When he’s not being a renowned cinephile who’ll spend most of May on the Cannes jury debating the merits of the new Andrey Zvyagintsev with Alain Resnais’ muse Agnès Jaoui, Will Smith is also a movie star. But the man who was once the unquestionable box-office king of Hollywood has had an atypically rough patch lately.
“Suicide Squad” was a rare bright spot last year — indeed, his second-biggest-grossing movie worldwide after “Independence Day.” But it was also an ensemble superhero movie that got lousy reviews, so it doesn’t entirely recover the star’s luster, especially with a string of flops — “After Earth,” “Focus,” “Concussion,” “Collateral Beauty” — and with his go-to franchises of “Men In Black” and “Bad Boys” either rebooting away from him, or floundering in development hell. The Cannes move might suggest that he’s attempting to pivot to work with more top-class directors, and that’s backed up by Smith signing on to a movie that, while it’s in his sci-fi/action wheelhouse, will also be directed by a two-time Oscar winner.
The Hollywood Reporter reveal that Smith is in talks to star in “Gemini Man,” the long-gestating action thriller that only this weekend landed a director in the shape of the great Ang Lee. The pitch, which has been doing the rounds for 20 years, follows a middle-aged assassin who attempts to retire, only to be hunted down by a clone of himself, but 25 years younger and at the peak of his powers.
The likes of Mel Gibson and Clint Eastwood were once linked to the project, but it looks like it’ll be Smith that brings it to fruition, likely with the use of CGI technology used to make Michael Douglas, Robert Downey Jr. and Kurt Russell look more youthful in Marvel flashback scenes. It’s sort of terrifying that Smith, at 48, is now old enough to qualify for a project like this, but the chance to see the star fight Fresh Prince-era Big Willy is a pretty irresistible one (and has an intriguing meta quality to it too).
Aside from his vocal duties as the Genie in Guy Ritchie’s “Aladdin” (a role that, reportedly, was turned down by Kevin Hart first, a mark of the extent to which Smith’s box office power isn’t what it once was), the star theoretically has “Bad Boys” and “Suicide Squad” sequels to shoot in the near future (though both projects are director-less at the moment), but if Lee’s ready to get this before cameras sooner rather than later, we’ll likely see it in theaters in late 2018 or 2019.