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For a few hours on Sunday evening, Hollywood Boulevard could have been renamed Will Smith Street as thousands of fans lined the sidewalk and screamed his name, massive posters of his face were plastered on every surface and a DJ called out to the crowd to celebrate one of Hollywood’s most enduring movie stars for the premiere of his latest film, Gemini Man.
Smith was joined by his co-star Clive Owen, director Ang Lee and super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer for the first official screening of his latest action blockbuster at the TCL Chinese Theater.
The mind-bending action thriller finds Smith portraying an aging and elite hitman who is ready to retire, but first must face off against a younger version of himself, also played by Smith in a motion-capture performance.
Speaking to reporters, Smith explained why this film was meant to be seen on the big screen. “Ang Lee is really pushing the envelope of trying to give people a new reason to go to the movie theater,” he said. “The technology of home cinema has increased so wildly that why do you need to go to the movie theater when you have a 60-inch surround sound in your home? So by going with the high frame rate and going with the 3D, he is really trying to create a new language for cinema.”
When asked who was better looking, the old or young version of himself, Smith quipped, “Them young boys can’t handle that old man swag. The young boys ain’t got nothing on this. I’m 50 and fine. There’s nothing they can do with it.”
All eyes were on Smith as he arrived with his security detail and walked all the way down Hollywood Boulevard, shaking hands, taking selfies and interacting with hundreds of fans who had waited for hours to catch a glimpse of him. One fan even attempted to shove a baby boy into his arms, though it was unclear if he wanted Smith to autograph him, kiss him or hold the child.
Lee spoke with The Hollywood Reporter, sharing his thoughts on why Smith was the only actor who could pull off this character and the challenge of directing him in a dual role. “Will Smith popped into everyone’s mind right away. We were just lucky to have him,” Lee said. “What an eerie feeling when you actually see it. It was really, really scary but at the same time seductive.”
The original script for Gemini Man was written 22 years ago and Bruckheimer spoke to the challenge of finding the perfect actor to get it made. “It’s very difficult to find an actor who was a star when he was 23 and who is a star now. Ang thought that Will was the perfect guy to play the part,” he said.
But when asked if he felt like he was lucky to get two movie stars for the price of one, Bruckheimer told THR, “The digital Will Smith cost more than the real Will Smith.” Just before the premiere began, Smith ascended to the elevated DJ booth in front of the entrance to the theater and exhorted the crowd to get hyped up for his film and they obliged by screaming out for him.
The legendary TLC theater was packed as viewers donned 3D glasses, which played 120 frames per second, to watch the real and digital Smith.
Gemini Man hits theaters on Oct. 11.
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