Tuesday, July 1, 2008
A Lesson on the Importance of Strategic Assessment
An interesting news item on how Will Smith became a mega-superstar.
Will Smith wondered what did it take to be a mega star. He strategically assessed the state of the movie industry ... and the rest is history.
Will Smith: My Work Ethic Is "Sickening"
PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 2, 2007(CBS) Of all the stories in Hollywood, there is not another one like Will Smith's. At age 39, he has already had three successful careers: Grammy award winning rapper, sitcom sensation, and finally one of the biggest movie stars on the planet.
With two Oscar nominations and almost four and a half billion dollars in box office receipts to his credit, a movie starring Will Smith is about as close as you get to having a sure thing, whether it's science fiction, romantic comedy, or a summer blockbuster.
As correspondent Steve Kroft found out, there is an ease and enthusiasm about him that transcends race and cultural boundaries, and it is one of the reasons so many people like him.
Asked what he thinks his appeal is, Smith tells Kroft, "I love living, I think that's infectious. It's somethin' that you can't fake."
"And I think that the camera can feel that I'm happy doin' what I do. And it's somethin' that gets inside of people," he adds.
It is swagger with a smile, confidence with cool, and wit grounded in wisdom -- someone who knows who he is, and where he is going. And it has made him one of the most popular and powerful actors in Hollywood.
Why does he think he has been so successful?
"I've never really viewed myself as particularly talented. I've viewed myself as slightly above average in talent. And where I excel is ridiculous, sickening, work ethic. You know, while the other guy's sleeping? I'm working. While the other guy's eatin'? I'm working. While the other guy's making love, I mean, I'm making love, too. But I'm working really hard at it," he tells Kroft, laughing.
That he makes it look just the opposite is testament to his personality and his skill as an actor. He likes the fact that you never see him sweat unless you are supposed to, or notice the emotional capital expended as a homeless father with a hungry son, or the commitment it took to become Muhammad Ali.
... Instead of falling on his face, the performance was hailed as extraordinary and one of the year's best. And the critical acclaim was soon followed by box office success by stealing the largest grossing film of 1996, as Captain Steven Hiller in "Independence Day."
"It was one of those moments where I just realized my life was changed forever," Smith recalls.
How did it change?
"You know, it was so bizarre. So bizarre, 'cause the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is on, and people scream, 'Will! Will! Will!' And on Monday morning, when the box office receipts for 'Independence Day' came out, I was Mr. Smith. 'Good morning, Mr. Smith. Congratulations.' Who the hell's Mr. Smith?" Smith explains, laughing.
A year later, he brought the same sense of style to "Men In Black. It was another huge blockbuster, and as it turned out, all part of Will Smith's plan.
He's been in a lot of movies with special effects and Smith says that's calculated. When he came to Los Angeles to become an actor, he and his manager did some simple research about the movie business.
"And we got the top ten movies of all time, and we realized that ten out of ten were special effects movies," Smith explains. "Nine out of ten were special effects movies with creatures. And eight out of ten were special effects movies with creatures and a love story. So 'Independence Day' and 'Men In Black' were really no-brainers."
There have been a few turkeys along the way, like "Wild Wild West," which was universally panned and still grossed $250 million.
It's placed him in the elite company of a handful of actors who can command over $20 million a picture. He lives in a spectacular 200-acre compound outside Los Angeles, far away from the paparazzi, with his wife and two children; daughter Willow is in his new movie, and son Jayden was in his last.
His wife is actress Jada Pinkett-Smith, who was a good friend until they became romantically involved.
Produced By John Hamlin and Albert Kahwaty
© MMVII, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
The key phrase is: "... did some simple research..." It propelled Will Smith ahead of the competition.
"Before the engagement, one who determines in the ancestral temple that he will be victorious has found that the majority of factors are in his favor. Before the engagement one who determines in the ancestral temple that he will not be victorious has found few factors are in his favor.
If one who who finds that the majority of factors favor him will be victorious while one has found a few factors favor him will be defeated, what about someone who finds no factors in his favor?
If I observe it from this perspective, victory and defeat will be apparent." - Art of War, 1