On Thursday, while promoting his latest film Men in Black 3 (which hits theaters May 25), Smith, 43, opened up about his childhood and the surprising inspirations behind his life and career.
"As a child, I watched Dallas and that was my vision for my life for as long as I could remember. How does that property have a name? Southfork!...Everyone worked the family business," said Smith. "And I was like 'I want that!' So I've been a mad scientist ever since trying to build Dallas through Star Wars and rap music."
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He added, "The joy [of life now] is watching an idea that I had at seven years old coming into fruition. I am actually building the family that I've always dreamed about...Building a family around the entertainment business. I love watching my kids and my family blossom from something that was a seed from a seven-year-old's mind."
Read on for how he and wife Jada Pinkett Smith keep their kids grounded and his friendly competition with his son:
On his love of franchises.
"The greatest experience I ever had in a movie theater was Star Wars. It shaped how I looked at the world. My imagination was so small before I went into that movie theater and it was an explosion. I just couldn't figure out how someone came up with that or make me feel like that. For me, there is nothing more valuable than how people feel in a movie theater about a movie. Even more than awards, which have never been that important to me. Those are about what a small group of people think. For me, it's about the maximum amount of people that can have an experience that will give them a little germ to think or talk about. That's all that is important to me in making movies."
His current approach to his career.
"The adjustment I am making in my career right now is about the clarity of what we are saying with the movie. There has to an idea, there has to be some message or statement. With Men in Black 3, we connected to the destructive nature of secrets. That idea, whether you get that or not, is what we are displaying. It's about how a relationship can get repaired and go to another level through the exposure of a secret."
"I love producing. I am loving doing that. I think that is my most natural space in the business. I just love producing or editing and that's where I thrive."
How he keeps his children grounded.
"The most difficult part of the whole thing is emotional management. To have them connect to the artistry of what they create rather than connecting to the success or the adoration. Jada and I have been talking a lot about pulling back during teenage years because they are very formative. In the middle of the Justin Bieber tour she saw a Russian ballerina or something and she was riveted. She wanted to go home and take ballet and it was like, 'No, honey, you have seven more tour dates.' [laughs] But now she is way gone on ballet. So it's the difficulty of letting the business go and let them develop in the way that is more natural for them."
On Bad Boys 3
"It has a really solid idea behind it right now. For the most part, I am just looking for material that resonates."
On Tommy Lee Jones.
"Tommy Lee Jones is hilarious. I would say, if you look at the body of his work, the character he is most like is the one in The Fugitive. That's how he talks and jokes. That is the type of energy he has."
His friendly competition with his son Jaden.
"Jaden has a little bit of a predatory look in his eye. He is so coming for me. I tell him all the time, 'Son, I am going to teach you everything that I know and if you work hard, you can be the second biggest movie star in the world.' [laughs]"
On Willow cutting her hair.
"We let Willow cut her hair. When you have a little girl, it's like how can you teach her that you're in control of her body? If I teach her that I'm in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she's going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She can't cut my hair but that's her hair. She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she's going out with a command that is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself. We try to keep giving them those decisions until they can hold the full weight of their lives."
Reacting to Jay Pharoah's SNL impersonation of him.
"He's got Denzel [Washington] down but he doesn't really have me. He does 'WHOAAAH!" I don't do that. His Denzel is really good. Denzel might not think that."