Will Smith will be playing the genie in Disney’s live-action remake of Aladdin, as it is hoped this will revive his dwindling acting career,
Once one of the most powerful and bankable stars in Hollywood, Will Smith’s career had been languishing in the doldrums.
A once Hollywood hotcake, the 50-year-old actor is desperate to conjure up that wisecracking magic of old playing the Genie in getting back on the action stream.
But Will’s performance in the $232 million family-friendly film, directed by Guy Ritchie, has already come under fire — before it even opens in cinemas next Thursday, May 23.
When the trailer was posted on social media, the response to his computer-generated genie was scathing.
Smith is taking on the role made famous by Robin Williams.
Fans said the big blue man from the lamp gave them “nightmares” and compared him to a giant Smurf.
If the reviews of Aladdin are not any kinder, it will be a huge blow to Will — this is his big chance to reinvigorate the Smith family brand, which has hit the rocks.
A decade ago Will, his wife Jada Pinkett Smith, 48, and their children Jaden and Willow, were everywhere.
After his six-year stint on TV comedy The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will broke into the big time with 1996 blockbuster Independence Day. And his fun performances in Bad Boys and the lucrative Men In Black franchise turned him into an international star.
Jada’s acting career was also on the rise, co-starring with Eddie Murphy in 1996’s The Nutty Professor and appearing in The Matrix franchise.
Meanwhile, son Jaden and daughter Willow were starring in films, releasing albums and promoting the New Age views of their parents.
But the attempt to establish the Smith showbiz dynasty did not go to Will’s carefully-scripted plan. In fact, it almost tore his family apart.
Willow, now 18, has confessed to self-harming as she struggled with the pressure of being a pop singer at the tender age of nine.
For two years, she was upset about how her parents had driven her music career by pushing her into recording the single Whip My Hair.
She told her mum: “I definitely had to forgive you and Daddy for that Whip My Hair thing. It was mostly Daddy because he was so harsh at certain times.”
Jada and Will have also been dogged by rumours their 21-year marriage is in trouble, with stories suggesting they are living separate lives.
They even spoke about weighing up ending it before deciding to “stick it out”.
Meanwhile, Will’s 2013 sci-fi film After Earth, co-starring Jaden, 20, was a huge flop, damaging both their careers.
It was widely panned as Scientology propaganda, even though Will and Jada have always denied being involved with the religion.
Since After Earth’s release, Will has appeared in a string of box-office turkeys, and Jaden has decided to focus on music.
Will, who started out as a rapper, built his acting career on the back of his playful persona, breaking the record for the most consecutive box-office film hits.
But with his cheery Fresh Prince image gone stale, he has agonised about what to do next. On BBC’s Graham Norton Show last week, Will said: “I’d turned 50 and created this wonderful life and career, but I felt trapped by being Will Smith.”
His attempts at more serious roles in recent films like Focus, Concussion, Seven Pounds and Collateral Beauty have seen his box-office returns plummet.
His foray into television films did not go well either. Critics blasted his $130 million Netflix debut movie Bright as a “dumb-as-hell mess”.
The only hit in over a decade, 2016’s superheroes flick Suicide Squad, failed to win over the critics, and his character Deadshot is to be played by Idris Elba in the sequel.
He will also be absent from Men In Black 4, out this summer, with Thor star Chris Hemsworth donning the famous sunglasses instead.
For the supremely self-confident star who once boasted he could be president “if I set my mind to it”, flack is something Will is having to get used to.
He admitted: “Everything is under such critical scrutiny.
“I came up in an era where there was no internet. It’s a new thing that I’m trying to get a handle on.”
If Aladdin’s magic fails to reverse their fortunes, the Smith family can always rely on Facebook to pay the bills.
Jada’s biggest success in recent years has been her Red Table Talks on Facebook Watch, where she and Willow discuss their lives. Since debuting a year ago, Jada’s confessional show, filmed at their $59 million Malibu home, has picked up almost six million followers.
Meanwhile, her oversharing really is something to behold.
Talking about her rifts with Will, she said: “There have been several occasions where you just had enough and you want to leave and I just couldn’t.”
When Will has been on Red Table Talks he is equally forthcoming, saying a row in 2011 about the way he planned Jada’s 40th party almost ended in divorce.
He said: “We broke up within our marriage and got back together.” On the show the couple have also denied rumours they are in an open relationship and sleep with other people. For showbiz royalty to speak so frankly in public is remarkable.
When Jaden joined the table, his mum revealed Will had struggled with their son wearing skirts.
Will, who Jada described as an “uber masculine hip-hop star”, had asked her: “Have you talked about this, Jaden and him wearing a skirt?”
In other episodes, Jada has spoken about her battles with depression and drugs in her 20s and talked of a severe emotional breakdown.
In one too-much-information moment she told Jada “my introduction to sex was obviously walking in on you and Daddy”.
Perhaps, the most shocking confession was that she self-harmed in the wake of pop stardom as a child.
When Whip My Hair rose high in the charts in 2010, Willow went on a huge tour and media blitz. But she cut off her long locks before a gig as a way of sending a message to her parents she no longer wanted to play along.
Her next single, 21st Century Girl, peaked at number 99 and the follow-up, Fireball, failed to chart at all.
When her music career suddenly stalled, she started to hurt herself. She admitted: “After all that settled down and there was a lull, I was just listening to a lot of dark music, and it was just so crazy. I was plunged into this black hole and cutting myself.”
Willow, who stopped self-harming six years ago, is now taking a more relaxed approach to her career, doing smaller acting roles.
Jaden also returned to the screen last year with independent movie Skate Kitchen after taking a five-year break following After Earth.
Neither of his albums made any impact. His debut, Syre, just scraped to number 85 in the UK and number 24 in the US
Will clearly wanted the best for his kids. He is also dad to aspiring musician Trey Smith, 26, from his first marriage to actress Sheree Zampino, 51.=========================================