Will Smith is one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars. From sitcoms to Oscar-nominated roles, Smith has dominated the box office, but he wasn’t always America’s leading man, which might leave fans wondering about Will Smith’s first movie.
Will Smith’s first movie was 1992’s Where the Day Takes You. Smith was already on Tinsel Town’s radar with his hit television show The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, but his first foray into film helped pave the way to his leading man status.
Read more below about Will Smith’s rise to fame as an Oscar-nominated and multiple Grammy Award-winning rapper.
DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air
Will Smith was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1968. He was raised by his parents along with his three siblings.
Despite Smith’s mother working for the school board, the high school student had no intention of pursuing a college degree. Smith wanted to pursue a career in the music industry as a rapper.
It was during this time that Will Smith met DJ Jazzy Jeff, when the latter performed at a house party nearby. The duo teamed up, going on to achieve major fame, winning the first Grammy ever given to a rap song for their hit Parents Just Don’t Understand and becoming lifelong collaborators.
Despite the duo’s fame and best-selling song, Will Smith had serious tax debt and realized he needed to expand his presence in the entertainment industry. Through a stroke of luck, Smith was introduced to the legendary Quincy Jones, who set up a meeting for Smith to meet NBC execs.
The Fresh Prince of Bel Air premiered on NBC in 1990. Smith led an ensemble cast as the show followed his character who gets shipped off to an opulent area of California to live with his aunt, uncle and cousins after Smith’s character gets into trouble back in Philadelphia.
The show ran for six seasons and was a hit with audiences. During the run of the series, the show hosted numerous veteran actors and high-profile musical guests in minor roles on the show, not to mention featuring DJ Jazzy Jeff in an ongoing gag where Smith’s uncle tosses him from the house.
Action Star Status and Box Office Wins
It was during the run of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air that Smith nabbed his first movie role in Where the Day Takes You. Despite receiving positive reviews and starring a slew of veteran actors, the film was a financial failure and did not break even.
Despite this failure, Smith’s successful career in television kept him on Hollywood’s radar and he was cast in 1995’s megahit Bad Boys and 1996’s Independence Day, the latter of which became of of the highest grossing films ever at that time.
As Smith continued to rack up acting roles, he also released his first solo album, Big Willie Style, which was certified nine times platinum and had five hit singles. Smith dominated the box office and the airwaves, but he was about to make the leap from action star to respected actor.
Oscar Nominations and Leading Man Status
Smith was cast as Muhammad Ali in 2001’s biopic Ali. The film was a critical and commercial success and nabbed Smith his first Oscar nomination.
During filming, Smith met and became friends with the real Muhammad Ali, and when the boxing legend passed away in 2016, Smith honored his late friend and the impact he’d had on Will’s life. The actor posted a Facebook tribute, writing, “You shook up the World! My Mentor & My Friend. You changed my Life. Rest in Peace.”
Looking to the Future
Since that time, Will Smith’s career has continued to skyrocket. Smith has become one of the most respected actors in Hollywood, a veritable leading man, who has amassed multiple Oscar, Golden Globe and Grammy nominations.
Smith, however, has not let the success go to his head. The actor believes it isn’t talent that has gotten him where he is, but instead what he calls “a sickening work ethic.”
You can watch Will Smith discuss the key to his success in the video below.
As Will Smith continues to have professional success, it’s clear that his first film role was just a minor blip and had no real effect on the actor’s path to superstardom. Smith’s star was already well on the rise with his hit television show and music career.