Willard Christopher Smith II or Will Smith is an accomplished motion picture actor, television star and musician. He was born (September 25, 1968) and raised in the Wynnefield section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the second of four children. He often uses the line “West Philadelphia born and raised” to describe his roots.
Will Smith started his career as The Fresh Prince, the vocalist of the pop-rap duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, which included childhood friend Jeffrey “DJ Jazzy Jeff” Townes as its turntabilist and producer. The duo was known for performing humorous, radio-friendly songs, most notably “Parents Just Don’t Understand”. Smith was a charismatic and energetic performer, and in 1990, the NBC television network signed him up and built a sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, around him.
He took on the challenge of his career in the title role of Ali, a biopic that explores the life of the legendary boxer. For his performance, Smith received Best Actor Award nominations from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Academy Award), The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (Golden Globe®), the NAACP, AFI and the Broadcast Film Critics Association.
In 2003, Smith starred alongside Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys II. In 2002, Smith starred in Men in Black II, which reunited him with Tommy Lee Jones and director Barry Sonnenfeld. With his company, Overbrook Entertainment, Smith served as Executive Producer for the feature film Showtime, starring Robert De Niro and Eddie Murphy.
Smith’s other film credits include The Legend of Bagger Vance, directed by Robert Redford. This performance earned Smith an NAACP Award nomination for Best Actor. He earlier starred in Wild Wild West, for which his theme song went gold and the soundtrack, produced by Overbrook, went double platinum.
He thrilled audiences in the suspenseful Enemy of the State and starred in two of the ten all-time top-grossing films worldwide: 1997’s summer smash Men in Black, (also recording the Grammy winning title song) and 1996’s Independence Day. Smith also starred in Bad Boys, one of the largest grossing films of 1995.
Smith was first recognized by NATO/ShoWest as the Male Star of Tomorrow in 1995 and he was honored with Male Star of the Year in 2002. In addition, he won the International Box Office Achievement Award in 1997 and was named 1999 Entertainer of the Year by the NAACP Image Awards.
His other film work includes a critically acclaimed performance in the Oscar-nominated Six Degrees of Separation, Made in America and Where the Day Takes You.
A music sensation, Smith made his first record as a high school senior and subsequently embarked on a rap career with friend Jeff Townes. DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince recorded several platinum and multi-platinum albums, winning two Grammys and three American Music Awards. Smith’s first solo album, Big Willie Style, has sold 8 million copies. His album Willennium and the featured single Will2K went double platinum, selling over 2 million copies each.
Smith made his transition into television as the star of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, a sitcom created for him by Quincy Jones. The hit NBC series wrapped its sixth and final season in 1996.
Smith is partnered with James Lassiter in Overbrook Entertainment. Together with Jada Pinkett Smith and Friends writer Betsy Borns, Smith and Lassiter are also currently producing the television show All of Us. The show is inspired by the domestic adventures of entertainment superstars Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith and reflects a new generation’s enlightened attitude toward the extended family dynamic with humor, sensitivity and heart. All of Us began airing on UPN in the fall of 2003. Smith swims with the fishes in the animated underwater underworld Shark Tale later this year, and he is currently filming the big-screen comedy The Last First Kiss with Eva Mendes.
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