Will Smith has confirmed he and Michael B. Jordan will produce and star in a sequel to “I Am Legend” – based on the alternate ending used in the 2007 post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie’s DVD release, rather than its theatrical version, in which his character dies, the actor-producer said Saturday night during a public interview in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Smith, who is one of a number of Hollywood A list star guests at the third edition of the Red Sea Film Festival, also confirmed that there would be a “Bad Boys 4”, where he and co-star Martin Lawrence will reprise their roles in the earlier sequels of the original 1995 hit hip detective movie.
“I am having a call tomorrow with Michael B. Jordan about [‘I Am Legend’],” Smith told a small audience at one of the festival’s In Conversation events. “You have to be a real ‘I Am Legend’ buff to know this, but in the first, theatrical version, my character dies, but on the DVD there was an alternate version of the ending where my character lived. We are going with the mythology of the DVD version. I can’t tell you anything more, but Michael B. Jordan is in.”
Smith got in an early self-deprecating reference to the 2022 Oscar’s ceremony scandal where he slapped on-stage presenter Chris Rock after the comedian and actor made a poorly-judged quip about Smith wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head (the result of a hair-loss condition she was suffering) — saying since his childhood he had “always been good at math and science… and I loved problems and puzzles, so I started making my own problems,” before moving onto an entertaining analysis of his career.
His first love was rap, he told an audience dominated by long-time fans. Later, he realized the power of acting to understand, shape and influence the human condition.
“Movies are about people trying to figure out how to be here without being miserable – how to be okay with life, how to not just survive but how to thrive into this potential existential tragedy that we have all been dropped into,” he said, adding: “How do we find love and joy in all that.”
Asked to name his key mentors, he said that a pivotal moment was working with Tommy Lee Jones and Gene Hackman.
“That was the first realization that I could use everything I need around a single project. Those two actors made me realize that I was totally outmatched, and they inspired me to elevate my craft as an actor,” Smith said.
An actor with a prodigious record of hits, he said that he did not care whether he appeared in a blockbuster or a more modest project — as long as it was good and he learned from it: “The thing for me is that I have wanted to make good movies that were blockbuster, or blockbusters that were good. To me, the concept of a blockbuster is your heart — the block that gets busted is your heart, where your heart opens to the experience of the movie. That is what I have always concentrated on; even with something like ‘I Am Legend’ – you can give a real performance at the center of a special effects movie.”
Looking ahead, Smith said he wanted to become a mentor to a new generation of filmmakers and teach his craft.
“The thing I am really excited about now is the transfer of knowledge. I really want to teach filmmaking.
“What is exciting about Saudi Arabia is that it is a brand-new film community. There is a style of global storytelling that has travelled the world. I understand about taking local stories and making them global. I have a deep faith in the power of sharing our stories together to help heal wounds. The next stage of my life will be about working in global collaboration about sharing our stories in a way that creates bridges. I don’t feel that politics will create the necessary change.”
Concluding the hour-long conversation — during which he treated the audience to impersonations of Muhammad Ali, Richard Williams (the father of tennis players Serena and Venus Williams, whom he portrayed in the 2021 film “King Richard”) — Smith added his “adversities of the last couple of years” had honed his view on what he wants to do in the next phase of his life: “I have to be clear about who I am and what I am attempting to do in the world, I cannot depend on others applauding me for me to stay focused on my mission.”