Suicide Squad star Will Smith: ‘The Middle East isn’t represented accurately in world cinema’

The actor revealed that he had received offers of scripts from the Middle East and has held meetings with the Dubai Film and TV Commission on several occasions.

Will Smith at a press conference in Dubai promoting his latest film Suicide Squad. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
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Will Smith is back in the UAE and wants to help local filmmakers.

The superstar actor – who is visiting Dubai to promote the latest DC Comics blockbuster, Suicide Squad – wants to play a part in bringing regional tales to the big screen.

“I’d love to be part of the mining of stories from this region,” he said in the city on August 7. “It’s almost untapped so far.”

He revealed that he had received offers of scripts from the Middle East and has held meetings with the Dubai Film and TV Commission on several occasions.

“The Middle East isn’t represented accurately in world cinema,” he says. “I’d love to be a part of figuring out how to help local filmmakers tell their stories, because the Middle East can’t allow Fox News to be the sole arbiter of images from the region.

“You can’t expect someone else to tell your story – it’s the responsibility of the holders of the truth to tell that truth, not the establishment.”

Smith is no stranger to the UAE, having visited Dubai several times.

The 47-year-old expressed his admiration for the emirate, saying that it compliments his personality.

“The first time I came here was about 15 years ago, when they said 40 per cent of the world’s cranes were in Dubai,” he says.

“Dubai dreams the way I dream. When I first came here I said ‘That’s the way I would build a city.’

“I love the way Dubai wants everything to be the best in the world. Not on a par with the best in the world, but the best. That really speaks to me.”

Speaking ahead of his appearance at a special red-carpet screening of Suicide Squad at Virgin Radio Vox Max Cinema at Deira City Centre on August 7, Smith said he was not too bothered by the mixed reviews the movie has received.

“It’s my biggest opening weekend ever,” the star said. “And it’s on course to be the biggest movie of my career.

“At this point in my career, my mind is beyond critics. Maybe 10 years ago I was obsessed with being number one all the time, but I think that taints your artistic delivery. Now I just want to make films that work for me.

"I think at this point in my life I've earned the right to fail sometimes. Some of the movies I make will be critically acclaimed, some will make money, and some will be Wild, Wild West," the actor adds, referring to his critically panned 1999 comedy Western.

Smith also revealed that he found it challenging to play a villain in Suicide Squad – he stars the assassin Deadshot, who is recruited to be part of an expendable team of supervillains controlled by a secret US government department – a departure from his usual heroic roles.

“It was strange for me to try to connect with the character – I’ve never played a bad guy like this before,” he says. “It was tough to get my head around doing bad things but I eventually realised that in their minds, they’re not the baddies – they’re the heroes.

“I love the way the movie asks at what point you go from bad to evil, and if there’s ever a point at which you become irredeemable. The one thing that I think keeps all the characters from being evil is love.”

Smith also had a few words to say about the Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump, whose views on Muslims have proved extremely controversial.

“In terms of the Islamophobia that’s on the rise in the US right now, I feel it’s important that I show up here in Dubai so I can show people my picture and say, ‘Hey – it doesn’t look like they hate me now,’” he said.

“As the election goes on, I do feel I’ll be specifically called on to speak out – but I’m confident that what we’re seeing in America right now is a kind of a cleansing process.

“And as painful and embarrassing as it is to hear Donald Trump speak, I think it’s good too – we get to know who people are and ultimately cleanse it out of our system.”

cnewbould@thenational.ae