Following a nearly 30-year career as an entertainer, Will Smith joined the ranks of Reese Witherspoon, Sandra Bullock, Adam Sandler, and Johnny Depp as he was presented with the MTV Generation Award at this year’s MTV Movie Awards. But unlike those Hollywood luminaries, Smith’s honor was preceded by a tribute from The Lonely Island, who covered the performers greatest hits as part of the ceremony.
Promoting the forthcoming comedy Popstar: Never Stop Stopping, Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone tore through “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” “Summertime,” “Men in Black,” and “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It.”
After, Smith was feted by Queen Latifah and Halle Berry, who presented him with the honor. “Will is a champion for diversity in Hollywood, blazing a path for actors by showing that someone of any color can play any role, and can open any movie, and can win every award, and be the biggest freaking movie star in the whole world,” Berry said.
Accepting the Generation Award, his sixth golden popcorn statuette overall, Smith joked that he thought it was code for “old-ass dude award.”
Smith also used his speech to reflect on his lengthy career. “I released my first record when I was 17. This June marks 30 years in this business for me. I really want to say I’m humbled, and I just want all of you to know I’m dedicated to being a light in this world. There’s a lot of suffering — a lot of people are suffering in this world. When you see my material, and when I present myself in public, and what I’m trying to build with my family and friends, I just want all of you to know I’m dedicated until I die to light and to love. So thank you all.”
As an actor, Smith has received two Academy Award nominations (Ali, The Pursuit of Happyness), and his domestic box office haul stands close to $3 billion thanks to films like Independence Day, I Am Legend, and the Men in Black series.
The MTV Generation Award has been given to one actor per year since 2005. In addition to the aforementioned Hollywood stars, past recipients include Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Ben Stiller, Jamie Foxx, Mark Wahlberg, and Robert Downey, Jr.
Co-host Dwayne Johnson previously announced Smith as the recipient of this year’s MTV Generation Award in an Instagram post shared in March. “When I first broke into Hollywood 15 years ago, all I wanted to do was learn the business and put in the hard work to have a career like his,” the post read. “It’s a real privilege to honor you my friend.”
HOST EXCLUSIVE! WILL SMITH is our @MTV Generation Award recipient. When I first broke into Hollywood 15yrs ago, all I wanted to do was learn the business and put in the hard work to have a career like his. It's a real privilege to honor you my friend. #WeAreStillPuttinInTheWork #BigWillieStyle #MovieAwards #GenerationAward
Smith’s recent work includes performances alongside Margot Robbie in Focus and Alec Baldwin in Concussion, the latter of which earned him a Golden Globe nomination. He will also appear in the upcoming blockbuster Suicide Squad, in which he’ll play DC Comics character Deadshot.