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Will Smith Has the Golden Touch

The verdict is in. Will Smith is the nicest guy in Hollywood. Read on:

His movies may tank. Expectations of his bankable gross may send bean-counters into a tizzy. But for all the ups and downs that have marked Will Smith’s 18-year career, he’s still jiggy with the masses. The man will never be called “box office poison”- Hancock or not.

That may sound bold, if not flat-out arrogant, given Smith will only celebrate his 40th birthday this September and Hollywood is often quick to be fickle, but it’s not like he hasn’t faced down disastrous receipts before.

Wild Wild West cost Warner Bros. an estimated $160 million to produce and pulled in $113 million in domestic release, earning it the Razzie for worst film of the year in 1999 and bumping director Barry Sonnenfeld down to the B-list where he continues to linger, pumping out the likes of the poop-focused family film, RV, and low-profile TV serials such as Pushing Daisies.

Usually, it’s the star who takes the heat for a flop – not the director – as witnessed by Tom Cruise’s post-Oprah, post-Mission: Impossible III flameout. MI:III director J.J. Abrams escaped the wrath of studio execs and went on to direct episodes of The Office, produced Cloverfield and nabbed the enviable job of directing the next Star Trek feature. Cruise, meanwhile, was given his walking papers and asked to leave his production home on the Paramount lot – even though Mission made money and received favourable reviews.

So what makes Will Smith so special? How did the Fresh Prince emerge as the millennium’s most charismatic – and apparently bankable star? (Despite weak reviews, Hancock lifted off to an impressive start Tuesday evening with more than $6.8 million in single-day receipts.)

By dissecting his career moves, cross-referencing them with those of his colleagues and keeping up with the gossip, gadflies and gawkers – one can isolate the six degrees that separate Smith from the pack and give him what appears to be unsinkable star power, and earns him the title of Newsweek Magazine’s “Most Powerful Man in Hollywood.”

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