Will Smith opens up on upcoming Netflix film 'Bright', social discrimination and American politics

Anshu Lal

Dec 19, 2017 11:26:08 IST

On Monday, when actors Will Smith and Joel Edgerton entered the media room in The St Regis, Mumbai, to discuss Bright (their upcoming Netflix original movie), they went around shaking hands and introducing themselves to each of a group of six journalists in the room — a good-natured act usually quite uncommon among big movie celebrities.

After they were done, Smith suddenly turned to Edgerton with a confused expression and said, "Hi, I'm Will."

Edgerton, instantly catching on to the gag, played along and shook hands with Smith, and replied, "Hi, I'm Joel."

Smith then told Edgerton that the venue was already overbooked, before everyone in the room burst into laughter.

(From left) Will Smith, Noomi Rapace, Joel Edgerton, David Ayer. Image courtesy: Netflix India

(From left) Will Smith, Noomi Rapace, Joel Edgerton, David Ayer. Image courtesy: Netflix India

It was this innocent leg-pulling and down-to-earth, warm attitude which made the round-table discussion with Smith and Edgerton so relaxed.

And perhaps the bonhomie and chemistry between the two actors was also meant to market the relationship between the two most important characters in Bright, a buddy cop movie set in a world in which human beings have to live alongside orcs, elves and fairies.

Apart from being a buddy cop and fantasy film, Bright also aims to spread important messages about classism and racial discrimination.

"One of the central aspects of why I wanted to make the movie was the flip of the social ladder. In our world (in Bright), the elves are the one-percenters. They are the haves. And the orcs are the have-nots. And humans are smashed in the middle. So, it was a great exploration for me to be able to play a character who was higher on the social ladder and to realise how everybody is looking for a sense of superiority," Smith told Firstpost, as he talked about the themes in Bright based on racial issues.

"Everybody wants to feel like they're better than somebody. That's what our ego does. And whether it's racism or sexism or nationalism, it really is just a quest for our individual and collective egos to feel like we're good enough. And it's just that we feel like we're good enough by being better than someone else. So, I never comprehended that before playing this character," he also told Firstpost.

Of course, Bright is not the first science fiction movie with messages about discrimination, as was also pointed out by Edgerton. "This film is very original, and yet, that originality is the fusion of familiar elements. And it's also reminiscent of movies like Alien Nation or District 9. And we're not re-inventing the wheel. We're just creating a different fusion of elements," he said.

Edgerton plays a character who is the first orc in the movie's world to become a police officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. And transforming into that character was anything but easy for the Australian actor.

Joel Edgerton had to sit through three hours of daily makeup just to look like his character.

In fact, Smith said that he didn't see Joel's face for almost two months. "There were probably a good, solid 50 days that I didn't see Joel's face. Because he would be in three hours before and then, he would stay an hour after. So, for 50 days of shooting, I never saw his face," said the Men in Black actor.

Bright is a buddy copy movie with elements of a fantasy film. Image courtesy: Netflix India

Bright is a buddy copy movie with elements of a fantasy film. Image courtesy: Netflix India

Smith also said that the two actors even went on ride-alongs with the LAPD to prepare for the role, something which gave him a deeper perspective about the issue of policing.

"We did ride-alongs with the LAPD. We got into the back of a police car for a few days and rode around to actual calls and got a powerful, sort-of first hand look at the difficulty of policing. It's a very difficult issue, especially in a place like America, where the police are of the people."

"The issue of interacting with people in a position of authority is a problem human beings have had forever. And I think technology is changing the way we interact. Technology is changing the way policing is done in America," he said.

"As we're moving into the digital era, I think it's demanding a certain amount of authenticity. I think it will push us close to the truth in very interesting ways," he added.

Edgerton agreed. "The internet is the great watchdog of the world and I think it galvanises people," he said.

Smith also had a lot to say about the current times and state of American politics, although he was very clear about the fact that he is never joining politics.

"I see this time in the world as a sort of cleansing. I think people are clinging to old ways that are gone. There are ways of being that will never exist anymore. And I think with what you see happening in the American and British political system, there's going to be a cleansing," he said. "This is a bit of a dark time before the transition into the new age," he added.

Smith and Edgerton were both forthcoming during the discussion and had common views on a number of issues. Bright director David Ayer also spoke to Firstpost about the bromance between them and how it shapes the movie.

"Will and Joel have this great chemistry and there's a lot of humour throughout the movie. There are elements of action and fantasy but it also has a bit of a message. It's an allegory for a lot of problems in the world today which we share and are aware of," Ayer said.

Will Smith and Joel Edgerton in a still from the film.

"I worked with Will on Suicide Squad. And I really enjoyed that. We became good friends. He's strong, tough and comedic. He's really perfect for the role and it's hard to imagine anybody else for the role," he also said. Ayer also had good things to say about Edgerton. "In a lot of ways, he (Joel) is like Jakoby (Edgerton's character in Bright). He's really strong, quiet and has a really self-deprecative sense of humour," he said.

Ayer also shared with Firstpost that a lot of what went into the movie was a result of his own experience.

"I grew up in Los Angeles. I grew up in a very violent neighbourhood. I was in the military. I've traveled the world. I've seen a lot and so, I'm just taking things that I've seen and experienced and putting them into the movie," he said.

Of course, we'll just have to wait and watch whether Bright will be able to deliver on its highly ambitious promises. When a movie promises to combine elements from so many genres, it runs the risk of becoming overburdened.

Updated Date: Dec 19, 2017 12:22:49 IST