Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 August 2019

Will Smith: a look back over his UAE visits

Ahead of Will Smith's return to Dubai to attend the screening of Suicide Squad, we take a look back over his previous visits to the UAE.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation UAE granted Adam Salim’s wish to meet Will Smith. Courtesy Make-A-Wish Foundation UAE
The Make-A-Wish Foundation UAE granted Adam Salim’s wish to meet Will Smith. Courtesy Make-A-Wish Foundation UAE

It is exciting news but not entirely surprising. Monday’s announcement that Will Smith will return to Dubai to attend a screening of the hotly anticipated DC Comics movie Suicide Squad on August 7 marks another chapter of his ongoing love affair with the UAE.

The 47-year-old previously made a surprise New Year’s Eve appearance at the popular Dubai beach bar Barasti to ring in 2014 alongside his friend, and former musical partner, DJ Jazzy Jeff, who was headlining the event.

Smith took to the stage at the stroke of midnight for an impromptu reunion as the mega-selling act Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, and treated the crowd to a performance of their 1991 hit Summertime, and his own solo 1997 chart-topper Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It.

It later emerged that Smith was in town with his wife, actress Jada Pinkett, to celebrate their 13th wedding anniversary.

He posted an instagram video of the gig, along with the message: “Happy New Years from Dubai! DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince! Happy Anniversary to the Smiths.”

It was not until he decided to go skydiving a few days later that we realised just how star-studded a crew he was rolling with.

Smith took the plunge alongside his wife, soul singer Maxwell, who was in town to perform at The Act, and Fast and Furious star Tyrese Gibson.

The latter was in the UAE to clear his head following the death of fellow Fast and Furious co-star Paul Walker in an off-set car crash. Furious 7 had been due to shoot scenes in Abu Dhabi around the same time, but Walker’s death forced a postponement.

Over the next few weeks, Smith spotting became something of a national pastime. The Men in Black star was regularly seen in restaurants and night spots around town, including the opening of culinary nightspot Toko.

On February 4, Smith made a new friend in Adam Salim, who suffers from Von Willebrand disease. Smith paid him an impromptu visit as part of The Make-A-Wish Foundation UAE charity initiative.

“I thought I wouldn’t be able to talk to him, but he was so friendly and we laughed a lot – it was really amazing,” said Salim, who was 12 years old at the time.

Two days later, Smith was spotted clubbing. He checked out his sons, Trey and Jaden, who performed DJ and MC sets at the VIP Room.

The time Smith spent with Gibson seemingly had a profound effect on the Fast and Furious star. Upon his return to the US, Gibson told chat-show host Arsenio Hall: “Dubai was great. I just got home yesterday. I found my smile again out there, it was amazing. Everyone knows what ended up happening at the end of the year with Paul Walker, my best man.

“Will Smith is my best friend and mentor, the most amazing guy ever. Listen what we did in 15 days, we feel like we’ve already lived eight months of 2014. It was that amazing out there.”

That trip also inspired Jaden. In one of the more bizarre rap couplets in hip-hop history, he riffed about his experience visiting the UAE with his dad in the 2014 track Pleidian Medicine: “I grabs my phone and call my father/ He was up in Dubai then drove to Sharjah/ And grabbed a car charger” (listen to the song here).

Smith was back in Dubai last October, again with his wife. He posted a Facebook picture of the two of them in front of the Burj Al Arab, alongside a caption explaining they were on a “date night”.

This immediately prompted speculation of another reunion with Jazzy Jeff, who was set to perform a few days later at Barasti’s Halloween party – fans were disappointed this time around.

It seems the fascination with Dubai has spread to the younger Smiths, too.

Last August, Jaden and his sister, Willow, flew in to perform at Dubai Mall as part of Dubai Summer Surprises. They also paid a visit to the Burj Khalifa.

Could the celebrity screening of Suicide Squad – in which Smith plays Deadshot, one of a group of supervillains recruited for a dangerous mission by a shadowy government agency – attract a another family gathering, perhaps with a soundtrack provided by Jazzy Jeff?

So far, we’re only promised the movie star himself – but with such a long-running Smith/UAE connection, anything is possible.

• Suicide Squad is due for release in UAE cinemas on August 4

cnewbould@thenational.ae

Updated: July 25, 2016 04:00 AM

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