This summer marks the 20th Anniversary of the hit blockbuster Independence Day, which turned Will Smith into a massive superstar overnight. It became the first movie ever to gross more than $500 million worldwide, and, naturally, after that movie started raking it in at the box office, everyone wanted Will Smith in their movies. Over the next few years, Will Smith would go on to star in hits such as Men in Black and Enemy of the State, but the actor recently addressed one of his missteps, the 1999 Western action adaptation of the Wild Wild West TV show which brought in some sci-fi elemenst to boot.
Wild Wild West wasn’t an absolute bomb in theaters, but it still came in far below the rest of his hits over the late 1990s. Wild Wild West took in $113.4 million domestically and $222.1 million worldwide, from a hefty $170 million budget back in 1999. Will Smith starred as James West in this remake of the hit TV series of the same name, leading a cast that also included Salma Hayek and Kevin Kline. During an appearance at Cannes Liones, courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter, Will Smith revealed that Wild Wild West was a low point in his career.
“I had so much success that I started to taste global blood and my focus shifted from my artistry to winning. I wanted to win and be the biggest movie star, and what happened was there was a lag — around Wild Wild West time — I found myself promoting something because I wanted to win versus promoting something because I believed in it. … Smoke and mirrors in marketing and sales is over. People are going to know really quickly and globally whether a product keeps its promises. My career has been strictly being able to sell my products globally, and it’s now in the hand of fans. I have to be in tune with their needs and not trick them into going to see Wild Wild West.”
It didn’t take Will Smith long to rebound from Wild Wild West, starring as Muhammad Ali in the 2001 biopic Ali, which earned the actor an Oscar nomination. The actor would still go on to work with Wild Wild West director Barry Sonnenfeld again with 2002’s Mem in Black II and 2012’s Men in Black III. It’s interesting to note that these statement come just a few months before one of the star’s most ambitious projects, the comic book adaptation Suicide Squad.
In quite a big departure for the actor, Will Smith plays the villainous Deadshot, who becomes part of Task Force X, a Suicide Squad assembled by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) to pull off near-impossible jobs. We’ll have to wait and see how Suicide Squad does in theaters, when it opens August 5, but early buzz has indicated that it will certainly do much better than Wild Wild West.