Will Smith has officially crowned, in his opinion, the worst movie of his career, and it may come as a shock to some of us who grew up in the 1990s.
The actor participated in GQ’s Actually Me web series in which real-life celebrities go undercover on social media to answer anonymous questions about themselves and their careers. Naturally, someone on the Q&A website Quora asked what the best and the worst Will Smith movies were.
The actor started with the good, noting that he believes, for very different reasons, that the first Men In Black and Pursuit of Happyness are the movies he looks back on most fondly. This is saying a lot after a career that began in the early 90s and shows no signs of stopping. There was a time when Will Smith was one of the most in-demand actors helming Hollywood films, that’s why he’s upset with himself that in 1999, at perhaps the height of his film magic, he signed on for the film adaptation of the hit TV show Wild Wild West.
In the video for GQ, Will Smith called the movie “a thorn in my side” and joked that he really didn’t like having to see himself in cowboy chaps.
For those unfamiliar, Wild Wild West felt like a safe bet at the time. It was an adaptation of an American western espionage and science fiction show that aired from 1965 until 1969. The original starred Robert Conrad and Ross Martin in roles that were changed heavily for the 1999 movie that put Will Smith and Kevin Kline in the respective starring roles.
The plot focused on two American Civil War U.S. Army Captain James T. West (Will Smith) who is tasked by President Ulysses S. Grant with hunting down the remainder of the Confederacy who might pose a threat to the country amid Reconstruction. He and U.S. Marshall Artemis Gordon (Kevin Kline) find themselves tracking Dr. Arliss Loveless, a former Confederate officer who has grand plans to use his steampunk technology to overthrow the United States. He’s going to carve it up for himself and other countries in the name of the Confederacy. Many may remember that part of that grand technological plan included a gigantic steam-powered metal spider, which served as great movie poster fodder and a jumping-off point for where the film went wrong.
Those who felt it was a safe bet to capitalize on a pre-existing popular property like the show were also the people who made a myriad of changes to make it unrecognizable. Will Smith and Kevin Kline are remarkably charismatic actors, so the movie remains watchable, but it was a brief box-office success followed by a lifetime of critical scorn.
Will Smith didn’t actually take on the role until the likes of Tom Cruise and George Clooney dropped out. Will Smith has stated in the past that he understands where the movie went wrong, but the real “thorn” in his side must come from what he turned down to be a part of it.
In 1999, he opted to be in Wild Wild West and turned down an offer to play Neo in The Matrix. Yes, The Matrix, one of the most popular action, science fiction movies of the last twenty years that completely revolutionized the genre and continues to evolve. The Matrix Resurrections, the fourth installment in what became a popular (albeit flawed) franchise, will hit theaters in December. While it likely would have been a completely different movie with Will Smith as the lead instead of Keanu Reeves (Smith says as much in the video), one can’t help but wonder how Will Smith sleeps at night knowing what he turned down.
Wild Wild West ultimately grossed roughly $222,104,681 worldwide. Meanwhile, the Matrix franchise… well, frankly it feels mean to say it side-by-side with Will Smith’s Wild Wild West. Suffice it to say, it’s a lot. Will Smith himself even commented on the career misstep last October. He noted that he was not ultimately pleased with directors Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski’s pitch for the movie, but admitted he was clearly wrong. He also praised Reeves for what he has been able to accomplish with the role.