There’s a huge difference between being an actor and being a movie star, and finding success as the latter is typically dependent on intangible factors that you can’t learn in any amount of classes, with charisma, charm and screen presence being three of the most important. After all, Arnold Schwarzenegger was never going to win any Oscars for his acting, but he reigned as the biggest star in the industry for a long time because he possessed all of them in spades.
Meanwhile, Will Smith is a very good actor, but he’s always fared much better when he’s allowed to play to his strengths. It wasn’t a shock that he landed the first Academy Award nomination of his career for portraying Muhammad Ali, one of the most effortlessly charismatic people to have ever lived, while his second nod came for dialling down the star wattage, but still utilizing his persona to great effect.
Smith is fantastic in The Pursuit of Happyness, and never lets his established status overwhelm the inspiring true story of Chris Gardner, when it could have easily descended into watching a big name try too hard to make a play for awards season glory. The heartwarming drama is now available on Netflix, as is one of his best ever blockbusters.
I Am Legend needed an actor like Will Smith to work, given that he’s the only person on screen with any dialogue for the majority of the movie, and he delivers perhaps his single most underrated performance as someone who might be the last man on earth. Both films showcase his versatility, and they’ll no doubt play very well with Netflix subscribers and probably even trouble the Top 10 most-watched list.