Will Smith writes in his new memoir “Will” that he meticulously studied Tom Cruise’s press tours while planning how he would become the biggest movie star in the world, a bigger one than even Cruise himself. But it turns out Will Smith is no match for Tom Cruise when it comes to promotional skills. Smith had the hit sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” under his belt, but he was eager to make the jump to global movie star. That’s when Smith got some essential advice from none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger at the May 1996 launch of the Planet Hollywood restaurant in Sydney, Australia.
Here’s what Schwarzenegger told Smith (via Insider): “You are not a movie star if your movies are only successful in America. You are not a movie star until every person in every country on earth knows who you are. You have to travel the globe, shake every hand, kiss every baby. Think of yourself as a politician running for Biggest Movie Star in the World.”
“I started to notice how much other actors hate traveling, press, and promoting. It seemed like utter insanity to me,” Smith writes, admitting that Schwarzenegger’s advice made him “scan the field of my competition to see who else knew, who else held the secret.” Smith’s research led him to Cruise, who “was the head of the pack.”
“I started quietly monitoring all of Tom’s global promotional activities,” Smith writes. “When I arrived in a country to promote my movie, I would ask the local movie executives to give me Tom’s promotional schedule. And I vowed to do two hours more than whatever he did in every country.”
“Unfortunately, Tom Cruise is either a cyborg, or there are six of him,” Smith adds. “I was receiving reports of four-and-a-half-hour stretches on red carpets in Paris, London, Tokyo… In Berlin, Tom literally signed every single autograph until there was no one else who wanted one. Tom Cruise’s global promotions were the individual best in Hollywood.”
To best Cruise, Smith turned to his music career and made sure his international press tours for movies included live performances outside of movie premieres to draw thousands of fans. “Tom couldn’t do that — neither could Arnold, Bruce, or Sly,” the actor writes. “I’d found my way out of the entertainment news segment and into headline news. And once your movie moves from entertainment to news, it’s no longer a movie — it’s a cultural phenomenon.”
Smith’s memoir “Will” is now available to purchase.
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