing habits are almost anthropological,” he explained. “It’s a great study to see how they still go to the movies on Friday and Saturday night, and they watch Netflix all week. It’s two completely different experiences.”
Yet he does admit that the experience for the stars themselves will have an effect, no longer amplifying those who are fronting the production like it used to.
“I was on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and people would see me on the street, like, ‘Will, Will, Will!’” Smith recalled. “And that Monday after Independence Day came out was the first time anybody referred to me as ‘Mr. Smith.’ (It) penetrates people in a very different kind of way.
"I released my first record in ’86, so I’m over 30 years in the business. I’m seeing that transition of, essentially, the fans being more and more involved in the creative process. In terms of movie stardom, it’s a huge difference: You almost can’t make new movie stars anymore, right?”
“Well,” remarked a grinning Smith, “I think Mr. Nolan is a wonderful director and I will not say anything that will keep me from being in his next movie.”
Will Talks Sci-Fi Sex Appeal and Changing Racial Dynamics
Given his long history in the genre of science-fiction, what would keep him coming back to a picture like Bright? Smith said his love affair keeps coming back to watching the original Star Wars - an experience that was better than sex.
"I've never been smashed like that in a movie theater. My mind was boggled. For my entire life I've been chasing, trying to give that feeling to fans. There was nothing that I had experienced in my life that matched that point of ecstasy... I had sex a few years later. It was close, but no Star Wars."
When interviewed by CBS News, he outlined how the role of a racist LAPD officer was something entirely unique. Whereas most characters would be divided on race, he would get the chance to be on the other end by discriminating against an orc cop (Joel Edgerton).
"You never get to be racist when you're black," he said bluntly."You're like, 'Look man, I don't want no orcs in my car.'"
Bright is available to stream on December 22.