Will Smith fights, chases a younger digital replica of himself in ‘Gemini Man’
LOS ANGELES—“Can a young Will Smith make a movie with a young Marlon Brando?”
Will Smith asked this tantalizing question.
Will and Marlon costarring in a movie is now a possibility, thanks to the groundbreaking digital technology developed for the former’s new film, Ang Lee’s “Gemini Man.”
The action/sci-fi/drama’s story of an over-the-hill hitman, Henry Brogan, facing off against a younger clone of himself, Junior, inspired what has been described as “the most ambitious computer-generated human ever made for a movie.”
Junior, who is a spitting younger image of Will at 23 years old, is a digital human. He is the amazing creation of an estimated 500 artists from six visual effects studios, led by the New Zealand-based Weta Digital. With a completely realized digital version of his younger self, this Will Smith that exists only in a hard drive can now be used to act in other films, including, possibly someday, a movie with Brando.
At the Four Seasons Hotel in Budapest, Hungary, Will—who just turned 51—was exuberant, gracious and candid as usual. He pondered the “massive possibilities” of having this younger digital replica of himself.
In “Gemini Man” alone, we see the young and old Will Smith chasing and fighting each other and dramatically interacting in the story set in Budapest; Cartagena, Colombia; and Georgia, USA. Blockbuster master Jerry Bruckheimer produced the movie that also stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen and Benedict Wong.
Excerpts from our chat:
When you first saw this digital technology innovation in the movie’s first screening, how did it feel? My heart jumped the first time I saw that imagery. It’s really chilling and weird to see your digital reincarnation in that way.
Was it creepy? Yeah, it was a little creepy. The first was like, whoa! And the first shot that I saw turned out to be one of the best shots in the movie. It’s in the catacombs when the old me flips to young me and it’s the reveal of the light going onto the face.
The technology opens up such massive possibilities. As with all things, it must be used in the right hands. But now there’s a 23-year-old digital version of myself. It’s an avatar that exists, so I can use it for other films. And as the technology gets better, can a young Will Smith make a movie with a young Marlon Brando (laughs)?
They didn’t use my face and de-age it. They recreated it from nothing. They used the “Bad Boys” version of my character, but they created from scratch.
This is in the same way that Gollum is created from scratch. There’s no creature that looks like that. That’s how this is—the first 100 percent digital human.
How do you relate to your 23-year-old self? That’s what is fun in making “Gemini Man.” The movie is one thing, but then off camera, it opens up all of the ideas of your older self versus your younger self, decisions you made in the past and how they’re affecting your life now. So all of those conversations that come up.
And it’s so interesting to look back at all of that footage of Ang Lee, putting together all of my old movies and scenes he liked. He goes, “This is magnificent, I love this… that one, don’t ever do it in my movie (laughs).”
What would you say to your younger self? I would ask my younger self, how do you not care so much, not knowing what you could lose and how wrong it could go from doing those things? I would love to recapture some of that recklessness.
With all the wisdom you’ve gained about love, relationships and marriage, what advice would you tell your younger self? I would tell him, you don’t have to have sex with everybody (laughs). Some people could just be friends (laughs).
I’m being able to learn how, in life in general, to just enjoy the beauty of a flower without needing to pick it and take it home.
In the movie, the younger character reaches an epiphany and decides to follow the path to truth. What is your relationship to truth, especially in relation to your family relationships? We’re finding that as our family is developing and as our relationship and our extended group are growing, the truth is how you sustain your survival.
We realize that there are so many illusions and delusions that we put ourselves in to be able to make it through life.
We found that our relationship, our family and our lives are centered on ever increasing acceptance and allowance of what’s true.
And it’s been a fun journey watching her (his wife Jada Pinkett Smith) find her lane.
Has humor helped you? Yes, humor absolutely helps us buffer the truth. Jada is a serious stickler for the truth. She is unhappy living in a world and in a space where you can’t say what’s true.
My grandmother would say honesty and kindness go together. That’s the blend that we try to find.
Have there been times when you didn’t feel so good about yourself and what did you do about it? There have been a couple of really critical times in my life when I lost the joy. During my childhood, there were a couple of traumatic events when I learned how to escape into my imagination.
So, I’ve always had the skill that no matter what is going on in my life and in the world, I could disappear into my imagination.
On top of that, I can always see what’s funny. So, I would say that comedy has been first and foremost in helping me move through the difficult times in my life.
Jennifer Lopez said one of her secrets to looking good is that she does not drink alcohol. What is your secret to looking great? My secret is… alcohol. It is a preservative (laughs).
And how do you maintain your energy level? I love sweets… I can literally eat cupcakes for breakfast, a pie for lunch, then a little bit of cake and ice cream for dinner.
So, I’m realizing now at 51, it (training) has to become a lifestyle. I used to be able to do it for just two or three months—I would train really hard, then do whatever I wanted for the rest of the year.
What advice are you giving to your kids? I’m finding with my children and with younger people in general, I’m asking more questions. I’m there to support but there’s a lot more following that I’m doing than leading.
So, for me, I want to be like a shepherd. I’m going to lead my children, but from behind.
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