Will Smith Discusses Shift in Acting Style in ‘Pursuit of Happyness’ Experience

Through

the course of his career, Will Smith has carved a niche as a likable actor who

brings a bit of himself to each role. But

that persona, according to the Philadelphia rapper, is nowhere to be found in

his latest feature, The Pursuit of Happyness. Instead,

Smith brings a new dimension to his acting style by entering a realm that was

different from what he’s accustomed to. They

(Pursuit director Gabriele Muccino and Ali director Michael Mann)

see right through me, all of the Will-isms and the things I know how to do to

make the audience smile and cry," Smith told AllHipHop.com during a press

conference promoting the film. "It’s scary for me right now because

I’m moving into a space where I just have no idea what’s going to happen

when I go into these scenes. I’m living in the moment."I’m

at such a different place in my life right now," continued Smith, who shares

screen time with Thandie Newton and his son Jaden. "Michael Mann opened my

mind up to a completely different way of working and creating and it’s grown

through this process right now through Gabriele Muccino and the last little spark

coming from Jaden."Based

on the true life story of Chris Gardner, The Pursuit of Happyness follows

Smith as he struggles to make ends meet in his quest to support himself and his

son (played by Smith’s real-life son Jaden Smith), while living on the street.

Although

Gardner ultimately triumphs over adversity, his biggest obstacle may not be the

obvious. "The

biggest -ism that I ever had to deal with was not racism, it was place-ism,"

revealed Gardner, who currently serves as the President and CEO of Gardner Rich,

a Chicago-based brokerage firm. "I’m not from a politically connected

family. I had not gone to college. I had no money of my own. Who’s going

to do business with you? That’s place-ism. That’s not racism… So the

racism thing was totally secondary. My love for what I had an opportunity to do

and my love for my child and the commitment minimized everything else."Smith’s

role in the film has garnered talk of an Oscar nomination for the entertainer,

who received his first Oscar nomination for his performance as in 2001’s Ali.

Smith

was recently honored by a friends and colleagues for his film work by the Museum

of the Moving Image at its 22nd annual black-tie salute. The

annual event is held to raise money to support the Museum’s education programs,

which help more than 25,000 intermediate and high school students each year. The

salute, which was held in New York City, will air in January 2007 on the Bravo

network. Smith, a co-producer of the UPN show All of Us, joins past recipients

which include Robert De Niro, Sidney Poitier and Steven Spielberg.Newton

saw first hand how involved the rapper became in doing Gardner’s story justice.

"I

was around Will in probably one of the most challenging roles of his life,"

she said. It was a very complex role… I do think that this movie stretched him

to his limit. And yet you look at it and there’s Will being majestic and

giving a beautifully led performance. And there’s his son giving a beautiful

performance. Nothing had to be comprised and yet he had so many roles to play

in the project."Gardner,

who established a solid friendship with Smith, recalled a conversation the two

had after showing Smith a picture of him and his son in front of the first house

the two lived in, after more than a year of living in the street. "I

say to Will ‘We can talk about the script or we can talk about these two

guys. What do you want to do?’, " said Gardner, who took Smith on a

series of walks to show him the places he and his son slept at during their homelessness.

"You

know what he chose. ‘Let’s talk about these two guys.’"

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