An interview session with Hollywood star Will Smith at the Cayman Alternative Investment Summit took an unexpected turn Friday when the actor, accompanied by UCCI’s steel pan band Pandemix, rapped the theme song from his 1980’s TV hit show “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.”
Earlier in the day, Mr. Smith met with the students, listened to a private concert by the band and even tried his hand at playing the steel pans, singing “Yo no soy marinero” for a rendition of “La Bamba.”
During his interview with Dart’s Chris Duggan, which concluded the investment conference, the actor, musician and producer shared the stages of his varied career and threw in some financial advice.
“Pay your taxes. This is the most important thing you will hear at this conference,” he joked. “‘Cause the IRS is going to come and take your stuff,” he added, recalling a run-in with the U.S. tax authority early on in his career.
“I didn’t forget to pay the IRS,” the Hollywood star quipped to the delight of the crowd.
The experience left him “broke” and “depressed.” But following an impromptu audition at U.S. music producer Quincy Jones’s birthday party, it also led to a career change for the rapper, who stepped into the role of an inner-city teenager from Philadelphia sent by his mother to live with rich relatives on the popular TV comedy series.
The actor, who turns 50 this year, said to entertain and make people smile has always been his goal. From an early age when he played the piano in church, he said, he was “addicted” to the look in his grandmother’s eyes and to making her happy.
And only recently, his mother produced old family photographs that shared a common theme: he was the only one looking straight at the camera with a trademark goofy smile.
Success also came early.
“Nobody should have a hit record when they are still in high school,” he said.
Although he enjoyed the experience, he admitted he was “reckless” with money.
But his family always kept him grounded. His rap lyrics contained no more swearing after his grandmother, upon discovering his rap book, left him a note pointing out to “Willard” that “really intelligent people [did] not have to use this kind of language to express themselves.”
During one summer, his father made him and his brother rebuild the front wall of the family workshop every day, brick by brick.
The experience left the brothers wondering whether their father had gone “crazy,” but also taught an important work ethic that he tried to follow throughout his career, he said. Rather than focusing on building the wall, “I am just trying to lay a perfect brick at a time.” “Fail early, fail often and fail forward,” he recently shared on his YouTube channel, a social media endeavor he started six weeks ago, and he repeated the mantra on stage, saying: “You fail your way to the top.”
The new social media project is an outlet for the star’s creativity but also a nod to how younger generations consume entertainment. The days when a movie star could keep a distance from the fans and let the craft speak for itself are over.
However, despite these changes in media consumption and the rise of internet movie streaming, there will still be a place for movie theaters. There is nothing like watching a movie as part of a crowd, being afraid together, laughing together, he said.
His father, who had a “huge impact” on the actor and who passed away in 2016, made another important observation when Mr. Smith landed his first blockbuster hit with “Independence Day,” the actor remembered.
Calling him in the middle of the night after seeing reports of the movie’s box office receipts, his father said, not heeding grandmother’s language advice: “Remember when I said there is no such thing as luck? That’s [nonsense]. You are the luckiest [guy] I know.”