Will Smith (born Willard Carroll Smith, Jr.) is a Hollywood actor, producer and musician. He was born and raised in Philadelphia in a Baptist household. His father owned a refrigeration company and his mother was a Philadelphia school board administrator. He attended Overbrook High School where his friends nicknamed him “Prince” because of his ability to smooth talk his way out of tricky situations. Although he is better known as an actor, Smith entered the entertainment industry as a rap musician. His first act was with Jeffrey A. Townes and the duo began performing as “D.J. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince”. Their act gained popularity and in 1988 they won the first ever Grammy Award in the Rap Category. Smith became a millionaire before the age of 20. Due to his success at such a young age, he squandered a lot of money on luxuries. He also underpaid his income taxes, as a result of which the Internal Revenue Service took his house and income, and he was almost bankrupt at this stage.
In 1990, the television network NBC signed him on to their new show which was to be based on his own life as a rising star in Beverly Hills. The show was called “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and it was a success. It ran from 1990-1996 and provided a great launching pad for Smith’s career. He met his first wife Sheree Zampino at a filming of one of his shows in 1991. The couple married in 1992 and had a son named Trey. Upon their divorce in 1995, Smith had to pay $900,000 as a settlement along with $24,000 per month in alimony and child support.
Some of Smith’s first major films were “Six Degrees of Separation” launched in 1993 and “Bad Boys” launched in 1995. In 1996, he starred in a major blockbuster titled “Independence Day” directed by the German filmmaker Roland Emmerich. At that time it was the second highest grossing film in history and established Smith on the path to stardom. The following year, he starred in another major hit film called “Men in Black” along with Tommy Lee Jones. In this film and in the sequels that followed, Smith played the role of Agent J. In 1999, he was originally offered the lead role in the iconic film “The Matrix” but Smith refused the part, choosing instead to make “Wild Wild West”. The Matrix was a huge box office success whereas “Wild Wild West” is one of Smith’s most regrettable projects, as he admitted later.
In 1997, Smith married Jada Koren Pinkett and the couple now has two children named Jaden and Willow. Jaden has costarred as Smith’s son in two movies; one is the 2006 film titled “The Pursuit of Happiness” and the other is a science fiction film titled “After Earth” released in 2013. “The Pursuit of Happiness” is based on the life of American entrepreneur Chris Gardner, and for this Smith received his second Oscar Nomination. His first nomination was for his portrayal of the famous boxer Muhammad Ali in the film titled “Ali” which was released in 2001. He has also been nominated for 4 Golden Globe Awards and has won 4 Grammy Awards. Smith’s daughter has also starred with him in the movie “I am Legend”. Jaden has pursued a career in acting and rapping whereas Willow is an R&B and hip-hop singer signed with Columbia Records.
Will Smith was frequently listed in Fortune Magazine’s “Richest 40” which is a list of the forty richest Americans under the age of 40. His popularity can be judged from the fact that he is the only actor who has had 8 consecutive movies that brought in more than $100 million in revenue at the domestic box office, and also the only actor who has starred in 11 consecutive movies that brought in more than $150 million in revenue at the international box office. Will and Jada Smith are renowned philanthropists and donate generously to various charities. They have even set up their own school in California. Smith currently lives in California with his family.