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Last Updated: Friday, 4 March 2005, 11:35 GMT
Will Smith swaps action for romance
By Neil Smith
BBC News entertainment reporter

Will Smith - star of new film Hitch - explains why he has swapped his usual action blockbusters for a romantic comedy. And when it comes to promoting his latest release, Mr Smith doesn't do things by halves.

Will Smith
Smith at the London premiere of Hitch on 22 February

Will Smith does not enter a room. He explodes into it, with an energy and humour that feels both intensely calculated and utterly natural.

Small wonder that a press conference for Hitch - his first romantic comedy - quickly disintegrates into a one-man stand-up concert.

"I'm so good it's a damn shame!" he jokes before offering to catch grapes in his mouth.

At one point he even wades into the crowd to take a young female journalist in his arms.

It is all in good fun, but there is a serious side to such spirited horseplay.

For Hitch represents a marked change of pace for an actor best known for such action blockbusters as Men In Black and Bad Boys.

Kevin James and Will Smith in Hitch
Smith's co-star in Hitch is US sitcom actor Kevin James (left)

Smith plays Alex Hitchens, a New York 'date doctor' who dispenses romantic advice to lovelorn unfortunates.

And after spending so much time confronting aliens and shooting guns, the experience has clearly left its mark on the actor.

"Love is the highest desire to which we all aspire," he explains.

"We all want to be in love, and we all want to find the person that's going to love us no matter what."

Will professes to have found that person in his wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith, and strongly rebuts recent reports that theirs is an 'open' relationship.


"Fidelity in marriage is huge - if you don't have that, you've got nothing," he says.

"Unadulterated honesty is the only way you can be truly successful."

Will Smith and Eva Mendes
Love interest in the film is provided by Cuban-American Eva Mendes
With Hitch topping the US box office chart in its first two weeks of release, success is something this charismatic 36-year-old rarely has to worry about.

But it has not always been so for Smith.

"Goofy was the word that was used most often when I was growing up," he laughs.

"I've been this tall from when I was 12 years old, so it was a difficult time."

Smith proceeds to relate a traumatic story of adolescent heartbreak that would reduce the stoniest person to tears.

"I was hurt young, but I'm getting over it," he reveals.


With his box-office clout and Oscar nomination for the boxing biopic Ali, you would think there was nothing Smith could not do.

But apparently there is - namely to have an on-screen romance with a white actress.

Will Smith's character in Shark Tale
Smith voiced a fish called Oscar in animated feature Shark Tale
In Hitch, Smith's character falls in love with a feisty gossip columnist, played by Cuban-American Eva Mendes.

Would the film be so profitable if the role had been played by Meg Ryan? It is a question the actor addresses with admirable candour.

"There's an accepted myth that if you have two black actors in a romantic comedy, people around the world don't want to see it," he says.

"So the idea of a black actor and a white actress comes up. That'll work around the world, but now you have a problem in the US.

"It's this catch-22 situation, and it's something we deal with every time a film comes up."

If anyone can devise a solution, though, Smith can.

After all, Renee Zellweger did play his love interest in Shark Tale - even if she was voicing an animated fish.

Hitch is released in London on 4 March and nationwide on 11 March.

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23 Feb 05 |  Entertainment
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21 Feb 05 |  Entertainment
Smith's Hitch tops US box office
14 Feb 05 |  Entertainment
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18 Feb 05 |  Entertainment


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