Will Smith once stood as arguably the most bankable film star in Hollywood.
That was so 2007.
The actor suffered a rare box office disappointment a year later with Seven Pounds, and then he kept out of the limelight until last year’s obligatory sequel Men in Black III.
This year offers the biggest challenge to Smith’s star status. Can the erstwhile Fresh Prince survive a film project directed by Hollywood laughingstock M. Night Shyamalan as well as a blow to his bipartisan appeal?
Over the weekend we learned Smith was one of President Barack Obama’s superbundlers, a term used for those who cleverly work around current campaign finance laws to raise oodles of cash for a politician.
Actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith landed on the list, having hosted a fundraiser at their Los Angeles home, in the $500,000-and-above category….Federal laws capped personal contributions at $2,300 to individual candidates or committees during the 2012 election cycle, but bundling is a common practice to show loyalty to a candidate.
This wouldn’t have mattered four years ago, but Obama’s recovery-free recovery continues to pound ordinary Americans. Those very same Americans might want to catch a movie to escape from news of soaring deficits and shrinking job opportunities. Will those same Americans be eager to choose a Smith project as their form of escapism?
Smith’s next feature is Shyamalan’s After Earth, opening in the thick of the Hollywood blockbuster season (June 7).
A great movie can paper over the public’s concerns about an actor, but Shyamalan hasn’t made so much as a good movie since Unbreakable back in 2000. His subsequent films have ranged from forgettable (The Village) to downright horrible (The Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender).
Fellow A-lister Brad Pitt’s support for the president hasn’t been as obvious as some of his celebrity colleagues, and he watched his last film Killing Them Softly tank late last year.
Smith hasn’t been an overtly political figure for most of his career, so the news about his Obama connection could influence how some audience members view his screen efforts. The next 12 months should reveal plenty about Smith’s enduring appeal.