*Before his first-ever Academy Award win last weekend, before “the slap” that will most certainly change the trajectory of his career, Will Smith was the affable rapper-turned actor firmly planted in box office superstardom when we caught up with him in the summer of ’96.
At 27-years-old, the freshly-divorced talent had done the blockbuster “Bad Boy,” and had become “the first Black man to save the world” in “Independence Day.” He’d been dating 24-year-old Jada Pinkett for one year, and marriage was the last thing that either of them wanted at the time. As Jada told us in the report, “He just got divorced. Let’s find out why your first marriage didn’t work, and then maybe we’ll decide on something from there.”
Smith’s upcoming project at the time was a Barry Sonnenfeld-directed, science-fiction action comedy called “Men in Black,” and sequels to “Bad Boy” and “Independence Day” were in the works.
The artist was refreshingly funny, warm, candid and had the world at his feet when this interview aired as a segment of Radioscope’s weekend show on August 10, 1996. Will we ever experience this pre-slap version of Will again? After a spate of recent box office disappointments, the critically acclaimed “King Richard” was supposed to turn things around. The Oscar was supposed to right the ship. Will Hollywood be as non-punitive as Chris Rock? Or did Will slap the s**t out of his own career?
Below, Radioscope Rewind presents a look back at the Will Smith we thought we knew: