Thursday, September 16, 2004

'Bad Boy', Will Smith, wows Jozi

Nadia Neophytou

Some of that Madiba magic and his biggest blockbuster yet prompted the former ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’, Will Smith to make another visit to South Africa.

“The first time I came to South Africa, I sat with Mandela and he got me quite fired up to do something positive. I wanted to quit my job and take to the streets!” says the actor. Fortunately for the movie world, that was not quite the action he ended up taking.

“Mandela said to me, you must understand the power of what you do. World cinema shapes the perceptions and attitudes of children and adults, and lawmakers, the world over, showing what could, or should, be.” Returning home, Smith felt ready to help but still wasn’t quite sure how.

46664 gave him the action to his motive. The idea of using technology to gather funds for Aids research and assistance appeals to Smith, whose new movie ‘I, Robot’ looks at the relationship between humans and technology in the shape of robots.

“With 46664, I feel like there is some importance to my work.” Funds raised from the film’s premiere in SA will also go towards upliftment of Aids survivors.

Smith is currently in South Africa with his wife, Jada Pinkett, and his children.

“I feel good here, I enjoy the people and the energy,” he says. The ‘Bad Boys’ star feels among the action and fun – and a little nudity – of ‘I, Robot’ lies real concepts and themes that viewers can take away with them.

“The themes raised in this film will spark real conversations.”

The film is based around Isaac Asimov’s visionary stories about future technology where robots are an integral part of our daily lives. Set in 2035, Smith plays Detective Del Spooner, a police officer dealing with a heavy dose of survivor’s guilt and a deep suspicion of robots.

There are three laws governing the relationship between the humans and robots of ‘I, Robot’. A robot cannot harm a human being or allow a human being to come to harm; a robot must obey a human being’s orders unless the orders conflict with the first law; a robot must protect its own existence as long as it doesn’t conflict with the first or second law.

“The film is based on Asimov’s later work, specifically the 4th Law,” says Smith, “where the robots redefine the first law, so it changes from human being to human kind. The logical glitch within this forms the basis of this film, where robots could harm human beings if such harm would defend human kind.”

A fan of Asimov’s writing, Smith is delighted that Asimov’s daughter Robin was happy with the film. “Robin loves it because it sticks firmly to her daddy’s work!”

Smith believes the concept of a soul is intangible, one that cannot be defined completely: “How can we say then that a robot doesn’t have one?”

Unlike his character, Detective Spooner, Smith is more welcoming of technology, even if he is confident that humans will mess things up.

“The concept (of technology) is sound, but the arrogance of man inevitably leads to a natural implosion,” he says. With ‘I, Robot’, Smith’s movie career has taken off. The film already raked in $56 million at the US box office.

But this doesn't mean his music career has been sidelined; Smith is set to release a new album early in the new year.

“I’m really confident about it. The sound has matured but there is still that same Will Smith flavour we all know,” he jokes.

The album features a duet with queen of R&B Mary J. Blige and also Ludacris. Smith said he even sent a CD to Justin Timberlake so we may just be hearing a collaboration between the two very soon.

Ever the actor at heart, Smith has just completed a romantic comedy with Eva Mendez, which opens in the US on February 11 next year, adding another role to an extensive resumé.