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The Unspoken Truth Of Will Smith

There are many rappers who have transitioned from careers in music to acting, but few boast the incredible talent and raw star power commanded by Will Smith. From his roots growing up in Philadelphia to his successful careers in both music and acting, Smith has become a household name and one of the biggest stars in the world thanks in no small part to his iconic turns in blockbusters like "Independence Day" and "Men in Black," as well as his impressive performances in biopics such as "Ali" and "King Richard."

Born Willard Carroll Smith Jr. in 1968, Smith's career in the entertainment industry has spanned nearly four decades. While he has often made headlines for issues not relating to his work, including his complicated marriage with Jada Pinkett Smith and the controversy surrounding the 2022 Academy Awards incident, the immense success and cultural impact of his long career speaks for itself. With that in mind, let's delve deeper into the world of Will Smith with some lesser known facts about the man.

He became a clean rapper because of his grandmother

Rap music is not traditionally known for its kid-friendly lyrics, with many rappers employing profanity in their lyrics. Will Smith, however, has always been an exception to this rule. His songs completely steer clear of the bad language typically littered throughout other songs in the genre. This unusual decision helped Smith cement himself as a musician with a wide appeal that targeted audiences of all ages. Smith himself has said that the last time he used curse words in his songs was when he was 12 years old. It turns out that he made the decision to avoid cursing in his music because of his grandmother.

As a kid, Smith kept a rap book filled with songs he had written. When his grandmother discovered it and saw all of the expletives in his rhymes, she wrote him a letter, telling him that intelligent people don't need to use profanity in order to convey their feelings, and that she wished he would show the world how smart he is by not using them. He took these words to heart and decided then that his music would not involve the use of profanity. Smith did state in his memoir that he never liked being called a "soft" rapper, but he stuck to his principles and only ever delivered PG lyrics.

His first collab with DJ Jazzy Jeff was pure chance

Will Smith has worked with many talented people over the years, but there are few people he's collaborated with more closely than Jeffrey Townes, better known by the stage name DJ Jazzy Jeff. When Smith was looking to get into music, DJ Jazzy Jeff was already working successfully as a spinner and turntablist. Townes and Smith first worked together at a local house party near Smith's residence. Townes was DJing the event, but his MC was late, so Smith offered to fill in. After realizing how good they were as a duo, Smith began working with Townes regularly, and the rest is history.

Together, Smith and Townes became an incredibly popular hip hop team, winning two Grammy Awards for their songs "Parents Just Don't Understand" and "Summertime." They have remained good friends, and at times have joined together to collaborate creatively. Townes had a role on Smith's hit show "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," where he played an old friend of Smith's character, mirroring their real-life friendship. The two have occasionally reunited to perform musically, the last time being in 2019 for Smith's 51st birthday in Budapest.

He only agreed to make The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air because he was in debt

Will Smith famously transitioned from music to a career in acting with the popular '90s sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." The iconic comedy ran for six seasons from 1990 to 1996, and many fans consider it to be one of the shows that best represents the decade. The NBC sitcom single-handedly launched the acting career of Will Smith, who surprisingly wasn't even looking to get into acting when he was approached about the role.

At the time, Smith was in some trouble with the IRS. He was spending more than he made from his music and he ended up owing back taxes to the government. However, a fateful visit to "The Arsenio Hall Show" led to him meeting a producer and record executive named Benny Medina, whose life loosely inspired the premise of the show. Medina pitched the idea for "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" to Smith, but he initially turned it down, stating that he wasn't an actor. It wasn't until Medina had Smith meet with music legend Quincy Jones that he was convinced to do the show, largely because he needed the money to help pay off his IRS debts.

The hilarious reason he hates watching Wild Wild West

Most actors love to talk about their favorite movies that they have appeared in, but it can be much tougher to discuss their least-favorite film. Will Smith has revealed that his favorite movies that he starred in are "Men in Black" and "The Pursuit of Happyness," and that his least-favorite is the box office flop "Wild Wild West." This isn't exactly an unpopular opinion. 1999's "Wild Wild West" was poorly received by critics and viewers alike at the time and it hasn't aged particularly well: The film has a dismal 16% critic score and 28% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

The story follows Smith's James West, a Civil War hero tasked with protecting President Ulysses S. Grant. He's forced to team up with a U.S. Marshal (Kevin Kline), whom he butts heads with. When Smith went undercover to answer questions about himself on various social media websites for GQ in 2021, he revealed that he hates the outfits they had him wear. "'Wild Wild West' is just a thorn in my side," he said. "To see myself with chaps — I don't like it." Luckily, the poor reviews did nothing to impact Smith's career, with his successes only growing from there.

He turned down The Matrix because the pitch was too wild

When an in-demand actor takes on a new project, it often comes at the expense of another project. In the case of Will Smith, in order to take on the role of James West in "Wild Wild West," he had to turn down the lead role of Neo in "The Matrix," which ultimately went to Keanu Reeves. Of course, while "Wild Wild West" ended up being a critical and commercial failure, "The Matrix" was a massive success and quickly found its status as a cult classic film. It also helped define the stylistic choices of action films and the cyberpunk genre throughout the 2000s. But why did Smith turn it down, exactly?

In a YouTube video, Smith revealed that he was unimpressed by the Wachowskis' pitch at the time. He went on to say that he's "not proud" of his decision, though it was ultimately for the best. "Keanu was perfect," Smith said. "I probably would've messed 'The Matrix' up. I did y'all a favor!" It's hard to argue with this: Smith was known mostly for doing action comedies at the time, so his take on the character might have been more comedic, shifting the overall tone of the project. At this point, it's hard for fans of "The Matrix" to imagine anyone but Reeves in the role of Neo.

He was briefly in the Guinness Book of World Records

Will Smith has earned a lot of titles, awards, and honors throughout his career, but one of the more interesting achievements was his entry into the Guinness Book of World Records in 2005. While one might assume that a legendary actor and musician like Smith might be entered in the famous record book for one of his roles or albums, the entry actually relates to his attendance at movie premieres. During the promotion tour of his film "Hitch," Smith managed to attend three film premieres in a 12 hour span. 

The premieres, which were all in England, took place in Manchester, Birmingham, and London. Smith has stated that the reason he attended all three premieres was to see the fan reaction and to reach out to as much of his audience as possible. However, he has also stated that he enjoyed being entered into the Guinness Book of World Records. His record was ultimately beaten in 2009 by Bollywood star Abhishek Bachchan, who was able to attend an impressive seven premieres in 12 hours. Bachchan achieved this while promoting his film "Delhi 6."

He was hesitant to star in Concussion because he's a football fan

Will Smith has starred in quite a few beloved biopics. Among those is the film "Concussion," which follows the work of Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian born doctor specializing in forensic pathology. Dr. Omalu famously discovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in players of American football. The film follows Dr. Omalu as he investigates the death of Hall of Famer Mike Webster. Smith's performance as Dr. Omalu was widely praised by critics, and, for his moving portrayal, he was nominated for a Golden Globe among a host of other awards.

Interestingly, when Smith was first offered the role, he was hesitant to accept it. A football fan himself, Smith has stated that many of his happiest memories involve throwing a football around with his son. As such, he didn't want to be put in the position of being the face that people think of when considering the dangerous side effects of playing the sport. He quickly changed his mind after meeting with the real Dr. Omalu. The actor discovered that they share a similar value system, and, after attending several autopsies and learning more about Dr. Omalu's work, Smith decided to take on the role.

He regrets getting his son involved in After Earth

With Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith both working as actors, it's no surprise that their son, Jaden Smith, also wanted to pursue acting. In his career, Will Smith has worked with his son on several occasions. While casual viewers might assume that the father-son duo first worked together in the acclaimed film "The Pursuit of Happyness," Jaden's first time appearing in one of his father's movies was actually during a brief scene in "Men in Black II." However, "The Pursuit of Happyness" marked Jaden Smith's first major role. In the film, Will and Jaden play father and son in a tale based on the life of businessman and motivational speaker Chris Gardner.

The next time that Will and Jaden Smith teamed up was in 2013's "After Earth." The sci-fi film, which was directed by M. Night Shyamalan, follows a father and son who get stranded on a post-apocalyptic Earth. Unfortunately, "After Earth" received poor reviews and bombed at the box office. Years later, Will Smith admitted that "After Earth" is one of the biggest regrets of his career because it put his son in the cross hairs of critics. He has even said that he preferred the experience of "Wild Wild West," since that film only impacted his own reputation. "I led him into it," he said of working with his son on "After Earth" during an Esquire interview. "That was excruciating."

He was only the fifth Black actor to scoop the best actor Oscar

The 94th annual Academy Awards will always be remembered for Will Smith slapping Chris Rock after the host made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith. Sadly, Smith's behavior (which led to him being banned from the Oscars for 10 years) overshadowed his own achievement that night. It was third time lucky for Smith, who had previously been nominated for best actor for his performances in "Ali" and "The Pursuit of Happyness." 20 years after he was first nominated in the category, Smith scooped the award for best actor for "King Richard," a biopic about the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams.

That night, Smith became only the fifth Black actor to win the Academy Award for best actor in the history of the Oscars. The previous winners are Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx, and Forest Whitaker. Poitier, the first Black actor to have won the award for his performance in 1963's "Lilies of the Field," died earlier that year, leaving Smith as one of only four living Black actors to hold the award. Smith paid tribute to Poitier in an Instagram post, sharing a picture of them together. "Thank you Sidney Poitier for breaking down barriers, creating the path and making it possible for there to be a Will Smith," he captioned the photo.

He grew up Christian but likes to learn about other religions

Over the years, Will Smith has formed connections with several religions. The actor has stated that he grew up Christian and has attributed his faith to his grandmother. "She was my spiritual teacher, she was that grandmother at the church, the one having the kids doing the Easter presentations and putting on the Christmas plays and her kids and grandkids had to be first," Smith told Christian Post. "She was the most spiritually certain person that I had ever met in my entire life. Even to the point that when she was dying she was happy, like she was really excited about going to heaven."

However, while Smith may have grown up as a Christian, he has described himself as "a student of world religion." In 2018, after meeting with Hindu astrologer Prateek Mishrapuri, Smith performed several rituals. Among these rituals was Rudra Abhishek, which is believed to deter the negative effects of the planet Saturn. Mishrapuri stated that Smith had a deep reverence for the traditions he was being taught, and made a point of learning the importance behind each ritual and mantra.

Smith is also rumored to have dabbled with Scientology after being introduced to it by friend and fellow A-lister Tom Cruise. He has stated that he's not a member, "but the ideas of the Bible are 98% the same ideas of Scientology, 98% the same ideas of Hinduism and Buddhism," he told Access Hollywood. When quizzed about his links to the church by Collider, Smith said that he simply wants to know what everyone believes. "It's hugely important to have knowledge and to understand what people are doing," he explained. "What are all the big ideas? What are people talking about? I believe that my connection, to my higher power, is separate from everybody's."

He conquered his fear of heights in a crazy way

Turning 50 is a big milestone in anyone's life. For Will Smith, his 50th birthday was the perfect opportunity to be charitable. In 2018, Smith organized a YouTube Original Special titled "Will Smith: The Jump." The idea came about after Smith was challenged by a group of YouTube stars known as Yes Theory to conquer one of his fears. Smith chose heights and decided that he would bungee jump from a helicopter into the Grand Canyon. Over 17 million people watched the jump within the first 48 hours of the video going live.

As exciting as the event was to watch, Smith's daring bungee jump served another purpose: It helped to raise money for the organization Global Citizen and created awareness for their education campaigns. The event was also as a reunion of sorts, as Smith's "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" co-star Alfonso Ribeiro hosted the viewing party. Ribeiro played Carlton Banks in the '90s sitcom, and fans of the show were no doubt thrilled to see that the two stars were still in each other's lives.