Will Smith, Jason Bateman, ...
Credit: Frank Masi

Like Babe Ruth pointing to the spot where his next home run will land, Will Smith is making a bold, fate-tempting prediction about his upcoming blockbuster: ”This will easily be the biggest film I’ve ever had. By a long shot. There’s nothing we can do to stop it at this point.” If that sounds like superhype, remember: Only a fool would bet against Mr. July.

Smith had turned down numerous offers for straight-up hero roles, but when he was approached three years ago with a long-buzzed-about script — then called Tonight, He Comes — that tweaked the formula by making the invincible do-gooder a flawed, widely reviled alcoholic, he jumped on it. ”A slightly quirky, off-center approach — that’s what I’d always been looking for in that superhero lane,” he says. Part action comedy, part drama, — Hancock recounts this broken-down character’s attempt to rehabilitate his public image with the help of a marketing expert (Jason Bateman). ”Along the way, Hancock starts to hit on my wife [Charlize Theron],” says Bateman. ”There’s multiple interesting plots that weave through this thing. It’s not a simple movie.”

Peter Berg (The Kingdom), who stepped in after Jonathan Mostow and Gabriele Muccino dropped out, believes the film’s scrambling of genre conventions distinguishes it from standard popcorn fare. ”If Hancock works, those big tone shifts will separate us from films of the past,” he says. ”If it doesn’t, that’s one of the areas where we’re at risk.” For Smith, there’s clearly no ”if” about it — especially now that the film has dropped its giggle-inducing original title. ”You don’t want your movie to already have the porno title,” he says, laughing. ”You at least want them to have to change it from Men in Black to Men in Back. You don’t want to give them the whole thing.” (July 2)

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