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Will Smith: From Fresh Prince To Hollywood Powerhouse

VO: Rebecca Brayton
He has been labeled the most powerful actor on the planet. Starting off with a successful career in rap as the Fresh Prince, he soon parlayed this squeaky clean family-friendly persona into a successful 90s television show 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.' Since then, he has solidified his place as a huge summer movie draw, with unprecedented big box office returns and a clean reputation based on personal integrity. Join as we examine the career of Will Smith, and his formidable success in numerous arenas in the entertainment industry, including the role of producer.

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Will Smith: From Fresh Prince To Hollywood Powerhouse

He’s been labeled as the most powerful actor on the planet. Welcome to and today we’ll be taking a look at the career of A-list actor Will Smith.

Born Willard Christopher Smith, Jr. on September 25th, 1968 in West Philadelphia; his early aspirations did not include attending college. Instead he developed an early love of rap, before becoming the MC of a hip hop duo.

Soon after, NBC hired him to create and star in a sitcom, which would later become a television phenomenon called “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” Not only launching his acting career, the role as a sassy, street-smart kid coping with life in Los Angeles’ richest area helped him find the legs he needed to market himself as a movie actor.

He then appeared in the bleak and melodramatic film “Where The Day Takes You” as a crippled homeless beggar. Shortly afterward, he was given the chance to play the friend of Whoopi Goldberg’s onscreen daughter in the Comedy “Made In America.”

However, in 1993 Critics finally took notice of him in the lead role of a manipulative imposter in the Oscar-nominated film “Six Degrees of Separation.”

Pulling into bigger box office fare, Smith then starred as a narcotics detective opposite fellow comedian Martin Lawrence in the big budget action thriller “Bad Boys.”

Topping this success, Smith then played the part of a Marine Corps Captain in Roland Emrich’s alien disaster movie “Independence Day.”

Continuing his ride to the top of Hollywood’s A-List, he then dazzled audiences by starring in the sci-fi hit “Men In Black”, and the conspiracy thriller “Enemy of The State.”

Miraculously, his career was unaffected by his ill fated decision to turn down the role of Neo in the Matrix, in favor of starring in the 1999 summer stinker “Wild Wild West.”

Pressing on, Smith became a mystical caddie in “The Legend of Bagger Vance”, before starring in the biopic “Ali”. Replicating Mohammed Ali’s character traits, Smith secured himself an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

Smith then returned to co-star in both the “Men in Black” sequel and “Bad Boys 2.” While both were moderate successes, neither matched 2004’s film adaptation of “I, Robot.”

Next, he lent his voice to the animated feature “Shark Tale”, offered his services as a dating doctor in the romantic comedy “Hitch” and starred in the American biographical drama “The Pursuit of Happyness.”

In 2007, Will Smith found himself alone with his dog in a post-apocalyptic future trying to undo a viral plague in his unprecedented worldwide success “I Am Legend.” This was a triumph he quickly repeated with his offbeat drunken’ superhero flick “Hancock”, despite its mixed reviews.

In 2008, he set out to change the lives of seven people in “Seven Pounds.”

Of all the talent on the red carpet, few can claim the same level of rapid success as this rapper-turned-Hollywood A-lister. And over the years he has continued to create music and even sit in the producer chair, such as his involvement in 2010’s “The Karate Kid”, starring his own son.

Continuing to thrill audiences as only he can, he is set to reprise his role in the upcoming 3D entry in the “Men In Black” franchise.

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