'I am deeply human,' Will Smith tells Saudi audience at Red Sea Film Festival

The actor charted his career and spoke about coming projects, including I Am Legend 2 with Michael B Jordan

Will Smith attends Red Sea International Film Festival in Saudi Arabia

Will Smith attends Red Sea International Film Festival in Saudi Arabia
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After being at the centre of contentious media attention for the past two years, Will Smith said he now has “to be clear about who I am and what I am attempting to do in the world".

“I can't need others to applaud for me to stay focused on my mission,” he said during a public conversation on Saturday at Vox Cinemas in Jeddah’s Red Sea Mall.

“I have always wanted to put good into the world. I've always wanted to make people smile. I’ve always been devoted to the process of joy and inspiration.”

The actor was in Saudi Arabia for the Red Sea International Film Festival. During the discussion, he shared his experiences in the music and film industries, charting his rise to fame and hinting at the mistakes that have plagued his career recently. The event was one of Smith's longest public appearances in the wake of his Oscars slap.

The actor did not explicitly reference the incident. However, he did touch upon his drive to grow and learn from his experiences.

“I am deeply human, and my virtue is not yet perfected,” he said. “I am in the process of perfecting my virtue. One of, I would say, the greatest thing that has happened is I have been deeply humbled and deeply inspired to perfect my light. That’s what this next phase of my life is going to be.”

Smith hinted that his future aspirations would revolve around mentoring a new generation of filmmakers. “I really want to teach,” he said. “I really want to teach filmmaking. I want to work with people on big movies.”

He also suggested that his pedagogical ambitions were international and expressed his amazement at Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning film industry. “What's exciting to me about Saudi is it's a brand new film community,” he said. “So, it's brand new filmmakers.”

Having travelled across the world to promote and create his films – an initiative that found momentum, Smith said, after advice given by Arnold Schwarzenegger – the actor said he developed an understanding towards what made films strike a universal chord.

“I understand that tiny little adjustments make things global,” he said. “To be able to take local stories and make them global. I’m excited to travel the world and collaborate and be able to teach and build [a] global storytelling community.

"I have a deep faith in the power of sharing our stories with one another, to help heal wounds, to help learn about each other. I feel like this next phase of my life is going to be working in global collaborations to create an exchange of our stories.”

Smith said he hopes to reach people the way certain figures have supported and inspired him along the years. He named famous US record producer Quincy Jones for having an indispensable effect on his growth as an artist and person.

“I think Quincy Jones has probably been the most prevalent in my life,” he said. “He's always been very, very present. He wants me to win as a human. He's devoted to me as a human, not just as an artist. He's really taught me and inspire me the way that I want to be available to the next generation.”

The actor also touched upon the blockbusters he has in the pipeline. These will include Bad Boys 4, another installment in his highly successful collaboration with Martin Lawrence.

“We’re shooting Bad Boys 4, and it’s a reunion with Martin. It was 30 years ago that we made the first one,” Smith said, adding that the first film of the franchise was what showed him the power of collaboration on film.

“What I [also] realised is, people grow up with the movies,” he said. “We’re growing up together and it’s almost a relationship [with the audience] that gets created when you make that many films over that much time.”

Another exciting project in the works is a sequel to the zombie thriller I Am Legend, which will also feature Creed star Michael B Jordan, Smith said.

“I’m probably giving up too much information,” he said. “In the theatrical version, my character dies. But on the DVD, there is an alternate version of the ending of the movie where my character lived. We’re going with the mythology of the DVD version. I can’t tell you more, but Michael B Jordan is in.”

Updated: December 04, 2023, 6:29 AM