Every summer Will Smith saves the world in blockbusting movies like Men In Black, Independence Day and I, Robot. But with romantic comedy Hitch, he shows us his more vulnerable side as a dating doctor who flounders in his attempts to woo Eva Mendes. It's already broken box office records in the States, which is especially good news for Smith who also produced the movie.
Do you believe in what Hitch says - that every woman out there is just waiting to be swept off her feet?
Absolutely. Love is the ultimate theme, but it's not just for women. I think it's also for men - it's the highest desire to which we all aspire. We all want to be in love and find that person who is going to love us no matter how our feet smell, no matter how angry we get one day, no matter the things we say that we don't mean. We just want that person who is going to love us in spite of all those things.
Were you a smooth operator in your dating days?
No, no. Goofy was the word that was used most often by my sisters because I've been this tall ever since I was 12 years old. It was difficult being this tall and about half of the weight that I am now, you know? So I had that for a lot of years and as I started to fill out I gained a little more confidence. It was a difficult time growing up with women because I was hurt, you know? I was hurt.
What happened to you?
I was about 10 years old and Stacy Brooks promised me the last dance at Shawn Hollis' birthday party and I was prepared. I was there and ready for that last dance and the DJ announces that this is the last song and I turn around and she's on the floor with David Brandon! I've been scarred from that moment, you know? But hey, I'm getting over it. I think I'm going to be okay.
And like Hitch you had an allergic reaction that ruined your chances with a girl. Is that right?
Yes, and it's really weird because Stacy Brooks was that girl when I was growing up! Like all the bad stuff that happened... it happened around Stacy Brooks. Things were heating up as much as they can when you're 11 and I thought she was starting to like me and then I got stung by a bee. That allergic reaction in the movie is actually how I look when I get stung by a bee. So Stacy saw me like that and whereas in the movie it's like an endearing thing, when you're 11 it just freaks the girls out! When they see you looking like that they just want you to get the hell away from them. My eyes were all swollen up and I was like, "But I wove you!" Yeah, that didn't work out.
Do things go smoother when you were dating [Matrix star] Jada [Pinkett-Smith]?
It was one of those things where everything went perfectly - not perfectly in the sense of smooth and lovely - but everything that went wrong went perfectly wrong. In the beginning of our relationship everything that needed to go wrong went wrong very quickly. We learned early on who we were and who we wanted to be and decided on a path to get there. Normally at the beginning of relationship it's all flowers and butterflies but we didn't have that. I was coming out of a divorce and she was coming out of a bad relationship and there was just no time for bull***. It was just blatant, hard, cold honesty and that's the basis of our relationship: harsh honesty.
What's the worst dating advice you've ever been given?
It was from a friend of mine - his name is Charlie Mack. He's like my ghetto co-ordinator from back in Philly and he said, "No, no, no! Whatcha gotta understand man, is that women want a dude that can do anything, so what you wanna do is make 'em laugh. If you wanna make 'em laugh and then they need to see you, like, knock somebody the f*** out!" He says, "Generally on first dates that's what I do, you know? Going the whole night it's funny, funny, funny, then I just go outside and just knock somebody the f*** out 'cause they need to feel safe! Women need to feel safe when they with you." And I'm like, "Cool..." But listen. It works. I mean it's the worst most horrible advice I've ever heard, but when women see him knock somebody out they do really say, "Ooh, Charlie!"
How did you enjoy getting kissed by Kevin James?
Well, that was interesting. We were shooting the movie in New York a year ago and nobody knows what the movie is at that point so there are like 250 New Yorkers standing out there as we're doing the scene. So this black guy walks up and he's watching and sees Kevin lean in for this kiss and he screams out, "Brother, NO! Hell no, Will! Un-uh, man! Don't be doing that Will! What the HELL is you doing, brother?!" So you know we had to call security to calm him down and explain that it was a movie and he was little more okay with it. With comedy though, you can get away with anything. I'm comedically brave so I was very comfortable.
On a serious note, do you think we'll ever see a romantic comedy where a black man gets together with a white woman?
You know, that was a big, big issue and still is a big issue in the States for making these types of films. It's something that comes up whenever for a film like this. The conversation came up for I, Robot about having a romantic interest for myself which would have been Bridget Moynahan. As the director, Alex Proyas didn't want it because there was no romantic interest in the book, but it was definitely an issue for the studio so, you know, it's just one of those weird problems that we'll keep chipping away at.
Hitch is released in London's West End on 4th March and in UK cinemas nationwide on 11th March 2005.