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Will Smith - Biography

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star is a doting father...

Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith attend the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on March 27, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California.
Updated: 15 November 2023
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"When I look back on my career," Will Smith said in 1995, "I want to have a somewhat dazzling, eclectic portfolio." Back then, Will was best known for his role in the TV series The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air.


He's even said he thinks he's capable of running for the White House, although he denies he is planning on doing so in the near future. Born in Philadelphia in 1968, Willard Smith Junior was nicknamed "Prince" by a high school teacher in reference to his regal attitude and ability to talk his way out of difficult situations. Will added "Fresh" from street slang meaning "cool" when he teamed up with DJ Jazzy Jeff to form a rap duo in 1981. The two released their first single five years later, Girls Ain't Nothin' But Trouble, and in 1988 they won a Grammy for the album He's The DJ, I'm The Rapper. The ever-charming Will parlayed his success into a role on the career-making sitcom The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, which aired from 1991 to 1996. In 1993, Will took his first step away from his squeaky clean "Fresh Prince" image to make the indie flick Six Degrees Of Separation, in which he plays a young gay hustler fooling an affluent white couple into believing he is Sidney Poitier's son. He more than held his own amid a cast of seasoned talent which included Donald Sutherland. Two years later, the actor proved his box-office pull in the action comedy Bad Boys alongside fellow sitcom star Martin Lawrence. The movie, made on a modest budget, grossed $65 million in the US, and the rapper-turned-actor saw his own earning power soar over the $5 million mark a rarity for a black actor in Hollywood. Will followed up with two back-to-back hits, sci-fi blockbuster Independence Day in 1996, and slick action-comedy Men In Black a year later. The latter inevitably led to a sequel, Men In Black II, released in 2002. 

With his A-list credentials cemented, Will has varied his feature film dance card, acting in 1998 thriller Enemy Of The State and playing a mystical golf caddy in Robert Redford's 2000 flick The Legend Of Bagger Vance. A key role came when he realised a long-held dream by portraying Muhammad Ali in the Michael Mann biopic Ali, for which he received his first Oscar nomination. These days Will is one of Hollywood's most successful leading men, with a trio of blockbusters - Bad Boys II, I, Robot, and Hitch - under his belt. The actor still manages to combine the popcorn with the potent in his movie choices, however, mixing thought-provoking roles such as that of Chris Gardner in The Pursuit Of Happiness, for which he received his second Best Actor nomination, with lighter fare.

Personal life

While basking in the immediate success of Men In Black, Will's personal life also shifted into a new gear. In 1997 he married Jada Pinkett, whom he had met on the set of The Fresh Prince. The couple have a son, Jaden, born the following year, and a daughter, Willow, who arrived in 2000. 

In October, Jada shocked fans of the couple when she revealed they had secretly separated back in 2016. The revelation was made in her tell-all book Worthy.

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