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Will Smith Times Two in Gemini Man - Two Wills Due to Technology

Will plays himself as a younger man in the action/thriller.

Oct 09, 2019

Popular actor Will Smith, dad to Jaden and Willow and famous for action-packed or hero roles in films like Independence Day, the Bad Boys movies, AladdinMen in Black, I Am Legend, Wild Wild West and so many more has teamed up with special visual effects wizards to play a middle-aged assassin who must battle against his 20-something self in Gemini Man.

Older Will (Henry) about to meet younger JuniorOlder Will (Henry) about to meet younger JuniorCourtesy of Paramount Pictures

Will met with journalists and shared his challenges in playing dual roles and acting opposite….himself. Will loves science fiction stories and is impressed by the recently improved computer-generated technology that can almost perfectly recreate an actor on screen. In this case, a younger version of himself. What if you met an older version of you? How freaky/scary and interesting would that be? Let Will tell us all about it!

Gemini Man - Behind-The-Scenes Featurette

 

Q: Will, when you read this script for Gemini Man the first time what made you say ‘I’m in’?  

  • Will: I loved idea that we all plant the seeds of our own destruction. We are our own worst enemy. We make choices and we make decisions in our lives that set things in motion that we can’t blame other people for. I just thought it was a really clever and creative way to say that we are the architects of our ultimate rise or fall. To do that in this way is a big part of why I love science fiction (films) because you can put those things on really wild visual landscapes. 

Q: How do you feel about the computer-generated younger version of yourself?

  • Will: I think people don’t completely understand the depth of what (the visual effects people) attempted and accomplished here. It’s not my face and they smoothed out my face to make it look younger. Junior is a one hundred percent digital human in the same way that the tiger in The Life of Pi is. They used a real tiger to understand the movement but in the movie you are seeing a one hundred percent digital recreation of a tiger.

An emotional moment for young Will (Junior)An emotional moment for young Will (Junior)Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Q: What is the most difficult thing about “making” the younger you convincing?

  • Will: Capturing the youthful eyes was the hardest part that me and Ang (Lee, director) were talking about. You can’t fake innocence. As a young actor it is easier to play older but when you are older, it’s difficult to impossible to play younger. Once you know some stuff, it’s in your eyes. Their job in creating a digital human was to be able to sell that innocence and that youth. I think (they) have done spectacular work.

Q: So how did you play yourself both as a youth and older? That seems very difficult.

  • Will: Well, before Ang Lee and I even met, he had gone through my filmography and grabbed (clips). He grabbed “Fresh Prince”, he grabbed Six Degrees of Separation and there was Bad Boys, Independence Day. He was sort of walking me though moments. He would look and say ‘In ‘Bad Boys’, this one was good but don’t ever do this (laughter). So we sort of created a language from my old characters and the moments that he was trying to capture. There is an honesty before you actually learn how to act. You learn where the light is and you learn how to stand and you learn that makes people clap for movie stars in the theater. Letting go of all of that stuff (to play me younger) was really difficult.

Younger Will Smith in Bad BoysYounger Will Smith in Bad Boys

Q: Was re-watching all your work as a younger man fun?

  • Will: No (he laughs). Not with Ang Lee on the edge of his chair watching everything you’ve ever done and breaking it down and describing it so I wouldn’t say that was fun. But, it terms of being in a film school environment, it was fantastic. I grew as an actor and a human for the time I was able to spend with such an incredible artist as (Director) Ang Lee.

Will on set with Director Ang LeeWill on set with Director Ang LeeCourtesy of Paramount Pictures

Q: So are all the human digital shots of Junior or are there some of you now as well?

  • Will: Because everyone is looking at the Junior character they don’t realize there are full digital old Henry (his older assassin) shots in the film also so there are moments where full-frame close-up shots are of old Will. That’s hard to say, ‘old me, young me’, (he laughs) old Henry in the film as well. That’s when you can tell if it works when people are not thinking about it.

Can younger Will (Junior) kill his older self?Can younger Will (Junior) kill his older self?Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Q: You like science fiction so what was the Sci-Fi movie that really hooked you when you were a tween or teen?

  • Will: Star Wars was the movie when I was growing up that absolutely stunned me. After Star Wars ended I couldn’t believe that they could make me feel like that with a story and with these characters. I think career-wise, the things that I’ve been chasing are Star Wars and (Michael Jackson’s) “Thriller”. Those are the two pieces of entertainment that I’ve always been hoping to make something that matches for others how I felt when I experienced those.

Q: Getting all “techie”, Gemini Man was shot at 120 frames per second. Does that make everything crystal clear?

  • Will: It’s so crystal clear that the actors couldn’t wear makeup because when the camera moves in you can see makeup on our faces so I had to drink a lot of water. Couldn’t afford a break-out.

Q: I don’t get how you could jump back and forth from playing yourself younger and your age now. Wasn’t that super hard?

  • Will: (My director) Ang was really good about separating Henry from Junior in the schedule. You get lathered up into Henry and if the shift is too abrupt, it’s hard to get your mind around it. He did a really job of separating the time (we would shoot scenes) with Henry and Junior.

Older Will (Henry) chases his younger selfOlder Will (Henry) chases his younger selfCourtesy of Paramount Pictures

Q: What went through your mind when you first saw the movie with digital Junior on screen?

  • Will: It was a little scary. The first thing I saw was one of my favorite shots in the whole movie when Henry flips Junior over in the catacombs then puts the light up onto Junior’s face. It was a little bit surreal, a little bit weird. Then I started getting excited about all of the possibilities like a young Will Smith, with (classic actor) young Marlon Brando movie that could get made. My mind started to go wild about what movies you would be able to do with a 23-year-old digital version of myself. I’m really excited about the use of this technology in the future.

Computer-generated, younger Will (Junior)Computer-generated, younger Will (Junior)Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Q: Will we find out the backstory of both the young and older Henry character? Can you talk about the way they were raised making them the men they became?

  • Will: Yeah, we were talking about if you are genetically identical, how much does your life experience affect the things that you say and do and feel? We were trying to draw as big as difference as possible between the characters. Henry grew up in a frugal household and had a tougher upbringing whereas Junior had the perfect upbringing; all the right schools; the right books and he was only allowed to experience the best of what the nurturing aspects of a home should be. So, it still came down to two men who had taken these gifts that they had and turned them into things that were going to create nightmares and a horrible end to this experience.

Older Will (Henry) makes a callOlder Will (Henry) makes a callCourtesy of Paramount Pictures

Q: Really serious question. What if we could really clone human beings? If someone died, you could recreate them and wouldn’t have to grieve the loss. How do you feel about that?

  • Will: We’re all trying to figure out how to eliminate suffering from our lives. There was an interesting phrase I heard the other day, “poisoned honey”. We reach for poisoned honey a lot in order to overcome our pain and suffering. When I think about cloning, there are things about it that we don’t know yet that we’re going to find out. My opinion is that cloning would ultimately pan out to be poisoned honey. It would be a reach that could potentially come back and bite you in a way that we are probably not considering fully.

Q: Yeah. It’s scary. You’ve been doing kick butt action movies for a long time but have you thought about what you want to do next as you get older? What kinds of films?

  • Will: Hey, I can be jumping off buildings into my hundreds (he laughs). No, I think more than just the transition in roles, I’m experiencing a transition in my life. In my younger days, it was ambition. I wanted to win. I wanted to put points on the board. Now, the main question I ask myself before I do anything is ‘How is this of service to the human family?’ So, I’ll be making more and more decisions in my life. Doing things on YouTube is an outreach for me to a new generation, the next generation of artists and filmmakers. I’m just trying to figure out how to make everything I do conscious and thought out and in some justifiable service to the human family.

Will with Tommy Lee Jones in original Men in BlackWill with Tommy Lee Jones in original Men in Black

Q: What would be your advice for your younger self?

  • Will: My younger self was wildly and insanely aggressive. At 23-years-old, I was naïve and ambitious. There is a power to naiveté that I’m actually trying to get back in my life right now. I would be asking my 23-year-old self for advice. He made some good-ass decisions. I wouldn’t do it that way now but he made some good calls. On my (last) birthday, I jumped out of a helicopter over the Grand Canyon trying to get back to that youthful, fearless space. I would be interviewing him rather than trying to give him advice.

See Gemini Man in theaters Friday, October 11th

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Jump In With Your Opinion!

What if you could meet your older self? Would you ask him or her lots of questions or just not want to know? Are you a Will Smith fan or a fan of his kids Jaden or Willow? Do you think we should clone pets or people in future? Lots to discuss! Get started with a comment!

 

By: Lynn Barker