Will Smith Biography: Willard Carroll Smith II, born on September 25, 1968, is a versatile American actor, rapper, and film producer. His illustrious career has garnered him numerous prestigious awards, including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a BAFTA Award, and four Grammy Awards. As of 2024, his films have collectively amassed over $9.3 billion globally, solidifying his status as one of Hollywood’s most commercially successful talents.

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Smith’s journey to stardom began with his role as a fictionalized version of himself in the NBC sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” (1990–1996), which earned him Golden Globe nominations. Prior to his acting acclaim, he gained recognition as one half of the hip hop duo with DJ Jazzy Jeff, producing hits like “Parents Just Don’t Understand”, “Summertime”, and “Boom! Shake the Room”.

Transitioning seamlessly between music and film, Smith’s solo albums, including “Big Willie Style” (1997) and “Willennium” (1999), topped charts with chart-toppers like “Gettin’ Jiggy wit It” and “Wild Wild West”. His acting career soared with blockbuster hits like “Bad Boys” (1995), “Men in Black” (1997), and “Independence Day” (1996), showcasing his versatility in action and comedy genres.

Smith’s performances in biographical roles, notably as Muhammad Ali in “Ali” (2001) and Chris Gardner in “The Pursuit of Happyness” (2006), earned him critical acclaim and Oscar nominations. He continued to captivate audiences with roles in films such as “I, Robot” (2004), “I Am Legend” (2007), and “Hancock” (2008), solidifying his status as a bankable leading man.

Despite his professional success, Smith’s career was marked by a controversial incident at the 2022 Academy Awards, where he slapped presenter Chris Rock in response to an unscripted joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. The incident garnered widespread media attention and criticism, leading to Smith’s resignation from the Academy and a ten-year ban from attending its events.

Nevertheless, Smith’s contributions to the entertainment industry remain indelible, with his portrayal of Richard Williams in “King Richard” (2021) earning him his first Academy Award for Best Actor.

Early life

Willard Carroll Smith II entered the world on September 25, 1968, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, born to Caroline (née Bright), an esteemed school board administrator, and Willard Carroll Smith Sr., a veteran of the US Air Force and a skilled refrigeration engineer. His upbringing was rooted in West Philadelphia’s Wynnefield neighborhood, where he embraced the Baptist faith alongside his family.

Among his siblings, Smith has an older sister named Pamela, as well as younger twins, Harry and Ellen. His educational journey began at Our Lady of Lourdes, a private Catholic elementary school, before continuing at Overbrook High School. However, at the tender age of 13, Smith faced the challenge of his parents’ separation, eventually leading to their divorce around the year 2000.

From a young age, Smith exhibited a passion for music, diving into the world of rap at just 12 years old. Yet, his grandmother’s discovery of his lyric-filled notebook, replete with what he described as “all [his] little curse words,” prompted a pivotal moment of reflection. Moved by her wisdom, she left a heartfelt note within the pages, urging him to uphold his intelligence without resorting to profanity in his expression. Smith credits this moment for shaping his artistic direction, choosing to convey his message with thoughtfulness and respect.


1985–1992: DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince

Smith began his musical journey as the MC of the hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, alongside his childhood friend Jeffrey “DJ Jazzy Jeff” Townes as turntablist and producer. Introduced by chance in 1985, they felt an instant chemistry when Smith filled in as Townes’s hype man at a house party. Their collaboration expanded when Smith enlisted Clarence Holmes, aka Ready Rock C, as the beatboxer, forming a trio. Their first single, “Girls Ain’t Nothing but Trouble,” released in 1986 by Word Records, gained attention for its humorous misadventures and Smith’s light-hearted storytelling style, devoid of profanity. The success led to a record deal with Jive Records and the release of their debut album, “Rock the House,” in 1987. Their hit single “Parents Just Don’t Understand” earned them a Grammy in 1989, with “Summertime” becoming another chart-topper in 1991.

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Financial struggles hit Smith in the late 1980s due to lavish spending and tax issues, resulting in a $2.8 million tax debt and IRS action against his possessions and income. However, his fortunes turned around in 1990 when NBC signed him for the sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” launching his acting career. Despite legal troubles, including an arrest in 1989 related to an alleged assault (later dismissed), Smith remained determined to achieve his goal of becoming “the biggest movie star in the world,” studying successful box office formulas. Throughout his career, Smith maintained a close friendship with Townes, continuing to collaborate under his solo performer credit.

2008–2019: Blockbusters and critical disappointments

In 2008, Smith began developing “The Last Pharaoh,” aiming to star as Taharqa. Following this, he starred in the superhero film “Hancock,” which grossed over $624 million worldwide. In 2011, he returned to the studio to work on his fifth album with producer La Mar Edwards. Smith reprised his role as Agent J in “Men in Black 3” in 2012, expressing contentment with concluding his involvement in the franchise. His 2013 film “After Earth,” co-starring his son Jaden, faced domestic box office disappointment and critical backlash, prompting Smith to take a break. He starred in “Focus” (2015) and was set for “Brilliance” but opted for “Concussion” (2015), portraying Dr. Bennet Omalu.

In 2016, he played Deadshot in “Suicide Squad” and starred in “Collateral Beauty.” Smith’s Netflix film “Bright” (2017) faced criticism. He released the song “Get Lit” and launched a YouTube channel. Smith performed “Live It Up” at the 2018 FIFA World Cup and portrayed The Genie in Disney’s “Aladdin” (2019), which became his highest-grossing film. He also appeared in “Gemini Man” and “Spies in Disguise” (2019), followed by “Bad Boys for Life” (2020). Additionally, Smith invested in esports organization Gen.G and starred in “Emancipation” (2020).

2020–present: Memoir and King Richard

In November 2021, Smith’s memoir “Will,” co-written with Mark Manson, was published, delving into his childhood, relationship with his father, and experiences with ayahuasca. Concurrently, his production company, Westbrook Studios, inked a deal with National Geographic. His portrayal of Richard Williams in “King Richard” earned him numerous accolades, including an Academy Award. In February 2022, National Geographic announced Smith’s upcoming series “Pole to Pole,” documenting his 26,000-mile journey from the South Pole to the North Pole, exploring Earth’s diverse biomes and communities.

Personal life

Relationships and family

Smith married Sheree Zampino in 1992, and they welcomed their son, Trey, later that year. After their divorce in 1995, Trey appeared in his father’s music video and acted in TV shows. Smith briefly dated Sandra Denton in the late 1980s.

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He then married Jada Koren Pinkett in 1997. They have two children, Jaden and Willow, and produce films together. Their marriage has been unconventional, with both admitting to extramarital relationships. Despite separating in 2016, they remain legally married.


Smith and his brother Harry co-own Treyball Development Inc., a Beverly Hills company named after Trey Smith. They reside in Los Angeles, California. In 2018, Smith marked his 50th birthday with a memorable bungee jump from a helicopter in the Grand Canyon. Insured by Lloyd’s of London for $200 million, the jump raised funds for the charity Global Citizen.

Religious and political views

Smith’s upbringing included exposure to Baptist and Catholic faiths, though he later expressed non-religious identification. He credited his Christian faith, imparted by his grandmother, for aiding his portrayal in “Concussion.” In 2018, Smith participated in Hindu rituals in India, expressing a deep connection to Hindu spirituality. He also engaged with Indian spiritual leader Sadhguru.

Politically, Smith donated to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008 and hosted the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in 2009 in honor of Obama’s win. He voiced support for same-sex marriage in 2012. In 2021, he withdrew production of his film from Georgia due to concerns about voting laws, stating a refusal to support restrictive measures negatively affecting non-white voters.

Awards and nominations

Smith’s accolades span an impressive array of honors. His portrayal of Richard Williams in “King Richard” earned him an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, BAFTA Award, and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actor, along with a producer nomination for Best Picture. Previously, he received nominations for Academy, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild Awards for roles in “Ali” and “The Pursuit of Happyness.” He received the honorary César Award in 2005 and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Musical for “Fela!” in the same year. Additionally, he received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination as a producer of “Cobra Kai” in 2021.

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Beyond acting, Smith’s ventures into hip hop garnered him four Grammy Awards, including Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Solo Performance. His diverse nominations across the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards cement his status as one of the few black actors to be recognized in all four major US entertainment awards.

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