I was naive, ambitious and aggressive: Will Smith on his younger days

Smith, 51, said the film is a technical marvel as it is not the simple de-aging


There is a power to youthful naivete and ambition, something that Will Smith says he has been trying to recapture in recent years as he had begun to feel trapped by his success.

The actor, who plays an assassin being hunted by his young clone in Ang Lee's ambitious thriller Gemini Man, was attracted to the movie because it explores the philosophical idea that a person is one's worst enemy.

But if he met his 23-year-old self in real-life, Smith said he would be the one seeking advice.

"At 23, I was naive, ambitious and aggressive. And there is a power to naivete. That's a power that I'm actually trying to get back in my life right now. So I would be asking my 23 year old self for advice. He made some good a** decisions. He made some good calls, Smith told reporters at a press conference in YouTube Space LA here.

The actor, who was joined by Lee, Clive Owen, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, visual effects supervisor Bill Westernhofer and Weta visual effects supervisor Guy William at the press conference, said he has been trying to get back to that beautiful, fearless headspace. 

"In the last couple of years, I've been feeling trapped by the success I've had and the decisions and choices I've been able to make have been smaller, trying to protect Will Smith. So on my 50th birthday, I just jumped out of a helicopter over the Grand Canyon, trying to get back to that beautiful, fearless space, he said.

Smith has made a career out of action-thrillers and sci-fi's such as Bad Boys, Men in Black, Independence Day and Six Degrees of Separation. He said one of the reasons he fell in love with sci-fi as a genre was because it gave an opportunity to explore existential questions in a fun and creative way.

"I love the philosophical idea that we all plant the seeds of our own destruction, like we are our own worst enemies, that we make choices and decisions in our lives that set things in motion that we can't blame other people for, the battle with trying to overcome our karma.

I just thought it was a really clever and creative way to say that we are the architects of our ultimate rise or fall. It's a big part of why I love science fiction because you can put those things under really wild visual landscapes, he said.

Smith, 51, said the film is a technical marvel as it is not the simple de-aging where you take an actor's face and smooth it out. It is rather the creation of the first 100 per cent digital human.

This is why, he said, it is easier for younger actors to play older characters but the reverse does not work.

You can't fake innocence for a young actor, it is easier to play older but it's difficult to impossible to play younger. Once you know some stuff, it's in your eyes. It's like sex, like once you've had sex, you walk differently, he said.

Distributed exclusively in India by Viacom18, Gemini Man, a Paramount Pictures movie, will release on October 11.

To create Smith's younger version, Lee went through the entire early filmography of the actor, capturing details, emotions and moments, a process that was extremely stressful for the actor.

It's really difficult to recapture that not knowing and we found these moments and we found these real moments in some of the early workIt almost felt like learning how to do some bad acting because there's an honesty before you actually learn where the camera is and you learn how to stand and you learn what makes people clap for movie stars in the theatre. Letting go of all of that stuff was really difficult, he said.

Lee has shot the film in 120 frames per second as opposed to the usual 24 frames per second to create a fully immersive experience.

Smith said the technology helps bring a sharp clarity to the pictures so much so that the actors could not wear make-up.

"I had to drink a lot of water  because I couldn't afford a breakout, he joked.