Spending half an hour in the effervescent company of Will Smith is enough to brighten even the gloomiest of souls, yet the Hollywood superstar insists his joyous persona is not merely a façade for public consumption.
His angry slap of an over-amorous reporter in Moscow may have been the headline-grabbing moment of his recent publicity blitz to promote the Men in Black III movie, yet Smith is not worthy of a drop of negative publicity after a career that has barely featured a dip since he shot to fame a little over two decades ago in the TV series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Not many actors move from the small screen to be a part of big-screen movies that have grossed nearly Dh28 billion around the world, yet that is the legacy of his smash-hit blockbusters such as Independence Day, Ali and I Am Legend.
Despite his stunning success, Smith has always retained a glowing, warm charm and it was in evidence once again as we caught up with him to chat about the third instalment of his alien-repelling Men in Black franchise.
What inspired you to return to Men in Black a decade after the last movie?
I haven't worked in three years, so I was comfortable putting on some shoes that I knew would fit. We waited a long time to make this movie because we didn't want to just make something that would be successful and make lots of money. We wanted a good script and something to take the story forward and we have that in the third instalment.
The introduction of Josh Brolin changes the landscape of MIB III. Tell us what he brings to the story?
We travel back in time in this movie and that's where Josh's character comes in as a younger version of the Tommy Lee Jones character. We didn't know if Josh could pull it off, but he got a standing ovation on the first day of filming and from that point on, we knew we were making a great movie. He is just amazing. People cannot believe it is not Tommy Lee doing his voice because he turns in a special performance.
This is your first movie in 3D. Did you have any concerns about seeing yourself in that format?
Yeah man, my fear was I'd turn up to watch this movie, put the glasses on and my ears would come so far out of the screen that people would run scared from the theatre. Thankfully that didn't happen and the director Barry Sonnenfeld has done a great job with the 3D in this movie. It would have been easy to have aliens jumping out of the screen at you, but instead he used the technology in a really cool way.
Do you have any concerns about making a sequel and doing some damage to the image of a successful franchise such as Men in Black?
That's always the danger. People say you have made a movie to cash in on the success of the previous one, but this isn't the story behind Men in Black III. The magic of this series is that each is a stand-alone great movie, not a sequel to something that was better the time before. I will only do a sequel if it's great and in my opinion, this is great.
There are rumours you may play Barack Obama in a biopic of the US president one day. Is it true?
Yeah there has been some talk about an Obama movie and I think the only reason I'd get the role is because Barack and I share an ear issue. His are nearly as pronounced as mine, so I would have to be the man for the job. It's certainly something I'd consider, but we don't have a story completed yet. When Barack is finished writing his story, we will look to try to do something with it one day.
How do you always seem to be so happy, Will?
What the hell do I have to be miserable about? I have so much fun in life, I'm a lucky guy. I'm currently working on a movie with my son Jaden, my daughter Willow is going be in the movie version of Annie, so these are happy times in the Smith family. Every day feels like a holiday to me, man.
Of all the roles you have played in your career, which one are you asked about more than any other?
Well, that's easy as it was my first one, Fresh Prince. That show is syndicated around the world and it is a gift to me. It gave me my chance to have a career in this industry. My son Jaden just doesn't know how I didn't get laughed at for the clothes I wore in that show, but times change.