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Willard Christopher Smith II (born September 25, 1968) is an African American actor and rapper. He is one of few people who has enjoyed success in the three major entertainment media in the United States: film, television, and the music industry.

Smith was born and raised in the Wynnefield section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the second of four children. He often uses the line “West Philadelphia born and raised” to describe his roots. He is a graduate of Overbrook High School. He was admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but chose to pursue acting instead.

Will Smith started his career as The Fresh Prince, the vocalist of the hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, which included childhood friend Jeffrey “DJ Jazzy Jeff” Townes as turntablist and producer. The duo was known for performing humorous, radio-friendly songs, most notably “Parents Just Don”t Understand” and “Summertime”.

 

Smith was a charismatic and energetic performer, and in 1990, the NBC television network signed him up and built a sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, around him. The show was successful and ran for six seasons.

Although he made a notable dramatic film debut in Six Degrees of Separation (in which he played totally against type as a gay con man) while still appearing in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Smith’’s film career took off with his role in Bad Boys (1995) along with co-star Martin Lawrence.

After The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air came to an end in 1996, Smith began a successful solo career in music and simultaneously starred in a series of films. The first two films were hugely successful summer blockbusters: Independence Day (1996), where he plays a fearless and confident fighter pilot, and Men in Black (1997), where he plays the comic and confident Agent J against Tommy Lee Jones’’s deadpan Agent K. Smith’’s acting in Men in Black won critical praise, and both films established Smith’’s commercial reputation as a “bankable” star who had appeal across age, race, and gender, and could “open” a film at the box office.

 

Lead roles in Enemy of the State, Wild Wild West, Ali, Bad Boys II and I, Robot then followed. His most recent film is 2005′’s Hitch. (Like Smith, Hitch co-star Kevin James starred in a sitcom named for royalty, The King of Queens.)

Smith was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of the boxer Muhammad Ali in Ali.

Smith also released a string of hit singles, often associated with his most recent film, throughout the late 1990s. The most notable of these were his #1 hit theme song “Men in Black”, the #1 hit “Gettin” Jiggy Wit It” (which made jiggy a catchphrase for a while in 1998), and “Just the Two of Us”, an affecting message to his young son. His first two solo albums went platinum, but his third, on Columbia Records, was a sales disappointment compared to his past efforts, and after a quick Greatest Hits release that was almost not advertised at all, he was dropped by the label. He signed a recording contract with Interscope Records and released the so far, moderately successful Lost and Found in 2005.

 

On July 2, 2005, Smith served as host for the Live 8 concert in his native Philadelphia before an enormous crowd, and later performed a set with DJ Jazzy Jeff.

Smith married actress Sharee Zampino in 1992. They had a son, Willard Christopher III, also known as “Trey”. They divorced in 1995. Smith married actress Jada Pinkett in 1997. They have had two children: Jaden Christopher Syre (1998) and Willow Camille Reign (2000). Along with his brother Harry Smith, he owns Treyball Development Inc., a Beverly Hills-based company named after his first son. With all his commercial success, Will Smith is arguably the biggest star in today’’s pop culture and his wealth has continued to grow as his name has continued to appear in Forbes Richest 40 under the age of 40.

 

Discography

Albums

with DJ Jazzy Jeff (as The Fresh Prince)
Rock the House (1987) #83 US
He’’s the DJ, I”m the Rapper (1988) #4 US
And in this Corner… (1989) #39 US
Homebase (1991) #12 US
Code Red (1993) #64 US
Greatest Hits (1998) (including material from Will Smith’’s solo career) #500 US, #20 U

 

Solo

Big Willie Style (1997) #8 US, #9 UK (U.S. Sales - 9 million)
Willennium (1999) #5 US, #10 UK (U.S. Sales - 2 million)
Born to Reign (2002) #13 US, #24 UK (U.S. Sales - 500,000+)
Greatest Hits (2002)
Lost & Found (03/29/2005) #6 US, #15 UK [Certified Gold]
Total album sales: 16 million

 

Hit singles

with DJ Jazzy Jeff (as The Fresh Prince)
“Girls Ain”t Nothing But Trouble” #21 UK (1986)
“Parents Just Don”t Understand” #12 US (1988)
“Nightmare on My Street” #15 US (1988)
“Summertime” #4 US, #8 UK (1991)
“Ring My Bell” #20 US (1991)
“How Much I Love You” #19 UK (1992)
“Boom! Shake the Room” #13 US, #1 UK (1993)
“I”m Lookin for the One (To Be with Me)” #24 UK (1993)
“Can”t Wait to Be with You” #29 UK (1994)
“Summertime” (re-entry) #29 UK (1994)
“Boom! Shake the Room” (remix) #40 UK (1995)
“Lovely Daze” #37 UK (1998)

Solo

“Men in Black” #1 US, #1 UK, #1 Australia (1997)
“Just Cruisin”” #23 UK (1997)
“Gettin” Jiggy Wit It” #1 US, #3 UK, #6 Australia (1998)
“Just the Two of Us” #20 US, #2 UK (1998)
“Miami” #10 US, #3 UK (1998)
“Boy You Knock Me Out” (Tatyana Ali feat. Will Smith) #3 UK (1999)
“Wild Wild West” (feat. Dru Hill) #2 UK (1999)
“Will 2K”, #2 UK (1999)
“Freakin” it”, #15 UK (2000)
“Black Suits Comin” (Nod Ya Head)” (feat. Tra-Knox) (From the film “Men in Black 2″) #3 UK (2002)
“Switch” #7 US, #4 UK, #1 Australia (2005)
“Party Starter” (2005) #19 UK
Total singles sales: 5 million

 

Filmography

Where the Day Takes You (1992)
Made in America (1993)
Six Degrees of Separation (1993)
Bad Boys (1995)
Independence Day (1996)
Men in Black (1997)
Enemy of the State (1998)
Torrance Rises (1999) (short subject)
Wild Wild West (1999)
Men in Black: Alien Attack (2000) (short subject)
Welcome to Hollywood (2000) (documentary)
The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)
Ali (2001)
Men in Black II (2002)
Bad Boys II (2003)
A Closer Walk (2004) (documentary) (narrator)
Jersey Girl (2004) (cameo)
I, Robot (2004)
Shark Tale (2004) (voice)
There’’s a God on the Mic (2005) (documentary)
Hitch (2005) (also producer)
Pursuit of Happyness (2006) (currently in pre-production) (also producer)
Time Share (2006) (currently announced start of production) (also producer)
Tonight, He Comes (2006) (currently announced start of production)

 

Salary History

I, Robot (2004) $28,000,000
Bad Boys II (2003) $20,000,000 + 20% of the gross
Men in Black II (2002) $20,000,000 + 10% of the gross
Ali (2001) $20,000,000
The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000) $10,000,000
Wild Wild West (1999) $7,000,000
Enemy of the State (1998) $14,000,000
Men in Black (1997) $5,000,000
Independence Day (1996) $5,000,000
Bad Boys (1995) $2,000,000
Six Degrees of Separation (1993) $500,000
Made in America (1993) $100,000
Where the Day Takes You (1992) $50,000
Total salary gross: $135,000,000

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