February 6, 2005 --
What's a Will Smith movie doing opening in the middle of
Ever since 1996's "Independence Day," Smith has been
known for action-packed blockbusters ("Men in Black")
that open in the heat of summer and make millions.
In fact, he likes to call the July 4 holiday "Big
But now that he's 36, he's moving away from action.
"My body definitely doesn't feel the same," he admits.
He says he'd like to avoid "that old-man run - where
you see the action hero in his 50s, and he wants to make
one more, but shouldn't."
That's why he's going back to his comedy roots ("The
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air"), with "Hitch," which opens
It's his first romantic comedy - and if audiences
embrace him as a lover boy, it likely won't be his last.
In it, the $20-million-a-movie star plays Alex
Hitchens, an ultra-suave New Yorker who's so smooth with
the ladies that he hires himself out to other guys as a
Yet while he's trying to help a slobby accountant
(Kevin James of "The King of Queens") hook up with a
fancy socialite (Amber Valletta), he finds himself
falling for a hard-edged gossip columnist (Eva Mendes).
As it turns out, the "Hitch" shoot in New York last
summer brought up its share of relationship challenges
in Smith's own marriage - though he and wife Jada
Pinkett Smith handled them with customary aplomb.
"I mean, wow, Eva Mendes is freaking gorgeous," Smith
says - and he insists he would say the same thing to
"Our perspective is, You don't avoid what's natural.
You're going to be attracted to people.
"In our marriage vows, we didn't say 'forsaking all
others,'" he adds - though he insists he'd never cheat
on Jada without asking her permission.
"The vow that we made was that you will never hear
that I did something after the fact.
"If it came down to it, then one [spouse] can say to
the other, 'Look, I need to have sex with somebody. I'm
not going to if you don't approve of it - but please
approve of it.'"
Now, that doesn't mean that Will Smith is about to
screw up Hollywood's last good marriage.
For him, it comes down to one thing, he says: "Are
you a person of your word or not?"
That's the secret, he says, to why his marriage has
lasted, while so many other celebrity love matches have
bitten the dust.
"I spend hours reading, studying," Smith says. "And
my wife and I talk about things that work - and don't
Eight years in, the Smiths still behave like
"I don't let a day go past that Jada doesn't feel
like the queen of the world," Smith told a reporter last
month. "I make sure every single day that she knows how
I feel about her."
Will and Jada's solid relationship is such a
Hollywood rarity other famous couples have turned to
them to help salvage their unravelling marriages.
"Every time somebody in Hollywood breaks up, Jada and
I go and find out why," Smith says.
"With Bruce and Demi, we spent hours talking to them.
"And Tom and Nicole - hours, just trying to
understand what happened."
Of course, even the Smiths' expert marriage
counseling couldn't save either of those relationships -
but the experience, he says, has helped them in their
Like his good pal Tom Cruise, Smith is someone who
prides himself on self-control and serious discipline -
not only in relationships, but also in every other part
"It's kind of a game that I play with myself," Smith
says. "When everybody else is tired and going home at
the end of the day, I need to know that I'm the one
person that's going to the gym.
"I need that mindset because I've been successful,
and it's easy to get lazy. Once you start to slip
physically, you're going to slip mentally."
Smith has been a gym rat since 1995, when he first
started working with a personal trainer to get buffed up
for "Bad Boys."
These days, the 6-foot-2 actor lifts weights and runs
about three miles four or five times a week.
He showed off his buff bod (all of it) last summer,
during a brief nude scene in "I, Robot," and America's
breathless reaction spurred Jada to redouble her efforts
at the gym.
"She said, 'Nope, you're not catching me out there,
slipping out of shape,'" Smith has recalled.
"We call the younger guys that might be coming after
Jada 'thundercats,' and we call the girls who might be
coming after me 'thunderkittens.'
"Jada was like, 'Nope, all them thunderkittens got to
see my man in that movie. I gotta go get in shape.'"
Smith has always wanted to please the women in his
"I wanted them to always look at me like I was the
best," he recalls of his mother and grandmother. "That
transferred into the interaction with the women in my
When he was coming up, first as a rap star, then on
TV's "Fresh Prince" and in movies, Smith met plenty of
women - and sowed plenty of oats.
"I had about two years when I went a little wild," he
recalls. "After my first girlfriend left me, I just
didn't want to be attached. I wanted to be able to have
sex and move on."
But that was then.
After splitting from his first wife, Sheree (they
have a son, Trey, now 13), Smith met Jada, when she
tried out to play his girlfriend on "Fresh Prince." Nia
Long got the part, but Jada got the man.
They married on New Year's Eve in 1997, and now have
two kids of their own: son Jaden, 7, and daughter
They also stay very close with Sheree and Trey, in a
self-described "blended family" that Jada and Will used
as inspiration when they created the UPN sitcom "All of
Us,"now in its second seasion.
Will's next big-screen project is an as-yet-untitled
biopic adapted from a real story about a homeless man
who was living in a train-station bathroom, but now is a
self-made millionaire and owner of a Chicago stock
And he's also keeping a finger in the music biz.
He'll release a new single at the end of February, and
an album next month.
He'd even like to go on tour later this year, maybe
starting in Europe, where Jada played last year with her
band Wicked Wisdom, as an opening act for Britney
"Jada wants to go back," Will says. "It'll be the
Smith family tour."
Just don't expect to find him chasing bad guys or
fighting aliens anytime soon.
Even Jaden thinks his father should lay off the
"He said, 'Whoa, Dad, I love that,'" Will recalls.
"'But don't save the world no more.'"