Will Smith is no stranger to the Academy Awards. The iconic actor has already been nominated three times so far, with his most recent nomination being for King Richard. However, despite the honor, Smith once revealed that he never saw himself as an ‘awards guy’ type of actor.
Why Will Smith couldn’t allow himself to ‘need’ the Oscar
The first time Will Smith was nominated for an academy award was for his performance in Ali. The 74th academy awards in 2002 saw Smith going up against contenders like Russell Crowe, Sean Penn, Denzel Washington and Tom Wilkinson. It was also the first time since 1972 that three Black actors were nominated for academy awards. But although Smith appreciated the honor, he didn’t want to feel that he needed to win.
“It would be great to win,” Smith told Bryant Gumbel (via Restless Rick.) “But I just can’t allow myself to need it. I don’t think that it’s necessarily indicative, actually, it’s not indicative of the level of work of African-Americans in Cinema.”
For Smith, the blockbuster megastar actually wished that the awards didn’t come. He was perfectly content with the nomination process.
“The night is such an incredible night. It’s wonderful, you get to see famous people. Everyone’s excited and dressed nice. To me, I enjoy the whole process. I wish the awards would never come. The process of the nomination is just a really great time. I just wish it would never end,” Smith said.
Why Will Smith didn’t see himself as an ‘awards guy’
Although Smith was grateful for being nominated, he didn’t think winning an academy award was particularly life-changing. This was mostly due to Smith’s own opinion of himself as an actor.
“I think that, actually, I’m a different type of actor,” Smith said. “Since the beginning of the time that I started performing, I’m a box-office actor. That’s where my strength is.”
In an interview with Black Film, Smith felt the same way. A couple of years after Ali, the actor also found himself being nominated for 2006’s The Pursuit of Happyness. While discussing his second Oscar nomination, the actor showed that his opinion of the ceremony hadn’t changed that much.
“You know, that period between the nominations and the show is the best series of parties on the face of the Earth,” Smith said. “I mean, it’s every night, different cities. You’re part of this wonderful elite group and it’s a beautiful time. It’s sort of bittersweet when you get to the show, because it makes the transitions from a celebration to a competition, and I’ve never been an awards guy.”
Smith also reiterated his point about being more of a box-office star than an Awards actor.
“I mean, it’s fun. I tell my wife all the time I’m more of a mall guy. When I walk into the mall on Saturday afternoon, if they don’t shut it down, then I feel like I’m slippin,’” he continued. “That to me, that’s how I judge my work, and that’s how I judge the quality of my material is by having to shut the King of Prussia mall down outside of Philly on Christmas.”
How Will Smith felt about being nominated for an Oscar for ‘King Richard’
The 2022 Oscars marks the first time in 15 years since Smith’s been nominated for an academy award. Speaking to the New York Times, the Men in Black actor remarked that it was actually a bit unexpected that he was nominated this year.
“It was like, uh oh, wait, let me Google myself and see what happened,” Smith said. “But it was just a beautiful, pleasant surprise.”
Although Smith’s already been nominated twice before, this time it felt different.
“This one is really different. It’s one thing to be singularly nominated. And it’s another thing when it’s the entire group, the film. It’s just a different thing,” he said. “This could have been a much smaller story. But the audience recognizing the universal gifts and power of the ideas in this film, it is beautifully uplifting and inspiring for me.”
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