Will Smith at the I Am Legend Premiere at the Wamu Theatre at Madison Square Garden, New York City, December 11, 2007.
 
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Will Smith
Forecourt Ceremony held on Monday, December 10, 2007
 
Born: September 25, 1968, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Age at the time of the ceremony: 38
 
Who doesn't like Will Smith? This intensely likeable performer ignited a career as a rapper, lept into television, and before long, was starring in Hollywood blockbusters. It seems that wherever Smith is going, we all want to tag along.

Will Smith grew up with his older sister and younger twin siblings in the Wynnefield section of Philadelphia. Although his parents were Baptists, they sent Will to Catholic elementary school. They separated when Will was 13 years-old. While living with his mother — who was a school board administrator — she enouraged Will, with his good SAT scores, to apply to MIT, but something told him to forget it. That thing was rap.

Teaming up with a childhood friend turned turntablist, Jeffrey Townes, and beatboxer Clarence Holmes in late 1985, they formed a group called "DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince." Discovered by A&R man Paul Oakenfold, his company released the group's first single and supported it with a video. The song was entitled, Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble (released in 1986). Smith became known for his funny, light-hearted raps, which featured no profanity; hip-hop had its first squeaky-clean star even before Smith had graduated from high school.

Signed to Jive Records, the group released their first album, Rock the House, followed by He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper, which had the hit single and video Parents Just Don't Understand (released in 1988), which won the first Grammy for Best Rap Performance in 1989. The album spawned a second single/video A Nightmare on My Street (released in 1988).

IRS problems and an assault on record promoter William Hendricks brought the high-flying young man down a peg or two, but Smith struck paydirt with producer Quincy Jones and Andy and Susan Borowitz, who created a show for Will Smith to be in: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, airing over NBC for 148 episodes from September, 1990, to May, 1996. From this point, Smith began his quest to become "the biggest movie star in the world."

Starting out with a part in an ensemble piece about runaways in L.A., Where the Day Takes You (released in September, 1992) with Laura Flynn Boyle, and then doing a supporting role in Whoopi Goldberg's hit Made in America (which played the Chinese in May, 1993), his real breakthrough came as a mysterious character, claiming to be the son of Sidney Potier, terrorising a wealthy couple in Six Degrees of Separation (released in December, 1993) with Stockard Channing and Donald Sutherland. The funny and shocking film brought Smith to the attention of movie-goers everywhere.

So, who was the first person to star Smith in an action picture? Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who put him in Bad Boys (released in April, 1995) with Martin Lawrence, Right after Fresh Prince went off the air, Smith starred in Independence Day (which played the Chinese in July, 1996), which made him a huuuge star everywhere. Who doesn't like his turn in this film?

Smith wanted to be a star; now he was one. The bizarre Men in Black (released in July, 1997) with Tommy Lee Jones was a monster hit, and was followed by the thriller Enemy of the State (released in November, 1998) with Gene Hackman. Feeling large, Smith worked with his Men in Black director Barry Sonnenfeld in the seriously misshapen Wild Wild West (released in June, 1999) with Kevin Kline, which became something of a nortorious flop, but Smith bounced right back with Rebert Redford's sentimental The Legend of Bagger Vance (released in November, 2000) with Matt Damon.

Director Michael Mann cast Smith in his biopic of Mohammed Ali (released in December, 2001) with Jamie Foxx, then the following summer, Smith was back in Men in Black II (released in July, 2002) again with Tommy Lee Jones.

Now, a Will Smith picture was on the schedule for each of the major holidays: for summer, Bad Boys II (which played the Chinese in July, 2003) again with Martin Lawrence, and I, Robot (which played the Chinese in July, 2004); for Valentine's Day, Hitch (released in February, 2005) with Eva Mendes; for Christmas, The Pursuit of Happyness (released in December, 2006) with his son, Jaden Smith, and I Am Legend (which played the Chinese in December, 2007) with Alice Braga.

The summertime pics kept coming: Hancock (released in July, 2008) with Charlize Theron, Men in Black 3 (released in May, 2012) once more with Tommy Lee Jones, and After Earth (released in May, 2013), this time, co-staring with his son Jaden Smith.

For Valentine's Day, the caper film Focus (which played the Chinese in February, 2015) with Margot Robbie; for Christmas, Concussion (released in December, 2015) with Alec Baldwin; for summer, a smash hit with Suicide Squad (which played the Chinese in August, 2016) with Jared Leto; and for Christmas again, Collateral Beauty (released in December, 2016) with Edward Norton.

Smith is still considered a star who can "open," but the man is hedging his bets with streaming, starting with Bright (streaming over Netflix, beginning in December, 2017) with Joel Edgerton. And for those who cannot get enough of Will Smith, there's Will Smith's Bucket List, streaming over Facebook Watch, featuring wife Jada Pinkett Smith and son Jaden Smith.
 
 
Caption TK
Mann's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood, California. Will Smith Forecourt ceremony, Monday, December 10, 2007. Will Smith gives the cameras a hearty grin while pressing on.
 
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