Will Smith has made his prolific career as an actor starring in roles across many genres including comedy, drama and action.
However, there’s one type of movie that the “Suicide Squad” star said he tried to stay away from.
“I’ve always avoided making films about slavery,” Smith, 53, revealed in a new interview for GQ. “In the early part of my career … I didn’t want to show black people in that light.”
The multi-hyphenate actor-rapper-producer continued: “I wanted to be a superhero. So I wanted to depict black excellence alongside my white counterparts. I wanted to play roles that you would give to Tom Cruise. And the first time I considered it was ‘Django [Unchained],’ but I didn’t want to make a slavery film about vengeance.”
Smith turned down the role of Django in the 2012 Quentin Tarantino cult film, with the role of the former slave-turned-bounty-hunter ultimately going to Jamie Foxx. “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” star previously opened up about his misgivings regarding that movie during a roundtable discussion with The Hollywood Reporter back in 2015.
“It was about the creative direction of the story,” he said. “To me, it’s as perfect a story as you could ever want: a guy that learns how to kill to retrieve his wife that has been taken as a slave. That idea is perfect. And it was just that Quentin and I couldn’t see [eye to eye]. I wanted to make the greatest love story that African-Americans had ever seen.”
While Smith said he “wanted to make that movie so badly,” he noted that he “felt the only way was, it had to be a love story, not a vengeance story. I don’t believe in violence as the reaction to violence.”
Fast forward to 2021, and the “Miami” singer will actually be playing a runaway slave named Peter in his upcoming Apple TV+ film “Emancipation.” The drama is inspired by an iconic image — first published in 1863 — showing the horrifically scarred back of a slave by that name. His back side was scourged from being whipped repeatedly.
However, Smith explained to GQ that he wanted to tell this specific story about slaves because “this was one that was about love and the power of black love.
“And that was something that I could rock with,” he said. “We were going to make a story about how black love makes us invincible.”
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