June 29, 2016
By the 1990s, Will Smith had ascended from the streets of West Philadelphia to Hollywood deity. Box-office behemoths like "Independence Day" and "Men in Black" were both gold mines and relatively well-received by critics.
And then, in 1999, "Wild Wild West" was released — a "steampunk" (possibly the weirdest movie subgenre) action-comedy that was both a disappointment in ticket sales, as well as a "bombastic, manic, and largely laugh-free" film, according to the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, where it holds a "rotten" score of 17 percent.
On top of all that, this
song collection of musical notes and lyrics was produced and released to the public, adding to a crowded list of terrible theme tracks that "'90s Kids" would ironically enjoy years later:
Why would Smith, one of the biggest movie stars on the planet, agree to do a film that's since been universally trashed by critics and audiences? He attempted to explain during a conference at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
Smith said by the mid-90s, his chase for fame had eclipsed his ability to be selective in choosing his projects, according to AdWeek:
"What happened is there was a big of a lag, a slump in my career—around the Wild Wild West time—where I found myself promoting something because I wanted to win, versus promoting something because I believed it was helpful," he said.
"I had so much success that I started to taste global blood, you know?" Smith said. "My focus shifted from my artistry to winning. I wanted to win. I wanted to be the biggest movie star in the world."
Smith went on to explain that he now tries to pick films he believes in and has made a shift from focusing on products to instead focusing on people. He added that social media has taken away a lot of power from movie marketers. Per AdWeek:
"The power has gone away from the marketers. I consider myself a marketer. My career has been strictly about being able to sell my products globally. But the power has gone away. The power is now in the hands of the audience, in the hands of the fans. The only choice I have is to be in tune with their needs, not try to trick them into going to see Wild Wild West."
It takes a big man to admit a mistake, and it appears Philly's biggest living celebrity has (sort of) done just that. Props to you, Will.