Will Smith on the challenges of creating a younger version of himself for Gemini Man
Gemini Man (2019 movie)
“I need you to act less good.”
That direction from Ang Lee to Will Smith might seem strange, but it’s all part of the revolutionary filmmaking process behind Gemini Man, a “thinking man’s action movie” that stars Smith as an aging assassin — and the young clone trying to kill him.
“This movie is a leap of faith,” Lee told a press audience on Tuesday ahead of previewing footage and the new trailer, which can be viewed above. “The story has been around 20, 25 years, but technology wouldn’t allow the story to be told. I wanted to be the first one to do this…No matter how hard you imagine it is, it is still harder.”
Very clear in the special conversation between Lee, Smith, and producer Jerry Bruckheimer is that this isn’t de-aging, but rather a digital creation. “The level of the work is so spectacular it’s hard to get people to understand,” explains Smith. “The special effects people at Weta have done something that has really never been done before.” That made the experience “a little scary” for Smith, especially when he completed filming as the older Henry and moved on to playing “Junior.”
“The biggest problem I’ve been saying is that Will is a much better actor today than 30 years ago,” shared the Oscar-winning director, to which Smith added, “Ang would show me some of my old performances and he’d say, ‘Look at this. That’s not good, I need you to do that.’ So I got to see all of the tragedies that I committed in entertainment [laughs].” Luckily for Smith, he now has that 30 extra years of acting under his belt, something he thinks was necessary to be able to pull off both roles. “At 23 years old, I couldn’t even have comprehended what [Lee] was trying to say and what he was trying to capture,” he admits. “Timing-wise in my life, the reflection, to have to think about what you are and what you have done, to be able to look at a younger version of yourself that’s walking a very similar path and to wrestle with regret and to have an opportunity to potentially cleans — I can relate to that a whole lot more than I would have been able to at 23.”
And that experience has led Smith to turn in “an Academy Award-winning performance,” according to Bruckheimer, who first worked with Smith on 1995’s Bad Boys. Knowing that the technology means nothing without a “compelling human story,” Lee says of his star: “This guy is really putting himself out there.”
But even if he manages to score his elusive first Oscar, Smith’s future salary will have nothing on the cost of getting it for him. Cracks Lee, “Junior in the movie is twice as expensive as Will Smith.”
Gemini Man opens Oct. 11. Watch the new trailer above.