- Will Smith said that he tried to dethrone Tom Cruise and become the biggest film star in the world.
- “I started quietly monitoring all of Tom’s global promotional activities,” Smith said in his memoir.
- The goal was more difficult to achieve than he thought, so he used his musical skills to outdo Cruise.
Will Smith said that he kept tabs on Tom Cruise’s press tour itineraries so that he could outdo him as the biggest film star in the world.
In his self-titled memoir released on Tuesday, Smith recalled asking Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Bruce Willis for advice at the launch of their cofounded restaurant called Planet Hollywood in Sydney, Australia in May 1996.
“You are not a movie star if your movies are only successful in America,” Schwarzenegger, known for his role in the “Terminator” films, told Smith. “You are not a movie star until every person in every country on earth knows who you are. You have to travel the globe, shake every hand, kiss every baby. Think of yourself as a politician running for Biggest Movie Star in the World.”
In the ’90s, Smith was the star of the hit sitcom titled “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” But he was eager to accomplish more and took Schwarzenegger’s advice seriously.
“I started to notice how much other actors hate traveling, press, and promoting. It seemed like utter insanity to me,” Smith wrote, explaining that he and his manager, James Lassiter, realized that a movie might generate more money and success in a given country if he visited and did press and fan events.
To achieve his goal of being the greatest, Smith alternated between filming “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” during the week and traveling overseas to do press.
He also “scanned the field of my competition to see who else knew, who else held the secret” and noticed that Cruise “was the head of the pack.”
While Smith was making a splash in hip-hop and television, Cruise was already a bona fide movie star, having appeared in films like “The Outsiders,” “Risky Business,” “Top Gun,” and “Interview With the Vampire.”
“I started quietly monitoring all of Tom’s global promotional activities,” Smith recalled in his memoir. “When I arrived in a country to promote my movie, I would ask the local movie executives to give me Tom’s promotional schedule. And I vowed to do two hours more than whatever he did in every country.”
Smith said that his objective turned out to be more difficult to accomplish than he anticipated.
“Unfortunately, Tom Cruise is either a cyborg, or there are six of him,” he said. “I was receiving reports of four-and-a-half-hour stretches on red carpets in Paris, London, Tokyo … In Berlin, Tom literally signed every single autograph until there was no one else who wanted one. Tom Cruise’s global promotions were the individual best in Hollywood.”
Smith turned to music to best Cruise, setting up stages and doing free, live performances outside of his movie premieres. These events often drew plenty of fans, with one event in London getting shut down after 10,000 people took over the streets.
“Tom couldn’t do that — neither could Arnold, Bruce, or Sly,” he said. “I’d found my way out of the entertainment news segment and into headline news. And once your movie moves from entertainment to news, it’s no longer a movie — it’s a cultural phenomenon.”
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Will Smith says he monitored Tom Cruise’s global press activity so he could surpass him as the biggest movie star in the world