Will Smith’s ‘Bad Boys 4’ press tour is reminding people why they became fans

Now, this is a story all about how Will Smith’s life got flipped, turned upside down - and how he appears to be working hard to fix that.

Smith has been making the rounds promoting his latest project, “Bad Boys: Ride or Die,” the fourth in his film franchise with Martin Lawrence.

It’s not his first film since he slapped Chris Rock on stage at the 2022 Academy Awards after the comedian made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. The summer popcorn movie, however, is performing better than his other projects that more immediately followed the incident.

Smith’s historical slave drama “Emancipation” released six months after the Oscars controversy that resulted in the actor getting banned from the event for a decade. That press tour was selective, somber and scaled-back. Smith acknowledged at the time that some audiences might not be willing to support the movie due to his starring role in it.

“I completely understand — if someone is not ready, I would absolutely respect that and allow them their space to not be ready. My deepest concern is my team – Antoine [Fuqua the film’s director] has done what I think is the greatest work of his entire career,” Smith said about “Emancipation.” “The people on this team have done some of the best work of their entire careers, and my deepest hope is that my actions don’t penalize my team. At this point, that’s what I’m working for.”

Smith returning to a familiar action-comedy franchise, “Summertime” Smith - with Lawrence beside him - is yielding better results.

Martin Lawrence and Will Smith in a scene from
Martin Lawrence and Will Smith in a scene from "Bad Boys: Ride or Die." - Frank Masi/Sony Pictures

“For fans who have been down from the first one, I promise you there’s a moment in this movie where you stand up out of your seat and throw your hands in the air with the level of perfection of the call-back that we have. It’s as good as it’s ever been done,” Smith said in an interview with Hot 97 before the film hit theaters. “It is incredible. I am hyped for people to see it.”

His approach has been reminiscent of recent movie promotional tours from Tom Cruise, who leans into flash and fun, stunts over substance. The man who survived jumping on Oprah Winfrey’s couch and more than one broken marriage is a master at directing audiences to the product rather than the person behind the product.

Moviegoers appear ready to move on from Smith’s slap. “Bad Boys: Ride or Die” has so far grossed more than $140 million since it opened June 7, according to Box Office Mojo.

Smith has also been bringing the fun to the people, literally.

He quietly sat in “Bad Boys” screening during opening weekend at a Cinemark theater in Baldwin Hill, California, before surprising moviegoers afterward.

“It’s a ritual I have I do whenever a movie come out,” he explained in a video shared on social media.

As the theater is letting out, Smith can be seen telling those leaving he’s glad they enjoyed the movie before the crowd goes crazy with excitement. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a personal appearance by Will Smith, apparently, is valuable once again.

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